Business as usual can be anything but, as restaurateurs learned with considerable agita in recent days. Here are a few instances of innocent intentions backfiring spectacularly.
‘They’re not just trying to flag a waiter?’
What seemed like a last-minute windfall proved a public relations nightmare for a Maggiano’s in Washington, D.C. Two Friday afternoons ago, the restaurant was asked if it could host a big group that very night. The place wasn’t booked solid, so why not take the party, even at the last minute? That found business would drop $10,000 to the bottom line.
The problem was the nature of the group, which didn’t use its name in securing the banquet reservation. Washingtonians know the National Policy Institute as a far-right group with controversial racial and ethnic views. Its mere presence at the restaurant drew protests, forcing the place to shut down for safety reasons.
The larger public learned of the NPI event from social media, where an attendee of the banquet had posted pictures of fellow guests giving an enthusiastic “Seig Heil!” salute in sympathy with Adolf Hitler and his racial supremacist views.
Maggiano’s President Steve Provost posted a public apology on Facebook and announced the restaurant’s $10,000 in profits from the event would be donated to the local operation of the Anti-Defamation League, a group that promotes tolerance.
‘But it’s art!’
A condition for admittance to the restaurants of a small Texas chain flared into controversy this week, the fuse lit once again by social media.
A policy of denying admission to guests with visible face and neck tattoos was set a month ago by Little Woodrow’s. But it was little noticed until an inked patron sounded off in a video, alleging prejudice because he sported what fans call body art.
Little Woodrow’s is unabashed about the policy, saying it’s part of a dress code. “We don't like to refuse service to anyone, but if somebody comes in and is not dressed appropriately, we will ask them to either change it up a little bit or, in this case with tattoos, cover it up," the chain’s attorney, Philip Brinson, told a KOSA-TV in Odessa.
Tattoos elsewhere, visible or not, are not grounds for turning away customers. Indeed, one party that was denied admission noted that the bouncer at his Little Woodrow’s sported tats up and down his arms.
Little Woodrow’s has restaurants in Austin, Dallas, Houston, Midland and San Antonio.
Chipotle’s latest woe
The onetime industry darling seems to figure into more nightmares these days than Freddy Krueger. The latest: high-profile allegations the chain is conning people on the healthfulness of its newest ingredient, chorizo.
A recent flurry of news reports focuses on customers’ efforts to bring a class-action suit against the chain. Suits already filed (but not yet certified as class actions) note the calorie count listed next to a chorizo burrito’s listing on menu boards reads 300. But that’s the freight just of the chorizo; the whole burrito packs more than 1,000 calories.
Still, buried in many of the stories is the all-important context: The would-be class action participants currently number three people.