How Chef Mike Friedman Turned Around a PR Nightmare

#ForTheWin is a series about turning bumps in the road into the building blocks of success.


Chef Mike Friedman woke up one morning to news that presidential press secretary Sarah Sanders had been kicked out of his restaurant the night before. The only problem? It wasn’t his restaurant.

The Tipping Point
When Friedman saw Sanders’ tweet about being asked to leave The Red Hen in Lexington, Virginia, he didn’t think much of it. But once his marketing director, Alysa Turner, alerted him, “I knew we were about to play defense for a while.”

No Turning Back
Everyone in Red Hen’s restaurant group came to aid the team, Friedman says. “Everyone gathered around us and protected us.” Friedman and business partner Mike O’Malley immediately put out a statement to media outlets. “Once that was in place, we could bounce off of that and deal with the individual issues on a case-by-case basis.”

Road to Recovery
Priority one was protecting the staff and bolstering their positive work environment. “Also, our system of privacy—as in giving everyone the same experience without judgment or discrimination—was also something we were able to see work very well.” Friedman says D.C.’s Red Hen is a restaurant that offers service to everyone, regardless of political affiliation, and that won’t change.

Lessons Learned

  • Surround yourself with a community that will support you when times get tough.
  • Do the right thing every day, not just when a crisis hits.
  • Have fun with your online voice.

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