You have to wonder, What were they thinking? What prompted restaurateurs, customers and employees to forge ahead this week with ideas that were so wrongheaded the outcomes were sure to be epic backfires? Our every-Wednesday review of the industry’s low points is a testament that people can talk themselves into almost anything, fallout be damned.
This installment introduces a new component of our weekly rundown of nightmares, a look at serial blunders. We’re calling it: Enough already.
Management nightmare of the week: Gallows humor
What could make your restaurant seem more whimsical and on-the-edge than using a hanging scene to promote one of its signature dishes? If you’ve been thinking the same thing—first, get help, and second, consider what happened when Joe’s Crab Shack tried that very thing.
A photo laminated into at least one of the chain’s tabletops depicted a hanging in Texas, Joe’s home state, in 1895. In the foreground are crowds waiting for the spectacle of an African-American man dying in public view. In the background are the gallows and the man himself. Here’s what’s even more hilarious: The man has been given a cartoon-style quote, “All I said was that I didn’t like the gumbo.”
What’s funnier than a culinary quip from a black man being strung up in the South during Jim Crow days?
To its credit, Joe’s parent company, Ignite Restaurant Group, immediately removed the photo and apologized for the lapse, suggesting the misfire had only occurred in one store and would not be repeated.
Consumer nightmare of the week: Sucker slaps at Trump
An anonymous wag in San Antonio, Texas, is using local Mexican restaurants to take a swipe at supporters of Donald Trump’s run for the presidency. Twice now, the stealth political operative has created signs, using a Mexican restaurant’s logo each time, to announce that the establishment would not serve followers of The Donald because of his comments about Mexican immigrants. One sign read, “You can’t have your taco and eat it too.”
One of the letterhead-sized placards was affixed to the door of a Taco Cabana branch, and another was posted outside an independent, Mama Margie’s. Both restaurants say they had nothing to do with the warnings. Indeed, both used their time in the spotlight to boast that they serve top-notch tacos.
Left unspecified in the bogus alerts was how the establishments would recognize someone who sympathized with the leader in the race for the Republican presidential nomination.
Employee nightmare of the week: A cup instead of a bow
An IHOP in New York City had an employee arrested because he cast himself as a modern-day Robin Hood, armed with a cup and fountain instead of a bow and arrow. The 27-year-old server, William Powell, gave away more than $3,000 worth of sodas to patrons who seemed in need.
He was finally caught through reviews of video tape, after management noticed that drinks accounted for only about 6 percent of his tables’ tabs, compared with a typical proportion of more than 17 percent for other stations.
When he was nabbed, Powell expressed surprise, saying he’d been giving away the drinks since he started working at the store last summer.
‘Enough already’ nightmare: Root beer mix-up
You know this was bound to happen. With so-called hard sodas being added to restaurants’ drink menus, servers and bartenders are bound to confuse those adult beverages with plain old pop for kids. Such was the case at an Applebee’s in Johnson City, Tenn., where a dad discovered his kids had been served the wrong kind of root beer.
Applebee’s has just added an alcoholic version of root beer chainwide. Apparently that news had escaped one server, who assumed all products marked “root beer” were the same.
One of the children was taken to the hospital for stomach pains, and the offending server was fired, but no charges were filed against the restaurant, according to local media reports.