The other day I followed a link on Twitter and was treated to a revolting video (warning: not for the squeamish) of a couple of Dominos employees doing horrible things to food they were preparing for a customer. Since my lady and I had coincidentally decided earlier that day that we were going to have Dominos for dinner, this was pretty disturbing to see. It so happens that I spent almost a decade working in various restaurant kitchens in my youth, and never saw this kind of behavior happening, so I tried to put the video out of my mind.
Not everyone has that kind of background, though, and as the video spread virally, Dominos took a serious reputation hit. The New York Times has all the details on the situation, and I won't rehash them all here, but I just wanted to say, thank goodness for once the idiots that pull pranks like these are paying the price. The two employees were arrested and are facing felony charges, plus Dominos is readying a civil suit against them. Couldn't have happened to a nicer pair of people. I could go right down my snarky rabbithole and talk about Darwinism (how dumb do you have to be to post something like that online, with your smiling faces showing clearly throughout the video) but I'll stop for now.
On the flip side, Dominos is facing a publicity nightmare. That particular branch, in Conover, N.C., was most directly impacted (the Board of Health closed them temporarily and had them discard all opened food containers for fear of the two contaminating them) but the entire chain is suffering. The Times says:
In just a few days, Domino’s reputation was damaged. The perception of its quality among consumers went from positive to negative since Monday, according to the research firm YouGov, which holds online surveys of about 1,000 consumers every day regarding hundreds of brands.
How do you put a price on that kind of reputation damage?
And how did this video go viral so incredibly quickly? Via Twitter, of course (in fact that's where I first heard about it). Apparently the video was originally taken down, but not before someone else had copied it. That person reposted it, explaining why in the comments:
It [the video] was removed later this day but re-uploaded because these people deserve to be fired. If you want these people fired then Favorite, comment, and rate 5 stars so the word gets out and these people get fired.
Well, the Twitter community got wind of this, spread it around, and the plan worked: the people were not only fired but arrested. But at what cost to the chain? Should every Dominos store suffer because of two malicious individuals working in one location? Obviously not.
But the images are hard to get out of your head, aren't they? How do you do damage control on this kind of situation? Patrick Doyle, President of Dominos, tried to fight fire with fire by posting his own video on YouTube (see below) but unsurprisingly that one hasn't gone viral. Dominos can assure us that this was an isolated incident all they want, but will we really believe them? Any chain is only as strong as its weakest link; watching the video, the store itself seems very clean and orderly. But it just takes one hateful person handling your food to make everything else about the process moot. Every time I order take out now, I'm going to be thinking about what's happening behind closed doors.
Maybe Dominos, and all restaurants with closed-off kitchens, need to install security cameras covering all the food preparation areas? Would that help? Or would malicious employees find a way to do their damage in corners where the cameras can't see? Is there any process that could absolutely prevent this kind of incident? Please leave your ideas in the comment section.