Brisbane eatery British Colonial Co. has changed online descriptions of its business after diners were offended by the claim the restaurant was inspired by Britain’s “empirical push into the developing cultures of the world”, in what brand strategists are saying is a reminder to run your business name past as many people as possible.
The Tapas bar and restaurant has attracted criticism from locals who claim the name and theme of the company is racist and celebrates violence committed by British colonialists.
— Hacklock (@hacklocked) September 18, 2016
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In July the eatery posted that its “inspiration” came from British colonial interior design, but expanded this to reference: “English citizens travelling the world during the Empire’s heyday, bringing with them typically heavy wooden furnishings and adapting to hot local climates with lighter local fare”.
The restaurant’s company description on Facebook now reads: “Alfresco dining and lounge bar offering healthy brunch, tapas and shared plate selections to accompany an array of wines and cocktails”.
In a statement, the restaurant said it is doing all it could as a small business, and that management were “upset and saddened” by reports that the branding had caused distress.
The controversy has been acknowledged, but there has been no talk of the name or theme of the venue being changed.
Marketing Angels founder Michelle Gamble told SmartCompany that it was highly unlikely the business had any idea they were about to run into problems.
“I would say they haven’t even thought of it,” she says.
But now is the time to communicate what the restaurant is about, says Gamble, and it’s a reminder to workshop your business idea extensively.
“The more the better, because you’re obviously going to get an idea of sentiment if you do it to a broader audience,” she says.
“Put it in front of your target market.”
Once that’s done, it’s worth keeping in mind the current fiery issues that your business idea might conflict with. Gamble says the issue of colonialism is a “hot topic” in the Australian news cycle at present.
British Colonial Co. is not the first business to receive backlash for its name. Last year another Brisbane eatery was forced to change its name after the original name of “Uncle Ho”, a reference to former Vietnamese communist leader Ho Chi Minh, offended some members of the Vietnamese community.
British Colonial Co. insists it intended the venue to fit with “Brisbane’s climate and the expansive palette of our clientele,” and several diners on Facebook say they are not offended by the business.
“If it wasn’t for the news article trying to trash your business I would never have found you,” one user wrote.
However, there does come a point at which a disastrous business name or idea calls for a complete re-brand.
“If you’re on the front page of the newspaper,” says Gamble. That also goes for if a big news story or event changes the context of your business name, such as “if the name is associated with something really bad, like ISIS“.
A number of companies have recently enountered such a situation. Take GrexIt, the email start-up that launched just as Greece’s economic situation worsened and talk of the nation leaving the EU intensified. The business is now called Hiver. Or Isis Pharmaceuticals, the US biotech company that changed its name to Ionis Pharamaceuticals in December last year.
“We decided to change our company name because, when people see or hear our name, we want them to think about the life-saving medicines we are developing,” the company told the media at the time.
There’s not much business owners can do about unforeseen world events, but they can plan for any misconceptions around brand by working out clearly what they stand for.
“[British Colonial Co.] now needs to communicate what there business is about, like design. There are other things they can do to make it clear that it’s more around British Colonial style,” says Gamble.