Sometimes there’s risk involved with something (an action, a decision, a change – whatever) but yet nothing negative happens (fiou!). However, just because nothing has happened to escalate that risk into an issue or a crisis, doesn’t mean that it never will. Kim Côté, chef and owner of the Quebec restaurant, Côté-Est, has recently learned this lesson the hard way.
The risk of the Phoque Bardot burger
About a year ago, Côté put seal on his menu and titled it the “Phoque Bardot burger”. This, for all my English readers, is a play on words. “Phoque” in French means seal (imagine how much fun we, as French-Canadians, had with this word as kids!). However, it’s also intended to be a “tongue-in-cheek joke” at the expense of actress and seal-slaughter-activist, Brigitte Bardot.
The decision to put seal on the menu in itself can be controversial. Choosing to title the burger as he did, although clever, is also controversial and can be offensive to Bardot supporters who may find themselves in this Kamouraska (a place in Quebec) restaurant.
Although it took a year, this risk recently became Côté’s nightmare.
When a link to the restaurant was posted to a Facebook group with over 400,000 members who are against this sort of thing, the backlash on Côté-Est’s Facebook timeline was too much for Côté to bear. Being unprepared to handle social media issues, he felt he had no choice but to shut down his Facebook page – which, as a regular reader of this blog, you know is sooo not the way to handle these types of issues!
The power of the lingering risk
The power of the lingering risk is that we, as human beings, too easily take for granted that it’s never developed into anything more, and this leaves us vulnerable. I’m sure that upon decision to 1) serve seal, and 2) title it as he did, Côté, at the very least, had considered that this controversial menu item could potentially stir up some negative sentiment (and if he didn’t, well, that’s an issue beyond the scope of this particular blog post!). But after a year of never facing any such sentiment, I’m also sure that the risk involved with this menu item was the furthest thing from his mind – which left him extremely vulnerable on the day that it finally did escalate.
3 important takeaways from this phoqued situation (pun intended ;))
- Plan for all possible risks in advance – this way you won’t make foolish mistakes such as shutting down your Facebook page to silence the attacks.
- Every once in a while, review your crisis plan and bring it top of mind. This way, on the day that an issue or a crisis does occur, you’re procedures and communications plans will not be completely forgotten.
- Take a moment to assess what risks currently stare you straight in the face, but haven’t actually escalated… yet.
Image credit: La Presse, Martin Chamberland
Author of Crisis Ready: Building an Invincible Brand in an Uncertain World, Melissa Agnes is a leading authority on crisis preparedness, reputation management, and brand protection. Agnes is a coveted keynote speaker, commentator, and advisor to some of today’s leading organizations faced with the greatest risks. Learn more about Melissa and her work here.