Australian cake company The Cheesecake Shop has been forced to apologise for an open letter it posted on Facebook about a recent incident in which Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce had a pie shoved in his face.
Joyce was about to begin speaking at a business breakfast function in Perth on Tuesday when an audience member calmly walked to the podium and planted a large pie directly in Joyce’s face.
The man then walked off the stage and was later arrested, while Joyce returned to giving his address after cleaning pie residue from his suit.
The man, who reportedly attacked Joyce in protest of his support for marriage equality, was then charged with assault for the incident, reports The ABC.
Get business news first
Sign up to SmartCompany’s daily newsletter
— PerthNow (@perthnow) May 11, 2017
Joyce was not perturbed by the attack, telling The Australian he intends to continue to publicly advocate marriage equality, saying the event will not “have the desired outcome”.
In what experts have referred to as a poor attempt at newsjacking, The Cheesecake Shop issued an open letter to Joyce yesterday, saying it was “somewhat concerned” the lemon meringue pie shoved in Joyce’s face “was not appreciated to its full sweetness”.
“Now you’ve had a small taste of our traditional favourite featuring a rich and tangy lemon base crowned with super soft sweet meringue and valued at $26.95, we invite you to visit any one of our 203 stores and sample one at your leisure,” the business said in the letter.
“We would also be happy to offer you the chance to savour any of our other baked in store cakes including tortes, mudcake, pavlovas, cheesecakes and perhaps a generous serve of humble pie.”
The pie that hit Joyce in the face was reportedly made at a Perth based Cheesecake Shop, and Huffington Post reports the company even sent Joyce a replacement pie.
However, the stunt backfired with customers, and Facebook users flocked to The Cheesecake Shop’s page to criticise the letter, labelling it “in poor taste”. Some called for a boycott of the business.
“Very poor taste (like most of your products!). Not cute or funny making light of bigotry, homophobia or assault. Eat your own humble pie when your brand is tarnished and sales drop!” said one commenter.
Less than 24 hours after sending the message, The Cheesecake Shop issued an apology via Facebook, saying it had shown “a lack of sensitivity on the matter”.
“We deeply apologise to all who were offended. Our letter should not have made light of this situation,” the post said.
Crisis communications expert Nicole Matejic told SmartCompany the letter was in “really bad taste” and a poor attempt at newsjacking.
“When you’re dealing with acts of violence, making fun of it in this way is borderline offensive. This is a very serious matter over a very serious issue,” she says.
“Newsjacking your way into a story like this is not appropriate, and the company has greatly misjudged their ability to do so.”
Matejic believes The Cheesecake Shop should be reviewing their marketing practices and what it believes to be appropriate.
“You can do newsjacking really well, and businesses should always look at the risk and broader issues before they newsjack into a contentious issue,” she says.
“Violence against anyone is no laughing matter.”
Qantas could not provide a comment when contacted by SmartCompany, and The Cheesecake Shop did not respond prior to publication.