Social Media hath fury when a vegan scorned


By Benjamin Haslem

The owner of a Hunter Valley hamburger restaurant has learned the hard way about the dangers of social media.

His tale of woe is a salutary reminder to all businesses that while social media is a useful marketing tool, it can cause massive harm if used incorrectly.

Mark Clews, part-owner of Tuk Tuk in the Tempus Two winery complex about two-hours north of Sydney, made the mistake of ridiculing a vegan, as you can see from the top screenshot at left.

As the Newcastle Herald reports: "... the restaurant's Facebook page ha[s] been swamped with more than 900 one-star reviews".

"In screenshots of posts, Mr Clews refuses to apologise and labels detractors 'vegan Nazis'," the paper reports (click on bottom screenshot at left).

Mr Clews said angry social media users tracked down his mobile phone number and "made threatening phone calls up until midnight".

The Tempus Two winery has distanced itself from the fracas: "We would like to advise that [these] comments and views are not supported by Tempus Two, and we in no way condone this behaviour by Tuk Tuk Hunter Valley".

Mr Clews later told the Newcastle Herald he would apologise to the customer if she came back.

A new Facebook page – "Tuk Tuk Hunter Valley Honest Reviews" – has since been created by critics where comments posted on the Tuk Tuk Facebook page - but later deleted - are posted.

The yarn has created a great deal of media interest, being picked up by the Kyle and Jackie O show and Channel Ten's The Project.

So how will this affect Tuk Tuk? 

Considering few vegans would buy food from a hamburger joint, it's unclear if the damage will be great.

People who dislike vegans may buy a Tuk Tuk burger in support but how likely are they to become regular customers?

Mr Clew's lack of repentance prior to the media's interest is now saved for prosperity on Facebook and is likely to feature highly in future Google searches for Tuk Tuk. 

All in all, a pretty bad outcome that could have been avoided had Mr Clews kept his dislike of vegans to himself.

Perhaps Tuk Tuk could try and turn things around by introducing a vegan range of burgers and make a donation to a charity of the vegan customer's choice.

But I suspect it's too late. 

Mr Clews will just have to wait for the storm to blow over. His Tempus Two lease is up, so it's probably time to find a new home and perhaps a new brand.