Applebee’s, a new PR disaster.

Posted: April 15, 2011 in PR Connections, Public Relations, Topics of the Week

The family restaurant Applebee’s is facing one of their biggest PR disasters in the companies history after it’s Madison Heights, Michigan, store served alcohol to a minor. The biggest catch however, is that the minor is only 15 months old.

Many restaurants have been caught doing this, and Applebee’s is the newest one to fall victim. Server’s at this Applebees gave the 15-month-old boy a tequila-induced sippy cup that was meant to be filled with Apple Juice. The child took a few sips of the drink, put his head on the table, and fell asleep for a short period of time. Upon awakening, he was very happy, saying hello and goodbye to everyone, and when his food came, he didn’t touch it. Parents took him to see the doctors and they found his blood-alcohol level to be .10, which is .02 above the legal level of a legal adult. Doctors said that if he drank the whole cup, he would have died.

Also, on March 31st, an Olive Garden in our own college town of Lakeland, Florida, was found guilty of serving an alcoholic sangria to a two year old, who was supposed to receive orange juice.

The media jumped on both cases, because as Public Relations consultant Katherine Paine told USA Today, “It’s too good a story. It’s got babies, alcohol and food.”

“In an industry that serves more than 150 million meals every day, these are two extremely rare occurrences,” the National Restaurant Association statement read. “However, we believe that even one incident like this is too many.” Both restaurants declined interviews and left it to their PR professionals to handle.

Restaurant and PR consultants say that both restaurants must retrain staff, rethink policies, limit bar use, be forthcoming, and involve folks. Personally, I think this is ridiculous. Yes this may be a very rare occurrence, but once is too many times to let this happen. These children could have died because of the mistakes that servers and bartenders made in both instances, and they would have been not only on the restaurant’s hands, but those servers as well. It would have been a PR nightmare even bigger than what it is now.

I can only hope and pray that this never happens again.

Watch the news video for Applebee’s here

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