Is any PR good PR? Roosevelt’s vs Daphne Maia (The Horse Piss Tag)

roosevelt's and daphne maia horseshit

The local internet has been abuzz recently with this latest viral comment spreading, whereby Daphne Maia commented on her Instagram post tagging Roosevelt’s, that the coffee was:

“Possibly worse than drinking horse piss”.

Roosevelt’s cafe then responded with a witty chalk board outside their store not only acknowledging the comment, but firing back. The board as you can see above, says:

“Come taste our coffee that Daphnemaia on Instagram thinks is worse than horsepiss #nothorsepiss”

They even give a 10% discount if you take a picture with their sign!

Clearly, Singapore netizens have been split into 2 camps, with one side calling Roosevelt’s unprofessional and childish for targeting Daphne, while Roosevelt supporters applaud the witty comeback.

Just to be clear, I’m not paid or friends with any of the above mentioned parties and my following views are purely intended to be objective as a F&B professional.

How it all started

Let’s start with the aggressor, Daphne Maia. Yes, let’s assume the coffee was pretty bad, which she is entitled to feel and express. Perhaps she was really upset by the low quality and felt the need to warn her friends.

But as a social influencer it is very important that we not make such near-vulgar and harsh comments about any product. You can say the coffee was awful, and preferably with a reasonable description of why you think it’s bad, but comparing it to horse piss was taking it a bit far. Sometimes cafes/restaurants do have their off days but we should give them some benefit of the doubt.

Ending off with “do not drink coffee here”, was also a bit extreme, and I see it as a direct attack on the cafe. Taste is always subjective. I’ve been to hundreds of food tastings and there were definitely ones that were horrible. Even with a bad review, my dish descriptions are always kept professional and attempts to explain why. This gives the owner a chance to understand and correct the food, instead of outright condemning them.

Shots fired

Back to Roosevelt’s- my first thought was that hey, that’s actually a pretty clever comeback! But after kicking aside my inner child and exploring both sides, ethically this wasn’t an ideal move either. Drawing Daphne into the limelight makes her life difficult as well and you can imagine the amount of people harassing her now by asking if everything she eats tastes like “horse piss” (guys, it’s called an euphemism, don’t take it literally geez).

It wasn’t a very considerate thing to do to Daphne. Lives have been ruined easily over social media, but luckily there are still supporters for Daphne and isn’t as extreme as an Anton Casey situation.

Some people have also argued that Roosevelt’s should have attempted to convert Daphne Maia as a customer which well, in most situations should be the case. But in my experience as a F&B business owner, you can tell which are those customers that will always be a losing battle. Like those who think your product tastes like “horse piss”. We can attempt to spend triple resources converting haters, or convert customers that are on the bench; the economics are obvious which should be pursued. That said, berating your haters is also something I highly advise against.

A short online interview with Roosevelt’s management revealed that the coffee was made by a young barista, who was very disparaged by Daphne’s comment. This is why F&B is a tough industry because you will always get public criticism for your work. In response, they threw this light hearted campaign to boost their staff’s confidence.

I’ve been invited to Roosevelt’s for a tasting, but until I actually do taste it, I can’t comment on the food. The coffee itself might indeed taste bad for all I know, but the point is that they don’t deserve such a harsh beating even so. If you really wanted to help a restaurant improve, drop them a personal message instead of broadcasting on social media.

Was it good PR?

So the question is, was it effective PR in the end? The saying that ‘any PR is good PR’ really depends on the stage the business is in. For an established company that has a public reputation already, having bad public opinion would most probably pulls sales down. But for small, newer establishments who have never even been heard of until this news, is an advantage for increased exposure.

Personally I’ve not even heard of Roosevelt’s until this ‘horse piss’ news spread into my social media. They have definitely acquired much more awareness, and now I’m really curious how it tastes as well.

But the bottom line is this; did this PR bring up sales? If it did, it’s good PR regardless of your bad situation. According to management, Roosevelt’s has quite a few full house nights now. Many might contend that what Roosevelt’s did was social media suicide, but hey, jumping off into a bed of cash seems like a sweet way to die.

Let’s all be mature

The true mark of maturity is when somebody hurts you and you try to understand their situation instead of trying to hurt them back. This can be applied to both parties, with Daphne getting ‘hurt’ by subpar coffee, but choosing to ‘hurt’ Roosevelt’s with her comments instead of understanding the real reason, that perhaps the barista was new.

Roosevelt’s in turn, was ‘hurt’ by Daphne’s ‘horse piss’ comments, but also chose to fire back instead of understanding her concerns. Then Daphne now has to defend herself. Either way, you can see this is a vicious cycle of hate that never ends.

My take is that both sides should just take down their hurtful comments and move on. Your points have been made. Now, who’s going to be the bigger man and make the first move?

What did you think about Roosevelt cafe’s tactic? PR brilliance or ethically wrong? Let’s hear some comments below.