Another restaurant is in hot water for a racial slur on a receipt. This time, it's a Hooters in Queens. Evidently, a 17-year old hostess put the word, "Chinx" on the receipt of a Korean man as an identification mark, a practice often used in restaurants to identify customers.
What is interesting about this incident is how the restaurant's reaction is depicted in the media, depending on which media you look at. In crisis communications, we know we can't control our message, and this is a great example of how too many cooks spoil the broth, or in this case too much information spoils the message.
By the accounts below, we can see that there are obviously many voices speaking to the same situation, all of which do not have the same message. Both of these excerpts are from different national news organizations. Do you see the difference in tone between the two?
From the New York Times:
"Nicole Conboy, director of human resources for the holding company that owns the Fresh Meadows restaurant and three Hooters on Long Island, said that when Mr. Baek advised the company of the incident, the restaurant management responded swiftly with an internal investigation. During the inquiry, she said, a 17-year-old hostess stepped forward and admitted to committing the act, and the employee immediately resigned.
“We take all of that very, very seriously,” Ms. Conboy said Monday.
The company’s lawyer, Edward G. McCabe, said there had been no prior incidents or complaints of a similar nature at the restaurant.
“It does not reflect the manner in which the restaurant is operated,” he said in a letter to Mr. Baek, calling the employee’s conduct “egregious” and “deplorable.”
From a national wire service:
"Ed McCabe, a lawyer for Strix Llc — which owns four Hooters restaurants in Queens and on Long Island — and owner William Harley acknowledged the incident, but said the hostess responsible for the racial description has resigned and the restaurant isn’t liable because her actions violated corporate policy."
These accounts, which are totally different in message, demonstrate the need for a consistent public message in a crisis. In reading a half dozen articles on the same incident, I counted four spokespeople quoted that are associated with the restaurant. Chalk up another unfortunate case study on the need for crisis communications planning.
Does your institution have a message template, assigned spokesperson, and media triage set up for a negative/crisis event? If not, it's time to tackle the task of preparing for message continuity in a crisis.