Olive Garden’s Comped Receipt PR Win: Real or Fake?

Social media has recently taught us that restaurant receipts, when posted and shared online, can provide brands with a lot of press that can be either very good or very bad. This week The Consumerist asks: are some restaurants now attempting to hijack that trend by posting complementary receipts online themselves in the hope of earning some great PR? Here’s the Reddit photo that prompted the question:

Notice that every item has been comped. According to the user’s story, he was out for dinner at Olive Garden when his three-year-old daughter responded to the restaurant manager’s “how is everything” query by telling him that her grandparents’ house had just burned down. The manager then effectively gave the party a free meal. Sounds like great customer service, right? Maybe not.

The online response was quick and vicious: this had to either be a complete fake staged for PR purposes or an blatant attempt by Olive Garden’s PR department to make the most of a single positive incident. But the user, the restaurant and the chain’s agency of record quickly issued statements to the contrary.

A rep for Grey Worldwide said that such a stunt “would be against our code of conduct”, and an Olive Garden rep said ““The receipt is real and was posted by the guests, not by anyone at Olive Garden…”

What do we think? Was Olive Garden’s generosity for real? If so, how can the restaurant capitalize on this PR opportunity without looking like a showoff?

@PatrickCoffee patrick.coffee@adweek.com Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.