Can the Lacey Pizza Time be Saved from Itself? What do you Think?

Can the Lacey, WA Pizza Time survive its self-induced crisis?  Will the owners realize hypothermia is not an accepted management tool?  Could YOUR advice help these owners get off the road to entrepreneurial self-destruction?  Let’s find out… leave a comment below.

Yesterday I awarded the owners of the Lacey, WA Pizza Time the Franchisee From Hell! Award.  Today I am feeling sorry for them.   After initially shooting themselves in the foot by using threat of frostbite to motivate employees, they immediately reloaded and fired again with remarkable precision.  It’s clear that they simply don’t get it.  Perhaps you can help.

I am also going to ask some of my PR, Marketing, Branding, Accounting & Restaurant Guru colleagues here at Bizzia, the b5 Business Channel, to offer some professional advice to help these poor business owners survive this crisis.  Readers are also invited to post their advice in the comment section below;  the best will be featured in future posts.

Here’s the story:

How not to motivate employees: My initial Pizza Time post recounted how Pizza Time franchise owner Luke Benjamin was so upset that an employee forgot to shut off the furnace one night, he punished the crew by making them work without heat.  He posted a handwritten, motivational note:  “If you don’t want to work here quit, otherwise shut up and do your job. The next person I hear complaining is off for two weeks. We don’t have heat!! You guys screwed up, not us. You want to blame someone, look in the mirror.”

How not to speak to the media: King 5 news caught wind of the story and showed up with a video crew.  Benjamin unashamedly defended his human resource policies on camera and allowed them unlimited access to video the store, including the thermostat showing the 55 degree temperature, the motivational note, and the office space heater to keep his accountant wife (who clearly wears the snow pants in the family) toasty while his nearby employees lose feeling in their extremities.

How not to respond to criticism: The King 5 story snowballed, so to say.  As of this morning, nearly 300 angry comments had been posted against the owners.  Local residents said they’d stop patronizing Pizza Time.  Others called for a boycott not only of the pizza joint, but of the wife’s separate accounting business, Accurate Accounting.  Riots ensued, cars were overturned and lit on fire, and Lacey City Hall was defaced with tomato sauce and molten mozzarella*.

Instead of defusing the situation, the Benjamins responded by suspending the whistleblower employees Daniel Baxter & John Francis, and posting personal attacks against them at King 5.  Here’s an excerpt:

We hired Dan when we bought the store in 2006 and John a year or so ago….
Dan…who drove for you and gave you all the tips and commission when you got your DUI and lost your license?

…Everyone is singing Dan & John praises but they know nothing about Dan or John. Trust me…NO ONE ELSE WILL HIRE THEM WHEN THEY LOOK INTO THEIR BACKGROUNDS….

We are great boses!!! …We are not making anyone work here… Sure its cold in the store, It has always has been cold… being cold is nothing new to Dan or John… the HVAC system ineffective and very costly to run. In these tough economic times, we have to do everything we can to save money…

Hello Dan and John…you wouldn’t believe how many people have stopped by to pick up applications and want your jobs.

Can a small business survive this ill will? Just two years into their ownership of the Lacey Pizza Time, the Benjamins have managed to raise the ire of an entire community.  Personally, I wouldn’t want to have a Pizza Time box sticking out of my trash can with the torch-carrying crowds roaming the streets.

With the competitive nature of the pizza industry, can they undo the fiercely negative image they’ve created?

What lessons should they learn, and what steps should they take to survive this crisis?

* OK, I may have imagined this part



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