But nothing will change in the Heart Attack Grill's approach now that River has died, Basso says.
Basso likes to believe that his outlandish promotion of obesity serves as "food for thought" for some. For instance, those who weigh in at more than 350 pounds at the restaurant eat for free -- a marketing gimmick that River came up with himself.
"They come in, stand on the scale in front of everyone. We cheer and throw a big mumu over them and then they eat as much as they like for free. That shocks people, and hopefully, some people on those scales go home and say, that was fun at the time, but I really need to do something about this," Basso says.
Before owning the grill, Basso owned a Jenny Craig franchise and a fitness center, and says that despite pouring "his heart and soul into the diet and exercise industry," he didn't feel like he was reaching anyone. "I'm making more inroads now into people's consciousness by working the other side," he says.
At the same time, Basso is providing the kind of food that epitomizes the unhealthy fast-food American diet, and he makes his living doing it.
"The Heart Attack Grill can be viewed as absolutely evil. Each person takes it differently. I genuinely hope that people continue to eat in a sinful way, but moderately. I don't want to see everyone come into my restaurant every day," he says. "It's a once a week, cheat day thing."