Predicaments can sometimes sneak up on busy restaurateurs. This week’s goddammit moments were not of that passive variety. Operators were plunged into a crisis by the remarkably bad decisions they made, some after what had to have been considerable deliberation.
Here’s what experience taught the unlucky few what they should never contemplate again.
Serving a competitor’s product
A Southern-food hot spot in Long Beach, Calif., should have known eyebrows would be raised by its recent sourcing choice. Sweet Dixie Kitchen doesn’t have fryers. So how was it able to feature New Orleans-style fried chicken in its riff on chicken and waffles?
The restaurant said it was upfront about buying the chicken from a nearby Popeyes and reselling it at a markup for $13 an order. A reviewer on Yelp suggested that kink in the supply chain was more of a hush-hush matter.
He spied employees carrying Popeyes boxes into Sweet Dixie and asked a manager what the restaurant was doing. The supervisor acknowledged that the chicken in two new dishes was coming from Popeyes and comped the inquisitor’s meal.
Sweet Dixie owner Kim Sanchez was unabashed about using the quick-service restaurant’s product as the core for chicken and waffles and a new chicken sandwich. She told a local Fox affiliate that Popeyes was cited as a source on the restaurant's specials blackboard, and noted that the restaurant also resells a gumbo it buys from a local farmers market.
So much for transparency
Data thefts have replaced food safety lapses as the crises every restaurant dreads acknowledging. Pizza Hut demonstrated this week that any hesitation about going public can trigger as much outrage as the security breach itself.
The hacking was relatively minor compared with data-bank jobs like the recent break in at Sonic Drive-In. For an 18-hour period at the beginning of October, credit card information for a subset of Pizza Hut customers was unprotected from data thieves. The chain estimated that info for about 60,000 customers, or about 1% of online-ordering patrons, had been exposed.
But Pizza Hut didn’t alert potentially affected customers until this past Saturday, or almost two weeks after the breach. It’s been battling a social media firestorm in the days since.
Proud but out of business
Telling customers they’re not welcome is a dicey marketing move, as restaurateurs were reminded by the self-destruction that came to light this week in Arizona.
A restaurant there decided several weeks back that it only wanted patrons who agreed with the team’s political philosophy. Cup It Up American Grill listed the tenets on a Facebook post—controversial measures like not believing in global warming, or supporting President Trump without reservation. Among the phenomena it blasted were political correctness and kneeling during a pregame playing of the national anthem.
If potential customers disagreed with the principles, “we won’t be expecting you anytime soon,” the manifesto stated.
Cup It Up said its declaration of beliefs triggered such an outcry that it feared for the safety of the staff and their families. It decided last week to close “indefinitely.”