15 Times Restaurants And Fast Food Chains Had To Publicly Apologize

restaurants apologized

Restaurants are places people go to be served and cared for. Waiters bring you food right to you with a smile on their faces. Meals get cooked to your exact specifications and needs. And you don’t even have to do the dishes when it’s all over. Or, at least that’s how it’s supposed to go.

At the best restaurants and fast food chains, things run smoothly and everything goes as planned. Yet, there are the cases where things go awry or are simply a complete disaster. Those are the times when somebody needs to answer for their mistakes.

Mistakes happen. It’s just a part of life. From the time that we’re very young, we’re taught that everyone makes mistakes, and when we do we should apologize. That lesson applies to everyone, from the smallest child to the biggest corporate food chain. It turns out that there have been a whole of examples of the latter needing to apologize. Over the years, restaurant chains have made all kinds of snafus, whether it be in dealing with their customers or dealing with their food.  And when a big chain makes a mistake, they usually need to make a big public apology.

Here are 15 times restaurants and fast food chains had to publicly apologize.

1. Papa John’s

The pizza chain needed Shaq to step in.

After a series of racial controversies involving the NFL, Papa John’s was looking for a refresh. That’s when they turned to former NBA star Shaquille O’Neal to team up to help them sell pizza. He’s now the chain’s first African-American board member, a brand ambassador, and a part owner of nine franchises. Sometimes you have to go big with 7’ 1” basketball player to make an apology work.

2. KFC

The chicken chain loves the three letters of its name.

KFC stands for Kentucky Fried Chicken. With chicken right in the name, customers expect it when they check out one of the chain’s locations. However, KFC had to apologize to its British customers when it suffered a chicken shortage. The chain decided to apologize simply by rearranging the letters of its name to form a curse word, minus a vowel.

3. Burger King

Their ads were a bit culturally insensitive.

Burger King got in trouble for some pretty racially insensitive advertising. It all started out well-meaning enough when the fast food chain wanted to introduce a burger infused with Asian flavors. But, to advertise the new menu item, Burger King made ads that featured people awkwardly using chopsticks to eat sandwiches. It caused a lot of social media outcry when it premiered in New Zealand, and Burger King quickly pulled it and apologized.

4. Chipotle

A full-page newspaper ad served as their apology.

Multiple accounts of food poisoning at Chipotle restaurants across the country infamously hurt their sales a few years back. After all, nobody wants a side of E. coli along with their guacamole. But, Chipotle founder Steve Ells attempted to fix it all by taking out a full-page ad in 61 newspapers all around the country. It seems to have worked since Chipotle is still around today.

5. McDonald’s

They took clean eating to a whole new level.

A Canadian woman thought her McDonald’s coffee tasted funny. She was shocked to discover her suspicions were correct because she’d been served a cup of cleaning fluid. McDonald’s issued an apology statement and said, “Unfortunately, the milk supply line was connected to the cleaning solution while this guest’s drink was made.”

6. Starbucks

The police were involved.

A Tempe, Arizona Starbucks fell under fire after a group of police officers were asked to leave because a customer didn’t feel safe. The Tempe Police department said they hoped it was an isolated incident. Starbucks issued a public apology on their website, saying the officers “should have been welcomed and treated with dignity and the utmost respect by our partners (employees).”

7. Dunkin’ Donuts

The coffee chain got football fans riled up.

New England football fans are known for being passionate about their beloved Patriots. So the last thing they want to do is celebrate the team that beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl. However, that’s exactly what it seemed like Dunkin’ Donuts wanted them to do when they accidentally used Philadelphia Eagles cups in New England locations. Dunkin’ Donuts had to make it right by stating: “We appreciate our loyal customers for bringing this to our attention, and we are taking steps to ensure all of our local stores are stocked with the correct cups. Go Pats.”

8. T.G.I. Friday’s

An employee interview went very, very wrong.

T.G.I. Friday’s is a restaurant where people go to relax as if it’s the weekend every day. But one manager got a little too relaxed during an interview with a prospective employee. He asked him inappropriate questions like “Would you rather eat chocolate-flavored sh*t or sh*t-flavored chocolate?” and “Would you rather watch your parents have sex for a year or join in just for the start?” The employee turned down the job (and will likely stay away from the chain forever) and T.G.I. Friday’s had to issue a contrite apology.

9. Subway

The sandwiches didn’t quite measure up.

Subway is known for offering its customers “$5 foot-long” sandwiches. But, several customers realized that the chain wasn’t quite delivering on its promise. Most of their sandwiches were an inch or two short of one foot. The company issued a statement apologizing for “any instance where we did not fully deliver on our promise to our customers.”

10. Outback

The restaurant wrongly asked a family to leave.

A Maryland family was trying to enjoy a meal at Outback when the manager asked the mother to leave because her son was being too loud. The issue was that the noise was completely out of the child’s control due to a neurological condition. Outback had to personally apologize to the family for making them feel unwelcome, but the mom posted on Facebook that she still would never go back to one of their restaurants.

11. In-N-Out

There was trouble with the buns.

The public still doesn’t know exactly what happened, but we do know that In-N-Out had some bad buns. All Texas locations of the store closed for one day because their bread did “not meet the quality standards that we demand.” They closed all the Texas locations until they could serve their “normal, high-quality bun,” which happened the next day when the bun-pocalypse ended.

12. Wendy’s

The manager had a lot to say about his employees behind their backs.

A Massachusetts man complained to his local Wendy’s after experiencing two instances of poor service. He was probably hoping for some coupons in exchange for his struggle, but instead he got a mouthful from the manager. The manager apologized, and he put down an entire town in  the process. He wrote:

Not an excuse but the town of Wareham has little to no talent pool to hire from. This is an ongoing issue in that area. We are constantly interviewing and hiring any and all qualified candidates. Unfortunately, those candidates are hard to come by, as most are recovering addicts, and we cannot hire them.

It was a pretty intense apology for just a few messed-up orders.

14. Sonic


A commercial had some iffy historical context.

Puns are a time-honored tradition in restaurant chain advertising. So when Sonic realized they could make a commercial starring “General Custard” instead of the Civil War officer General Custer, they went for it. However, they had a lot to apologize for when they were reminded that General Custer slaughtered huge populations of Native Americans. There was public outcry over the commercial, and rightly so.

15. Arby’s

The company had to apoloize to another company.

Usually when chains make apologies, they need to do so to their customers. But then there are the rare occasions when a major corporation is the recipient of the apology. Arby’s made an entire commercial apologizing to Pepsi after they forgot to include the drink in their commercials as they were contractually obligated to do. So, they let their fans know with a simple line: “Arby’s. We have Pepsi.”

13. Pizza Hut

Dietary restrictions caused some hubbub.

Vegans and pizza restaurants usually don’t naturally go together, what with all the cheese and everything. But one vegan in Plymouth, England went to Pizza Hut for some vegan ice cream. The restaurant needed to issue an apology, though, after the man was served some dairy-filled ice cream and was not too happy about it.

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