The owners of a Ruth’s Chris Steak House franchise in Ann Arbor, Michigan thought they had a great idea when they came up with an unusual promotion – to offer their customers a special discount equal to the University of Michigan’s winning point differential over Rutgers University in last Saturday’s game.

Little did they know, the Wolverines were to deliver a monumental 78-0 victory over the Scarlet Knights. According to the deal initially posted on the restaurant’s Facebook page, patrons would be able to enjoy a whopping 78 percent discount on their meals.

However, the restaurant later edited its initial Facebook post capping the maximum allowed discount at 50 percent.


Needless to say, the added caveat did not sit well with many people, who flocked to Ruth’s Facebook page to express their disappointment:

“Gotta love that they set this up the day before the Rutgers game and then have to take back their rules and cap it,” said one visitor. “Shouldn’t make promises you don’t plan on keeping,” added another.

The restaurant tried to mitigate the developing social media crisis by apologizing for not making the 50 percent discount cap clear in its initial post, saying that the “promotion was launched with a cap of up to 50% off the food portion of the bill and we’ve updated this post to reflect that.”

No restaurant can operate at a 78 percent discount, and it is not at all surprising that Ruth’s Steak House had to cap its deal at 50 percent. But it could have easily avoided the unnecessary controversy, if it included all the details of its promotion in the original post.

This story should serve as a good lesson for business owners, marketers, PR practitioners and social media managers alike. When planning a promotion or a public relations campaign around a particular event, always think about possible contingencies and things over which you have no control.

By failing to think through the possible consequences of their bold promotion, Ruth’s Chris Steak House left a bad taste in many of their customers’ mouths with a deal that was just too good to be true.