Expensive mistake results in priceless publicity

How would you react if your brand made an embarrassing mistake costing several thousands of pounds?

You may well try to keep it quiet. You may perhaps shed a few tears over the damage to your bottom line. You might reach for the HR policies and procedures and decide what action you could take against those responsible for the error.

Or you could take a completely different approach which could generate swathes of publicity for the organisation.

Well, that was the approach adopted by a restaurant in Manchester after a member of staff accidentally gave a bottle of Chateau le Pin Pomerol 2001, worth an eye-watering £4,500, to a customer who had actually ordered a bottle priced at £260. 

When the Hawksmoor Manchester restaurant became aware of the mistake it took to its Twitter account with a post which made light of the error and showed its values.

It said: “To the customer who accidentally got given a bottle of Chateau le Pin Pomerol 2001, which is £4500 on our menu, last night - hope you enjoyed your evening! To the member of staff who accidentally gave it away, chin up! One-off mistakes happen and we love you anyway.”



That tweet has attracted 2,000 comments, 10,000 retweets and 66,000 likes.

Those stats alone are impressive, but, as we stress on our social media training courses, what is being talked about on social media often results in mainstream media coverage.

And this story created media headlines across the world.


Posh steakhouse accidentally gives lucky customer £4,500 wine instead of £260 bottle The Sun

Hawksmoor restaurant accidentally serves diner wine nearly $6,000 CNN

‘We love you anyway’: Manager’s sweet message to employee who mistakenly served costly wine India Times

All is forgiven, owner says, after manager mistakenly serves customers $5,000 bottle of wine Seattle Times

Lucky diner given £4,500 bottle of wine by mistake at Hawksmoor Manchester Sky News



With headlines and coverage like that you would imagine the restaurant has at the very least recouped the £4,500 and that it will be pretty hard to book a table in the coming months. In fact, Hawksmoor founder Will Beckett told me that the coverage has resulted in traffic to the company's website increasing by 550 per cent.

He said: "What is essentially a non-story about opening an expensive bottle of wine by mistake wasn't just a bit viral, it trended on Twitter. It was national television news in America. People have sent me coverage from Thailand, Dubai, Romania, Greece - you name the country, they covered it. It was global news for 24 hours.

"If we had paid for the coverage we had got it would have been an astronomical amount and certainly something that a business of our size could not afford. If someone had asked me if I would pay what the wine cost to gain that sort of coverage, I wouldn't have believed that it was possible. No-one would. No-one could have predicted the outcome of that one tweet."

So why has this mistake gained so much attention?



Organisations do not typically like to volunteer information about mistakes they have made. As we hinted at earlier, it can be humiliating. But this instance shows that with a little bravery errors can sometimes also present an opportunity. It is a reminder that when things go wrong, or become difficult, with good communication and social media skills, brands can still impress.


Good humour

While there may well have been some private swearing when the blunder was first revealed, Hawkmoor’s public response has been witty, from stating that they hoped the lucky customer ‘enjoyed the evening’ to the light-hearted ‘chin-up’ message to the member of staff. The humorous take on a costly mistake has also been evident in subsequent interviews where one of the restaurant owners said: “The person who did this is mortified, but we’ve supported her to the hilt, but you can be sure that the relentless piss-taking stage is coming.”



But it is more than just humour. The tweet also serves to show that this is a business which supports and cares for its staff. Kindness is clearly evident and you get the impression it is a nice place to work.



As well as creating a positive impression of how it treats its employees, the restaurant also used the spotlight to reveal some of its other values. A subsequent tweet revealed that it has raised more than £1m for charity.


PR stunt?

Some cynics have suggested that this story is simply a well-orchestrated PR stunt, and have pointed to the availability of spokespeople as evidence. We can’t be completely sure whether or not it is a stunt, but, as we stress on our media training courses, organisations should always have spokespeople available to take advantage of positive media opportunities and to defend it when things have gone wrong. Hawksmoor founder Will pulled out of a seven hour branding meeting to make himself available to interested media. 

I asked him about those who suggested this was a stunt and he said: "If someone had suggested doing this as a stunt, they probably would not have suggested doing it from our Manchester account when our London ones are much more popular and it wouldn't have been sent out at 9.15am."

The reality, it seems, is that you cannot always plan the best PR opportunities and that sometimes it is simply about how you react to different circumstances.


Finally, it is worth highlighting the contribution Specsavers made to this story. The opticians brand rarely seems to miss an opportunity on social media and quickly joined in the conversation with a tweet which simply said “You know our thoughts on this…” – a playful reference to its famous ‘Should’ve gone to…’ slogan.


Media First are media and communications training specialists with over 30 years of experience. We have a team of trainers, each with decades of experience working as journalists, presenters, communications coaches and media trainers.


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