Gyu-kaku turns bad publicity into marketing stunt

When crisis hits in the social media era, there is nowhere to hide. Yet if marketers are quick in response to PR crisis, it could be an opportunity to enhance the brand image.

What is clear is that Hong Kong-based Japanese restaurant chain Gyu-kaku (牛角), knows how to steal spotlights from the negativity that was once related to the brand.

The restaurant saw some airtime on local news outlets this week because a man and a woman were arrested for battling over a HKD2,200 dinner bill at the restaurant. The pair, who had known each other for two days, got into an argument over whether they should go dutch before it escalated into a fight.

While news outlets and online discussions pointed fingers on the woman, assuming she was expecting for a free dinner, restaurant owner Simon Wong reframed the brand-related discussion by providing new information.

"The pair started arguing when the man insisted on paying it all, and the woman refused," Wong first explained in the Facebook post. Then, he drew focus on what had contributed to their dinner bill, and reassured that dinner spending in the restaurant "is usually around HKD$200 per head only".

Saying that the two were just being overly considerated, Wong added, "I wish these two adorable customers would become friends again soon."

Following Wong's Facebook statement, the restaurant launched a "Go-Dutch-festival" campaign (Or AA-festival in reference to a Cantonese slang "AA制"), and encouraged customers to "keep the sparks alive" in relationship by ordering their "go-dutch meal" designed for lovers.

"By going dutch each person will have to pay HKD$248," it wrote.

The post has garnered 11k likes, 4.5k+ shares and 1.4k comments at the time of writing, which is 550 times to its last post five days ago. Many had praised the restaurant for its quick response.