A war of words is being fought out on the Facebook page of a Queensland restaurant, after a sign featuring the words ‘Sorry no Muslims’ went viral.
It’s the latest sign to inspire a social media backlash, after last year saw a flood of customers reach out to restaurants and cafes online over their in-store signage.
The Eagles Nest Bar and Grill in the western Queensland town of Longreach displayed a chalkboard sign days before Christmas which read: “2000 years ago Jesus Christ made headlines turning water into wine … the tradition continues … We turn money into beer (Sorry No Muslims)”.
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A photo of the sign was posted to the business’s automatically generated Facebook review page, leading to a flood of comments that both condemned and supported the sign.
The restaurant was accused of bigotry, racism and was likened to the “Nazis” by some commentators, who gave the business a one-star review, while others said they supported the “values” promoted by the sign, giving the restaurant five-stars.
The Eagles Nest Bar and Grill currently has a 3.9 star review, after hundreds of posts.
Restaurant owner John Hawkes told the ABC he received more than 200 phone calls at the business and at his home as a result of the sign, some of which he described as abusive and threatening.
“While the great majority are in support of free speech and are of patriotic sentiment, we have fielded too many abusive and threatening calls. For this I apologise to my family,” said Hawkes.
“I did not encourage or envisage the social media response to this sign, but the story, if there is one, is in the reaction, not the action.”
Hawkes said the chalkboard sign was changed daily and was “something that I would probably presume has been wiped out and replaced”.
Marketing expert Michelle Gamble, of Marketing Angels, told SmartCompany, the sign was insensitive and inappropriate, appearing to “distastefully piggyback” off recent events, such as the Sydney siege.
Gamble says many businesses successfully use “quirky” signage, which is then shared on social media, but business owners need to be aware of the messages they support.
“You see great examples of writing really clever things, which people take photos of and share,” says Gamble. “It can be a great tactic, but it has to be positive.”
Gamble says business owners need to be willing to share anything they display in store with the rest of the world.
“Every element of the customer experience is now something customers can share,” she says.
“Just think about it, is this something you’re happy to have shared to potentially millions of people? If you’re willing to stand by that then fine, but certainly be aware it will become much bigger than just at the premises of your business.”
SmartCompany attempted to contact The Eagles Nest Bar and Grill but did not receive a response prior to publication.