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What Can We Learn Form Wahaca’s PR disaster?
Team Offbeat | 20 Jun

With Wahaca’s recent PR disaster surrounding pay policies, we take a look at the importance of transparency in pay and tip distribution within the hospitality sector.

Earlier this week, we saw Wahaca at the centre of a negative PR storm. A tweet by a customer revealed that a server was made to foot the bill after a table of customers left without paying.

With over 7,000 followers, former Labour leader for Camden Council, Sarah Haywood tweeted her outrage:

“Hi @Wahaca just eaten in your Kentish Town restaurant for the first time. Ppl next to us left without paying and their server is made to foot the bill from his wages. Apparently, company policy. Utterly shameful employment practice. Food is great, company is crap @thomasinamiers.”

Wahaca failed to respond until the next morning, by which time, the tweet had initiated thousands of retweets and responses and was picked up by the national press.

Co-founder, Thomasina Miers, eventually responded, stating that it is not “standard policy” for a waiter to be charged for a walk-out. She suggested that the staff member had been charged £3 at the managers discretion but has since been reimbursed. Only when a waiter knowingly lets someone walk out without paying does it constitute gross negligence. She went on to say that they have now clarified their policies.

So, what can we learn from Wahaca’s PR disaster?

Firstly, the handling of bad publicity on social media is a concern that should be dealt with sensitively and swiftly to minimise potential damage. Poor communication can quickly blow up online. In this era of social media, it is important now more than ever to be as direct and honest as possible.

Secondly, miscommunication to both staff and customers can have a lasting negative impact. Company policy clarity is of upmost importance. Transparency of how pay and tips are distributed or deducted must be clear, whilst staff guides including outdated policies should be amended frequently.

By Charlotte Phillips

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