When it comes to violent fights, stupid shenanigans and just outright weird stories, the restaurant chain Waffle House has long been the leader to beat. It is starting to appear, however, that their long-held reign as Bell of the Bizarre Ball might be over. In the last few weeks, a new contender has emerged, and appears to be working hard to grab that elusive, if not a bit bloodied, crown.

In other words, what the hell is going on at Popeyes? 

Last week in Columbia, Tennessee, a Popeyes employee body-slammed a woman outside the restaurant where he worked. The incident, which is disturbing to watch, was caught on video and is said to have given her six cracked ribs, nine fractures and a broken knee. The 29-year-old employee was arrested and charged with felony aggravated assault. The incident stemmed from an altercation he had with the woman inside the fast-food location. She had purchased food and left but returned because she claimed she had been double charged. She was seeking a refund.

You can watch the video of that event here.

There was no word on whether he finished his shift that evening or not. I suppose the lesson here is not to request a refund at Popeyes. 

This is not an isolated incident of late. In San Antonio, TX last Tuesday, a disturbance broke out when a Popeyes employee started throwing food trays at a customer, who ended up throwing them back.

That incident may be viewed here. What is not on video is that it was reported that the employees manager started fighting with the customer in the parking lot following the initial spat.

In Maryland, a fight broke out between a customer and a Popeyes manager. According to the Baltimore Sun, the man who shot the video below says that “the manager believed to be involved in the fight was being ‘a little aggressive’ with customers.” He is said to have “called a female customer ‘stupid’ and an ‘animal,’ which prompted the woman’s husband to jump over the counter to confront the worker.”

Also last week, at a different Maryland Popeyes, A man was stabbed to death after two customers reportedly got into an altercation over one of the men cutting a line reserved for the restaurant’s popular chicken sandwich.

Wowza. Busy week for Popeyes risk management.

But there is something more to this. It seems pretty clear that Popeyes has a training problem. In fact, I would go so far as to conjecture that they have more than just a training problem. They very likely have a problem with their operational culture. 

In all but one of the incidents we mention, employees were either involved in or created the altercations with customers. In two cases managers were actually involved in these clashes. That is simply unacceptable and is indicative of huge potential issues with both the type of persons being hired in the organization, and the level of aggression and poor behavior that may be acceptable there. 

I’m sorry, but you just do not normally hear stories of a company’s employees beating the crap out of their customers multiple times in a single week. You just don’t.

Go back and watch the first video discussed in this blog. The woman is being grabbed and dragged into the parking lot by what appears to be more than one employee. When she hits the pavement and crumples on the ground, multiple employees appear to celebrate the action, with one even holding his arms up in a victory stance. Only people who appear to be customers move in to try to help the woman on the ground. 

If that was my restaurant, the entire crew would be gone. I’ll bet that is not the case, though.

As for incidents involving management, well, it should go without saying that when a manager, not an hourly employee in their charge, gets involved in a fight with a customer, that should be a primary clue that your culture could be toxic. Even Waffle House can say that their managers are usually not the people flailing away on their customers. Sometimes it is their employees, but more often the fabled stories emanating from Waffle House restaurants are generated by customers and other external influences.

We all know that dealing with the public can at times be a difficult task. However, the most negative of dealings should never result in a physical altercation. When you hire the right people, train them well and set strong expectations for them, tense situations can always be de-escalated rather than intensified. 

It was a bad week for Popeyes. I would suggest they engage in some internal review and reflection. Otherwise they might as well continue saying, Waffle House, hold my beer….. 

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