It has become en vogue for chain restaurants to decorate in a style that makes them seem more unique and less mass market. This brings up an issue that has hit Joe's Crab Shack, a subsidiary of Ignite Restaurant Group, hard. A historical photo displayed under the glass of a table in the restaurant depicting two African Americans being hung in a town square with an added speech bubble that read: "all I said Is I didn't like the gumbo" offended a restaurant patron at their location in Minnesota.
The picture in question is in poor taste. Black or white, the fact is no one wants to see a picture of someone being hung while they are eating.
It's not difficult to see how a photo of this nature slipped through, it's hard to run a business and it's even harder to manage all the details. This is where a third party consultant could make all the difference. Often times we get so close to our businesses, even our managers and directors we have hired are so in the zone they lose some perspective. Frankly, it can't be avoided if you are passionate about your business.
The truth is you can't please everyone. I believe that 1% of all people will be totally unsatisfied no matter what a business does. That aside, there are three big no-no's that all corporations should be aware of. In this case, race.
Racial sensitivities are not going away anytime soon, even though awareness is at its peak in the United States. The color of skin is always going to be a divider of people. My business partner, Daymond John, is an African American and my children are half Hispanic. I have lived in three countries where I have been the minority including Israel; and I understand how charged people may get over something unintentional.
I have been to Joe's Crab Shack recently, I had Valentine's Day dinner with a good friend who I was on the road with for one of my speaking gigs. We were away from our families - so we had a man date. It was great service, especially for a busy night like Valentine's.
As of now Joe's Crab Shack has apologized formerly which is good, but the extra mile would separate them from the rest of the politically correct companies who have dealt with this type of scenarios. The apology is sincere, but most people will probably not truly accept it because of the way it is structured.
"We understand one of the photos used in our table décor at our Joe's Crab Shack location in Roseville, MN was offensive," David Catalano, COO of Ignite Restaurant Group, the parent company of Joe's Crab Shack, told NBC. "We take this matter very seriously, and the photo in question was immediately removed. We sincerely apologize to our guests who were disturbed by the image and we look forward to continuing to serve the Roseville community."
It reads like a legal document because it was probably prepared by a Lawyer and approved by management instead of the way it should be which is to be written by management and approved by a lawyer.
Where to go from here depends on the company's attitude. As a consultant who's primary business is helping corporations achieve the highest level of customer service satisfaction, I would offer the following. Address the situation with the aid of your legal team, head on, being as empathetic, yet as direct as possible. The statement here, needs to be echoed in all social media. In this, Joe's Crab Shack, and David Catalano did very well.
Second, I would engage a corporate consultant - to work with all the general managers to ensure that the company's front line staff is of one voice. And to empower them to address situations as they arise in their individual locations. Additionally, I would suggest a review of all in-house decor and how it may be perceived; replacing any inappropriate items. The old adage, "When in doubt, throw it out" rings true here, particularly if you are publicly listed company.
As a business owner and operator, you are entitled to do what you want. You make the choice about how you want to be accepted by the public. We can all make choices that are safe and err on the side of propriety, but I for one, do not live in a vanilla world. Nor would I want to. I love diversity, I love uniqueness.
Commandment #2: Thou shall love thy customers as thyself. (10 Commandments of Success, by Nate Holzapfel)