Chinese Cafe Chain Faces Backlash over Viral Incident With Pushy Customer

By Jurassic JennJun 29, 2024 11:37 AMCuriosity
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Chinese Cafe Chain Faces Backlash over Viral Incident With Pushy Customer
Chinese Cafe Chain Faces Backlash over Viral Incident With Pushy Customer. Source: asia.nikkei.com

An incident at a Manner coffee shop in China has caught the attention of the internet and sparked discussions about workers' rights in the country's service industry. The incident involved a cafe server who threw coffee granules in the face of a pushy customer threatening to file a complaint. The aftermath of the incident became a viral topic on mainland social media, garnering hundreds of millions of views.

The incident, which was captured on a surveillance camera and later posted online, led to backlash targeting the coffee shop chain. Two similar conflicts between staff and customers at other Manner branches also came to light, further intensifying the scrutiny.

Critics have called out the staff for their lack of professionalism, stating that as employees, they should have maintained composure regardless of the circumstances. However, many others have empathized with the employees and placed the blame on the brand for subjecting them to high-pressure situations.

Manner, founded in Shanghai in 2015, has rapidly expanded over the years and currently operates 1,295 stores nationwide. It attracted investment from TikTok owner ByteDance in 2021. As the brand's reach grew, it also reportedly slashed employee benefits. Former staff members have revealed that they were required to make an unrealistic number of coffee cups, work overtime, and even give up holidays to earn extra income.

In terms of sales, an average Manner store accumulates 7,000 to 8,000 yuan daily, given its coffee's average price of 20 yuan per cup. To cut costs, it was reported that branches with sales below 5,000 yuan employ only one or two staff members.

The company promotes its barista-quality coffee made with semi-automatic espresso machines and emphasizes the manual work required from its staff. The founders of Manner, Han Yulong and Lu Jianxia, feature on the Hurun Global Rich List 2024 with an estimated 7.2 billion yuan in assets. The brand aims to open 2,000 more stores in China this year.

This incident has sparked online conversations about the challenges faced by Chinese workers, leading many users to criticize the brand owners for their apparent disconnect from the hardships faced by employees and customers alike.

In response to the backlash, Manner posted an apology on its Weibo account, expressing regret to the involved customers and offering support to the staff members involved in the incidents. The brand also pledged to provide further training to enhance employees' sense of service, reduce customer wait times, and improve working conditions.

As incidents like these continue to fuel discussions, it remains to be seen how such coffee chains and the broader service industry will address the concerns raised about workers' rights and overall customer experience in China. The spotlight is now on Manner to implement genuine improvements that prioritize the well-being of both employees and customers.

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