In the restaurant business, reputations are made and broken with every customer interaction.  That includes how customers are treated from the moment they walk into a restaurant, the service they receive and of course the meal.  Customers judge all of it. Extreme restaurant experiences – either awesome or awful – tend to be the ones customers talk about.

Last week at Peter Chang’s Restaurant in Arlington, Va., some servers attempted to secretly ridicule customers they thought were being obnoxious.  After the meal the customers noticed on the check that the servers had identified them as “plaid asshole” and “i have a small penis.”

These customers told people about the experience.  And by people, I mean The Washington Post and suddenly the story went viral.  Peter Chang, was the head chef at the Chinese Embassy before launching his restaurant empire that now numbers seven locations in Virginia.  He is so popular among some devoted diners they call themselves “Changians.”

So, what to do when your reputation is being smeared in the Washington Post?  Take swift action. In a business where your business depends on reputation, customers must be reassured that action is being taken and steps are made to try to ensure the same mistakes are not made again.

Peter Chang took action.  He responded by firing everyone involved in the incident: two servers, the manager on duty, and his daughter who is responsible for running the restaurant.  He didn’t stop there.  He launched an investigation to understand exactly what happened; he’s hiring a professional management company to help train employees; and, he invited customers to contact him directly with complaints or criticism.

These are all excellent steps addressing the unfortunate situation and avoiding a catastrophic crisis.  The steps send the message that the customers always come first and he takes the situation (and his reputation) very seriously.  Below is the statement of apology Chang sent to the media:

Peter Chang’s Statement                                   

I sincerely apologize to the guests who were offended on 05/07/2016 when they dined at my Arlington restaurant. I am deeply disturbed by the incident. I am sorry, my respected guests. I also apologize to all my friends who have had trust in Peter Chang. We made a mistake and let you down.

We made a mistake and we must correct it. The following is what we are doing to correct and improve:

  1. My company has fired Qian Cheng, the manager on duty on 05/07, and the waiter and waitress on duty. Manager Lydia Zhang will also be fired after the investigation is completed.
  2. My company is contacting a professional management company and will have it as our consultant in improving the management of all the restaurants in my company. My goal is to enforce discipline, supervision of all employees and to better the training of services [sic] so as to build a managing team that is professional and effective, so that the quality of services will be guaranteed.
  3. My company will make greater effort in improving the food quality monitoring system so my insistence on offering fresh and healthy food with Chinese characteristics will not only be upheld but improved and perfected.
  4. We accept guests’ complaints and/or criticism wholeheartedly. Please call Gen Lee, who is one of the founders of my company, by dialing (434) 227-0006 if you are unsatisfied with any aspect of my restaurants. He will contact you quickly.

Dear guests and friends, I found dignity in being a chef due to your support and encouragement. I need more of your help in supervising my employees, so my restaurants will be nicer places for you to enjoy fine food in the future, and I will have a stage to continue to present my culinary skills.

Peter Chang

© 2020 Tuckahoe Strategies, LLC.

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