What were they thinking?

This has been a week of jaw-dropping restaurant blunders. Consider, for instance, Wendy’s inadvertent lapse into pimp-speak during an otherwise routine promotion.

Sure, the mainstream fast-food chains have been going to extremes lately to snag customers, but the deal touted by Wendy’s seemed really out there. Buy any product, a coupon promised, and the chain would provide a hot little redhead, completely free.

To be fair: The coupon actually read, SMALL HOT ORIGINAL REDHEAD, the key there being the capital “R” in Redhead. That’s the shortened name of Wendy’s proprietary coffee brand, Redhead Roasters. Still, it’s puzzling that no one noted the suggestive wording.

It’s unlikely that McDonald’s will be snickering about its archrival’s misfire, given the doh! move it logged almost simultaneously. Big Mac ended up with Egg McMuffin on its face when The Wall Street Journal intercepted a worksheet the chain had distributed to its hourly workers as a financial planning guide. The form was intended to help the crewmembers manage their dollars. Not dissimilar to a P&L, it started with a space at the top where the user-employee would list his or her monthly wages. So far, so good.

But by Line 2, McDonald’s looked insensitive. That was the space provided for the employee to list the income from his or her second job. The chain was all but conceding that a job at the Golden Arches wouldn’t be enough to live.

It was downhill from there. As examples of expenses, McDonald’s filled in such figures on the form as mortgage or rent payments of $600, and healthcare premiums of $20--or less than the employee contribution for McDonald’s own plan, according to the WSJ. The report noted that the figures provided were unrealistic and made McD’s seem out of touch with its employees’ financial struggles.

But that PR stumble is nothing compared with the dunderheaded move of an Italian independent in Winter Park, Fla.  Unfortunately, it’s the whole restaurant industry that looks bad. The place, Barducci’s, fired its whole staff—by text. The communication came on the 4th of July, and focused on the restaurant’s immediate closing. The 12 staffers had to infer that they were out of work. The rest of the world heard about the cold-hearted in a flurry of news reports this week.

A quick cut-off by one North Carolina restaurant also worked against the industry as a whole. According to local coverage that was soon picked up by the national media, a Hops Grill in Charlotte surprised its customers by telling them mid-meal that the place had to close. The guests were then given the check and a take-out box.

Just to make the experience a little more memorable, the plug was pulled after cops swarmed into the place at the request of management. Apparently there was concern that customers might react badly to getting the heave-ho mid-bite.

Hey, everyone acts on a misconceived notion at one time or another. This just seems to be the whole industry’s week.


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