After creating a blueprint of how to inflame a crisis by refusing to return $20 million in government aid until it was forced to, Ruth’s Chris will have to work hard to win back the trust of the public and other key stakeholders, when smarter communications choices would have cleared a quicker, more certain path to redemption.
By Dex McLuskey
Every drama needs a villain and in Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, the lockdown found its antagonist.
The operator of about 150 red leather and dark wood restaurants became a social media pariah after receiving $20 million from a government program intended to help small businesses pay workers during the shutdown.
More than the amount received, the way Ruth’s Chris went about obtaining the money and its reaction to the backlash made it a target for media and public ire. To circumvent a $10 million funding limit per company, Ruth’s Chris made applications under two corporate identities. Smart, if you’re in the admire its chutzpah camp, deeply cynical if you’re one of the thousands of small businesses that received nothing before the Paycheck Protection Program’s first pool of $349 billion was exhausted.
While these moves provided the spark, it was the company’s reaction to the outcry that fueled the firestorm and shredded its reputation as a good corporate citizen.
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