Using errors to improve customer relations

While most restaurant concepts try to hide their mistakes, covering up menu flops and operational disasters by staying quiet, Cambridge, Mass.-based Clover Food Lab puts it all out in the open—the good, the bad and the disastrous. “We strive for broad and true transparency,” says Ayr Muin, founder and CEO of the healthy-focused fast casual. “If we’re going to follow through with that, we have to be open.”

The 6-unit chain’s website reads likeclover a blog, featuring sections on the environment, catering, construction, food, staffing and, yes, mistakes. A post from July 2014 mentions that “we had the 3rd great bread disaster of Clover’s history. Our baker sent us bread that was undercooked, and we didn’t catch it early enough.” 

One post from this June titled “Bad fries” notes that there was an error in its potato supply that resulted in dark, limp fries. It caught the error, says the blog, but a few bad orders did go out.

bad fries

As recently as July 8, Muin posted about a sandwich that was “really screwed up” in practice, though it was great while it was being conceptualized. In all instances, the posts apologize and reach out to customers, asking guests to let Clover know if they had the bad food, so the brand can make up for it.

clover screwed up sandwich

Clover has a deep relationship with its customers, says Muin. “I don’t know if we’d have that level of trust without transparency,” he says. In addition to the confidence it builds with guests, airing the dirty laundry also brings “a healthy aspect internally,” Muin says. Staffers are more willing to acknowledge mistakes and changes that need to happen. 


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