Crisis Management – A Case Study for Small Business

Crisis Management – A Case Study for Small Business

You might not realise it, but it is amazing how one simple Facebook post can affect a small business.

The Incident:

In 2013, a small Sydney café – Satellite Café Newtown – experienced the full wrath of cyber bullying, threats of violence, protests and more because the owner of the café did the unthinkable and it went viral within hours. Here’s what happened:

Ash Houghton had received a few complaints from customers in the past, and wanted to ensure that didn’t happen again. So when local mother Regan Matthews started to breastfeed her nine-month-old son in the café, Ash approached her and said it was not acceptable. Which might have been okay, but she added it was “an offense to humanity”.


The Backlash:

Obviously distressed at this suggestion, Regan took to Facebook to name and shame – and the results were astonishing.

The post was shared thousands of times and within hours; the owner of the café received threats online and over the phone from people about burning the business down and smashing the windows,

The media caught on and it was published over several local and national newspapers and online sites. After a local breastfeeding group caught on, they organised a protest outside the café, held a few days later.


Crisis Management:

The café made several attempts to apologise publicly online and through the media, however those attempts were at first met with an even fiercer reaction from trolls.

Finally, Houghton offered a final wholehearted public apology to Regan and other mothers on their Facebook page, eventually stating “I’ve learnt my lesson”. Regan commented that she didn’t condone the trolls and that she simply wanted to educate, not seek revenge.

After time, the furore died down – and the cafe has continued to operate, successfully, since. The swift action by the business might have saved it, though the incident has never been forgotten.

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