Pop Culture

The Puddery in Pearland temporarily closes due to ‘Keith Lee effect’ that prompted spike in customers

The Houston-area dessert shop has had lines wrapping around its business since Lee, a popular food critic on TikTok, reviewed The Puddery in late November.

Keith Lee The Puddery
Instagram account for The Puddery
TikTok food critic Keith Lee, right, visited The Puddery in Pearland, Texas, on Nov. 28, 2023. At center is dessert shop owner Janel Prator, with Lee’s wife, Ronnie Lee, on the left.

The Puddery has largely been a "one-woman show," according to owner Janel Prator, who said in a social media post this week that her Houston-area dessert shop historically has not had enough customers or generated enough revenue to warrant additional staff. Prator would bring in her daughter on busy days or weekends, she said, to help serve guests in the four-table shop or to assist with shipping orders.

Things have recently changed dramatically for the Pearland business, which during the last 10 days or so has had lines extending out the front door and wrapping around the side of its building in a strip center at 5517 Broadway St. Prator has struggled to keep pace and said she's temporarily suspending shipping orders.

She's also hiring, and it's all because of one man and a rave review that went viral.

Citing the "Keith Lee effect," a reference to the popular TikTok food critic who visited The Puddery on Nov. 28 and gave a flattering review, a grateful and seemingly exhausted Prator said Wednesday that she was closing the shop until Saturday. She made the announcement in an Instagram video filmed outside of an urgent care clinic, where Prator said in a subsequent video that she was diagnosed with a strained muscle in her chest because it had been overworked while mixing and preparing pudding and other treats.

"Usually I would just thug it out and work through it," Prator said in one of the videos. "But because of all the influx of all the customers we have, I really feel like I need to stop for a second and make sure I'm OK. Because the weekend is coming, and I want to make sure that I'm on point for all the customers that we have coming this weekend."

The Puddery Banana Pudding
Facebook page for The Puddery
Pictured is the banana pudding at The Puddery, 5517 Main St. Suite M in Pearland, Texas.

Lee, who has millions of followers on Instagram and TikTok, recently reviewed several Houston-area restaurants during a tour of the region. He also reviewed Butter Funk Kitchen, Cool Runnings Jamaican Bar & Grill, Mezza Grille, Stick Talk, The Better Box, The Breakfast Klub and The Waffle Bus.

Lee was especially complimentary of The Puddery, which specializes in banana pudding and a dessert called the Oreo Croffle, which features a cross between a croissant and a waffle. He described the latter treat as "immaculate" and said the overall offerings at The Puddery are "absolutely insane," giving the business a 9 rating on a 10-point scale.

The review received millions of views, and within hours after it was posted, lines began to form outside The Puddery.

RELATED: List of Keith Lee reviewed restaurants in Houston region

"I'm still in shock. I'm literally in shock," Prator said in one of her Wednesday videos. "Even when Keith Lee posted the review, I was still in denial like, ‘I don't know if y'all are really going to come.' ... When that line formed, I was like, ‘Oh, crap. It's happening.' "

Because of the sudden spike in demand, Prator said she is reevaluating her processes and exploring the possibility of securing a larger operating space in addition to seeking out more employees. She also is pausing shipping orders, likely until January, she said.

It's all in the interest of ensuring her longstanding customers as well as new ones will experience the same level of quality and service that prompted Lee to visit the business in the first place, according to Prator.

"First of all, I want to say thank you. This has been crazy," Prator said. "When (Lee) posted that review, my business has not been the same at all. It has been a total, complete whirlwind."