A small business in regional Victoria has been forced to apologise and “set the record straight” on its Facebook page after it was accused of discriminating against a breastfeeding woman.
Cafe Grove, a popular cafe located in central Wodonga, has been slammed online after a customer who was breastfeeding her child was asked if she would like a cloth or would prefer to breastfeed in a private part of the cafe.
“This should never have happened,” one woman wrote on the business’s Facebook page.
“I had my first baby shower at Cafe Grove, guess what I will never ever entertain the idea of eating, drinking or breastfeeding at your cafe ever.”
“Absolutely disgraceful and illegal to ask a mother breastfeeding her four-month-old to move to a private area,” another woman wrote.
“I won’t be attending or recommending Cafe Grove.”
In a post apologising for the way the incident was handled, the co-owner of Cafe Grove said she would like to set the record straight.
“She was never asked to leave the cafe to feed her baby,” the co-owner wrote.
“We have a quiet, comfortable lounge area that many groups love to use and often feeding mothers and their girlfriends enjoy the privacy that it offers. This area as it was not in use was offered to her if she wished to take advantage of the space. She was never asked to leave the dining area and told to use this area.”
The owner of Cafe Grove said she is a mum with three children and would have loved for a cafe to offer her a quite space while she was breastfeeding.
“I am very sorry to this young mum for offending her, to her family, her friends and any other feeding mother,” the owner wrote.
“We do want you to feel welcome in our cafe and wish to provide an environment that you feel safe, comfortable and honoured. We made a mistake and will make future mistakes, but we endeavour to learn from them and do things better.”
Social media expert and founder of CP Communications, Catriona Pollard, told SmartCompany the owner of Cafe Grove has done the right thing by sincerely apologising.
“Replying publicly and in a heartfelt way was the right thing to do from the perspective of apologising to a customer,” Pollard says.
“In those circumstances, explaining what actually happened is really critical – stating the facts and why a decision was made. That more often than not diffuses the situation because the brand steps up and says I made a mistake, I acknowledge that, I moved on.”
Pollard says in other instances, small business owners don’t necessarily need to make a public apology on social media.
“You can message that person privately,” she says.
“It’s a good tactic to take because it diffuses the situation and stops the virality as well because you’re taking it out of the public forum. For any customer-service type environment, the first rule of thumb is to take it offline as soon as possible. But in this circumstance, she probably needed to do something public to explain her side of the story.”
SmartCompany contacted Cafe Grove but did not receive a response prior to publication.