Can We Make Everyone Happy?

Imagine that you are a restaurant owner.  There are many families and locals that come to dinner at your restaurant on a daily basis.  It’s a normal evening and dinner is being served when a group of individuals come in holding guns.  They aren’t robbing your restaurant or threatening anything. They are just gun activists trying to promote their message.

What do you do? Is it appropriate or acceptable to have guns in your restaurant?

Chipotle, a Mexican grill restaurant in Texas just faced this exact experience.

As a future public relations professional it’s important to realize that things like this really do happen and it’s very productive to think, “What would I do in this situation?”

Chipotle came out with a statement after this situation occurred, “we are respectfully asking that customers not bring guns into our restaurants, unless they are authorized law enforcement personnel.”

There was lots of feedback that Chipotle received on Twitter after this statement was released to the public.  Some individuals stated that they wouldn’t come back to Chipotle ever again, because they won’t allow guns.

I have been pondering about this situation a lot and it’s hard.  It’s hard because it’s a public relations situation that has a “hot” law topic as it’s subject.  And there are always going to be individuals who are passionate about both sides of every hot topic.

So, what would you do?

Do you let people bring fire arms into your restaurant and then lose many loyal customers, because of their uneasiness?

Is there a way to make the whole public happy?  Sadly, I don’t think there is.  Here is what I would do:

  1. If I were the PR professional over Chipotle I would first talk to the “Top Dog” or owner of the whole company. I would ask what his/her feelings are about this situation.  Is the company’s message, goal and purpose for or against having guns in the store?
  1. I would then come out with a statement just like they did.  The message Chipotle gave was clear and respectful. The Communications Director at Chipotle worded everything very well.  He said why they were asking customers to not bring guns into the restaurant, because of the uneasiness of customers.  I thought that was a very important point to include.

I think it’s very critical the way things are worded in statements like this.  (I would definitely have myself and someone else edit and proof read the statement multiple times before releasing it to the media.)

  1. I would then come out again focusing on our purpose as Chipotle. That we care about our customers.  We care about our customer’s safety and comfort in our restaurant. I would want to focus on the positive purpose of our prior statement and not argue with the individuals that tweeted angry comments in response.

It’s interesting to me that some individuals are choosing to not be customers anymore, because Chipotle doesn’t want fire arms in their restaurant.  One man had tweeted how he’ll never go back to Chipotle ever again even though he loved it before.

I am not saying I am a fire arm activist or not, but while reading this PR story I just assumed that no one would want to have guys come into their restaurant with guns.  Of course it will scare young families, and local customers in the restaurant!  I thought that was obvious. But…

What I have learned from reading and analyzing this PR situation is that we can’t ever assume that we know the best answer.  My best answer at first was “of course the public will agree with me in forbidding to have individuals carry fire arms in our restaurant.”  But as we can see in this situation, (link at the bottom) they actually lost some customers because of this statement.

But was it worth it? Would they have lost more customers if they chose to not make a statement or to allow fire arms in the restaurant?

Tell me what you think.  Is there really a way to make the whole public happy in the PR world?

See news story here:

http://www.prnewsonline.com/water-cooler/2014/05/20/chipotle-sends-strong-message-not-to-bring-guns-into-its-stores/

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