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Coronavirus: Orlando eatery unleashes PR crisis after saying “we are over this” and opening to angry Floridians

It is well-known that Governor DeSantis is racing towards a plan to re-open Florida in the near future. Task force members have met in recent days to discuss plans. However, one grilled cheese restaurant in Orlando area jumped the gun (Florida proverb) though and announced recently on their Facebook page “we are over this” and said they plan to open their restaurant dining room on May 1st.

What ensued afterwards was a preview for what will happen when Florida forces itself back open. Polls today show that over 70% of Floridians support social distancing rules and the current stay-at-home orders, showing that those protestors appearing on television are nothing more than an astroturf campaign funded by political groups and do not represent any major group.

One comment read “You’re over this? My grandma f*cking died because of this so I’m sorry for inconveniencing you by trying to avoid more unnecessary deaths”.

Another one said, “Guess which cheese-themed restaurant we’re all gonna be going to from now on??? Idk, but NACHO RESTAURANT”.

Some threatened to report the business to the state and also dug up their inspection reports with one person commenting, “Would you like to comment on your 14 restaurant inspection violations on March 29, 2019? Or most recently the 5 violations on November 6, 2019? Surely you’re prepared to serve food and dine in guests in the most pristine restaurant available in a post-pandemic world, right??”.

The restaurant responded to customers and actively attacked them back in what can only be described as a PR nightmare that certainly is a warning sign for other businesses out there.

The Getaway in neighboring Tampa Bay also recently had major issues when the owner recorded herself discussing employee pay and caused an uproar that led to alleged death threats and a temporary closure.

33 & Melt has since been deleted their initial post as as well as an apology that went south.

Users flooded the restaurants Facebook page and left 1-star reviews across the internet. People tagged the media and attempted to voice their concerns and anger.

Here’s the thing: most people understand that small businesses are hurting, people are reading the news and doing their best to order take-out and delivery during this time despite salary cuts, layoffs, and all around economic depression.

At the same time, the public is very concerned about their safety and the safety of employees at businesses, who are are increasingly being hospitalized and dying across the nation in essential businesses from grocery stores to meat packing facilities.

Over 40% of Americans now personally know someone who has become sick or died from COVID-19. Over 45,000 Americans have died in 2 months and thousands are currently dying every day.

The public feels a general anxiety about opening and the best way to get their support is to gradually win it over and consider all parties involved as you make announcements. Taking too harsh of a tone invites pushback and only will lead to harm to your business.

With sagging profits already an issue, the last thing any business can afford right now is a boycott (ask Shake Shack).

If you plan to re-open, make sure you communicate how you’re going to do that in phases (when the time is right), how you will work to protect your employees and customers, and how you most importantly listen to the advice of professionals. Partner with your local officials, you will need it.

If your business is really struggling, make sure to communicate that. Ask for help. The public is willing to try and support you, but first you have to respect them as well.

One of the things I have noticed the most writing about food over the last 10 years is that businesses never communicate that they are dying until it is too late. Ask for help. Be real with your supporters.

The reason why the task force exists at all is because if businesses plan together, they will have more support for re-opening in the future. If large corporations feel like they need to win over consumer sentiment and safety, there is no reason that a small business won’t find itself in the same dilemma.

Situations like these harm the ability of all businesses to move forward in the future with plans to restore consumer confidence. The reality as well is that the Florida public does not currently support re-opening and that will play a big role in how businesses are able to move forward.

Safety first.

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Articles Restaurant News

Gordon Ramsay – Lucky Cat Public Relations Human Disaster

Gordon Ramsay and a London Eater writer engaged in a battle this past week about her review of his new concept Lucky Cat. The Eater food writer, Angela Hui, called the concept “an actual kitchen nightmare”. She posted live from the media event on Instagram Stories and Gordon Ramsay proceeded to “call her out” afterwards for supposedly attacking his chef and his wife (choosing to twist her words), turning his entire 7 million+ strong base on social media into attack dogs that went after the writer. She was also confronted at the event by servers who were watching her posts.

The quality of the followers he has can best be shown in this comment I received after commenting on his post:

There’s so many issues here. First of all, as a celebrity chef award-winner it is irresponsible to use your platform to attack writers and journalists. When we look deeper this is also an attack on a person of color in an industry where people of color are far and few between and regularly cast aside.

Angela Hui is actually Asian and from a purely public relations point-of-view, Gordon Ramsay attacking the only Asian guest who was at his restaurant preview because she didn’t like his food and was understandably upset about being marginalized as the only Asian guest in a room is tone-deaf on his part.

Gordon Ramsay is rich and successful. He has numerous television shows and a career that isn’t going anywhere. There was no reason for Gordon to take a dig at a young writer. If anything, Gordon’s approach to this situation actually comes off as trying to silence critics and tell people of color that he really doesn’t care what they think and that he is going to take their culture’s food and not even consider what they think in the name of profits.

Gordon Ramsay has plenty of resources. He could empower Asian chefs, invite more Asian members of the media to his previews, seek feedback from the Asian community, there were plenty of way that Gordon Ramsay could have handled this media preview that he chose not to do. Instead – Gordon Ramsay created a worldwide meltdown and fiasco that showed no lack of real concern for the very people whose cuisine his restaurant seeks to sell.

I am convinced that Gordon Ramsay does not have a PR person and if he does, they probably also had a meltdown this past weekend. I know I would be.

Angela’s experience was more than a review, there was a way that Gordon Ramsay made her feel at his event that is unwelcome. Media guests should never be made to feel unwelcome. It is up to the host to make an environment that is inviting for guests and balances and takes in considerations. It is not that hard if you simply care a little bit about others.

Gordon Ramsay has television shows where he literally fixes restaurants like this. It is not hard Gordon. It is not a journalist’s job to give you positive feedback and when someone gives negative feedback, it is not your job as a restaurateur to fight back and enter a fiasco with the writer. Your job is to seek to understand where they are coming from and move on.

Clearly Gordon does not get it. No one is saying that you cannot make an Asian restaurant without being Asian, what they are saying is that you should be respectful of the culture of others and run your business better with consideration of the culture you are making a profit off of. You have enough money to hire someone to help you with this and do it right.