Grill fest FUEGO Feast 2018 gets flamed: Too far burnt to recover?

FUEGO Feast 2018 has apologised after being grilled (pun intended) for its first ever grill festival in Singapore.

In a Facebook apology, the organisers said the team “grossly overestimated” its rate of production and capability, resulting in the long wait time and insufficient food, among other things. It also admitted to not have “deliver the experience promised and marketed to [consumers]”.

“In our haste to fix our problem, we managed to only refund a number of you when we should have offered everyone affected a deserved refund. The leadership of FUEGO would like to sincerely apologise and to make an open call to everyone whose evening we’d ruined to contact us for your money back,” it said.

Held over the weekend with big name partners such as Singapore Tourism Board, Kuhlbarra, Classic fine foods and Maille, the event received complaints from consumers on issues such as portion size, long lines and quality of cooking. Others voiced out organisational issues regarding the lack of seating and poor crowd management and  raised the issue of high cost of alcoholic drinks.

Too far burnt to recover?

Julian Chow, head of digital from Text100 Singapore, said the event was reminiscent of the Fyre Festival debacle that happened last year with the issue of over-promising and under-delivery and Fyre's of celebrity influencers to promote the event on social media.

“Judging from the response from the organisers on social media, they have taken the right step forward in terms of being apologetic and wanting to improve the experience,” he said, adding:

While the move is in the right direction, restoring public confidence can’t be just promises that the next event is going to be different.

“I think the organisers should hold mini pop-up events along the way as a build up to the next event (should they even want to do this again). It will serve as intermediate customer experience touchpoints to build up confidence - if done right,” he said.

“The good thing is that Singaporeans are willing to give people another chance even if a first year event doesn’t go so well, as long as communications are managed correctly,” he said. Moreover, he urged the organisers to be transparent about what went wrong and give attendees a complete post-mortem report without pointing fingers or absolving themselves of the blame.

Make it clear that these are fixable problems as long as lessons were learnt, which then builds up public trust.

Marc Bakker, marketing director of Right Hook Communications added that consumers especially appreciate it when organisers take responsibility and take some steps to show their contrition.

However, it is also important for organisers not to take on responsibility that is not theirs.

For example, a certain degree of hustle and bustle is to be expected at such a large event as is a certain degree of waiting. Grilling such huge quantities of meat takes time and there are just certain aspect of being outdoors that organisers cannot control.

He added that it is really important for the organisers to spend time understanding why things went so wrong this year and focus on fixing the issues that people were the most upset about, bearing in mind that some challenges may not be completely surmountable," he said.

Getting the logistics right is going to be key, he added. In particular when it comes to managing the time it takes to grill so much meat properly.

“Fortunately they've had one hell of a learning experience this year, which can only help them to make better decisions for next year - provided that they approach this situation with an open mind, a willingness to learn from their mistakes and a non-judgmental approach to attributing blame,” he said.

Bakker also outlined sever aspects for organisers to consider:

  • Reducing the entry free, but allowing booths to charge for certain items. This spreads some of the responsibility for queues and cooking times to the booths.
  • Implementing a voucher system so people can enjoy some free items, but having to top up for extras (this will help ration out the most popular items).
  • Re-evaluating the session times and duration to smooth out the traffic flow and availability of food.

Other steps that could be undertaken now to pave the way for next time, would be to release pictures and videos to promote the positive side of the event and highlight that some people had a good time.

“Behind the scenes shots of all the hard work that went into the event would also help as people are easier to relate to,” he said.