Aren’t we all amazed with the national spotlight right now on sexual harassment? It’s been going on for millennia, but for some reason, right now is the time men are going down in flames daily, and chefs are not exempt. New Orleans chef John Besh is not the only food guy to act inappropriately. I predict we will hear of more, and Lord have mercy on any who are capitally villainized—because if everyone who has sexually harassed someone were to be identified, there would be no time or space for any other news.
For the casual dining industry, I have a word of—wonder. Hooters, Tilted Kilt and Twin Peaks—to name a few—listen up. What you thought was playful when you founded your business now sits on the edge of inappropriateness in the current climate. Your playful, sex-object positioning of women servers may soon come back to bite you. If I was in your shoes, I’d be afraid of an uprising, because it's bound to come.
If you have a PR agency, it’s time to develop a crisis management protocol for when a claim surfaces. It’s also time to put together some mandatory sexual harassment training. Other companies and industries are already on it, according to a Wall Street Journal article today. “This is a moment where people will not turn their heads when something is wrong,” according to the article. Don’t wait for a claim or lawsuit before you decide it might be time to adjust the culture.
How to adjust it, I’m not sure. When the brand name, logo and required attire legitimize ogling (at a minimum), a change in any of those areas will likely detract from the brand. And so, what about rebranding? It may be appropriate to call in some experts on such things.
If nothing else, make sure you have plenty of liability insurance. I’m just saying, danger is in the wind, and I won’t be surprised to soon read of one of these brands in the light of sexual harassment.
Tell me what you think.