When a business makes a huge mistake, there are three ways it can react.
It can try to brush it under the carpet and pretend it didn’t happen. This is usually a bad idea, because thanks to social media, news quickly spreads and the longer an incident continues without an official response from the perpetrator, the more fun social media pranksters can have with the whole affair. This is the risk being taken by firms like Wetherspoon and Lush UK who have shut down their social media accounts.
The second is to issue a full apology and explanation. This is probably the best option in cases where the mistake has left people disappointed, such as the Zavvi Champions League final competition mix-up last week, as it shows that the culprit is taking the error seriously and trying to rectify it.
A third option is to see the funny side and accept being the butt of the joke. This needs to be handled with caution, but when done well, it can lead to excellent publicity, as the Manchester restaurant Hawksmoor has found out this week.
On Wednesday evening, a group of diners at the steakhouse treated themselves to a bottle of wine that, according to the Manchester Evening News, was priced at £260. This might seem an expensive bottle, but it was dwarfed by the price of the one they were actually served, as staff opened a £4,500 bottle of Chateau le Pin Pomerol 2001 in error. By the time the mistake had been realised, the diners had paid their bill and left.
This is an error where the only victim is the restaurant itself, as it’s unlikely that the diners would be unhappy at being served a bottle of wine costing more than 17 times what they paid for it, so there’s certainly no need to put out a grovelling apology. This left two options for the Hawksmoor – keep quiet, or have some fun with it. The restaurant chose the latter.
To the customer who accidentally got given a bottle of Chateau le Pin Pomerol 2001, which is £4500 on our menu, last night – hope you enjoyed your evening! To the member of staff who accidentally gave it away, chin up! One-off mistakes happen and we love you anyway 😉
— Hawksmoor Manchester (@HawksmoorMCR) May 16, 2019
Within 24 hours, the tweet got more than 45,000 likes and 7,000 retweets, with many joking that they now want to go to the restaurant in the hope of benefiting from a repeat error. It was picked up on by the BBC and almost all the major British newspapers, and even got a predictable response from opticians Specsavers.
You know our thoughts on this….👀
— Specsavers (@Specsavers) May 16, 2019
If the Hawksmoor had just sulked on this matter and stewed in its own juices, it would never have received any of this publicity. By ‘owning’ the mistake on Twitter, the restaurant has shown itself to have a sense of humour, and that it respects its customers and staff.
The handling of the incident is reminiscent to that of non-league football club AFC Fylde earlier this year, who fell victim to a practical joke, but decided to laugh along with it on Twitter and even reward the tricksters.
It’s an approach that should be taken carefully and sparingly – if a similar mistake were to be made again next week, a different approach would probably be necessary to avoid coming across as more of a ‘Fawlty Towers’ experience than a high-end restaurant – but it shows that honesty and humour can be the best policy.