Restaurant PR Nightmares: The Headache of Viral Videos

Restaurant PR Nightmares: The Headache of Viral Videos

Viral videos and photos can be either an amazing way to get positive exposure for your restaurant or an out-of-control sales-tanking nightmare for restaurants that find themselves on the negative end of viral content. See how some are dealing with their restaurant PR nightmares.

Golden Corral Dumpster Dive

A Florida Golden Corral restaurant gave buffet lovers everywhere a scare when a chef posted a video showing food being stored outside, uncovered, and near a dumpster in order to avoid being examined during a food inspection. Golden Corral immediately went online to apologize and said the manager responsible was fired.
restaurant PR nightmare - Golden Corral

Domino’s Employee Digs for Gold

In 2009, Domino’s Pizza discovered that one viral prank video and initially slow company response could lead to a lot of bad PR. Two employees were fired and later charged for sneezing on a sandwich, sticking cheese up his nose and other disgusting acts. Much Twitter discussion and the top Google search results for Domino’s referenced the scandal. The company ended up releasing a video apology and admitted the incident damaged their reputation.
restaurant PR nightmare - Domino's

Unwelcome Mascot at UK Pizza Hut

A Manchester, England, Pizza Hut restaurant found that its customers weren’t fans of mice when a picture of one eating crumbs on the pizzeria floor went viral on social media. The restaurant wasn’t closed, but stories like “Pizza Hut Mouse Is Your Latest Reason to Stop Eating Out” had to have nibbled at the restaurant’s bottom line.
restaurant PR nightmare - Pizza Hut UK

Militant Restaurant Training

Many restaurants actually need tougher employee training, but a video of a restaurant in China training its female employees to march in unison, chant, and go through a series of calisthenics, seems quite extreme. The video got 3 million hits on popular China social media video site Youku and lots of critical comments.
restaurant PR nightmare

Cosi Fan Turmoil

A Cosi restaurant in Washington D.C. didn’t respond well when it was shut down due to a failed health inspection. An emailed response from the restaurant’s management about “unwarranted investigations” to a news reporter covering the restaurant went viral. A Cosi part-owner later apologized for the tough response.
restaurant PR nightmare - Cosi

Roach Potato Photo

Another Washington D.C.-area restaurant was shut down after a customer shared a photo online of a dead roach in her curry chicken. The restaurant was also cited for mice droppings. In a news report on the shutdown, a reporter showed a picture of the roach food to guests approaching the restaurant, who immediately said they wouldn’t eat there again. As of late July 2013, a Facebook commentator’s posting of the photo was still visible.
restaurant PR nightmare

Taco Lickers

A photo of a Taco Bell employee licking a stack of tacos during a training session went viral on Facebook and got him fired. Taco Bell responded quickly to the Facebook photo posting, reiterating its no-tolerance policy for food violations.
restaurant PR nightmare - Taco Bell

And Other Fast Food Photos

More young employees with social media accounts are making fast food news. A Wendy’s employee was caught pouring ice cream directly into his mouth from the machine’s spout. A Burger King employee photo showed a worker standing on two containers of lettuce. Another Taco Bell employee urinated, in a photo, on nachos. A KFC worker licked a pile of mashed potatoes. And a Subway worker rubbed his private parts on the baked-daily bread. Who’s turned off from fast food after that stream of visuals?
restaurant PR nightmare - Wendy's

Pizza and Politics

A photo of Big Apple Pizza’s owner bear hugging President Barack Obama during a 2012 visit to the restaurant meant mixed reactions for the business. Big Apple got many negative Yelp reviews and some bad guest reaction to the mix of politics with pizza. In the end however, the viral photo ended up raising sales 200 percent, in a flip on the negative publicity.
restaurant PR nightmare

Key Takeaways

  • Respond quickly to problematic posts
  • Keep up with sanitary processes at your chains and franchises
  • Communicate to associates the need for appropriate behavior
  • Ensure that every associate is aware of proper food practices
  • Enforce a zero tolerance policy regarding food safety violations

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