Hawksmoor’s Winegate

PR Stunt or Genuine Cork-up?

In certain PR circles it has been suggested Hawksmoor’s media domination in the last 24 hours after two lucky customers were accidentally served a £4,500 bottle of red wine, was a full-bodied PR stunt. The mistake came to light in a tweet from the restaurant:

As an agency with several restaurant clients we decided to put the theory to the test.

In the red corner, the half-case for the prosecution:

  • Neither the member of staff nor the customer has been named. Admittedly the staff member would need a lot of bottle to come forward, but the same doesn’t apply to the diners. It conveniently makes it difficult to check the facts.
  • The £260 bottle ordered and the £4,500 bottle don’t look remotely similar, as Hawksmoor Founder Will Beckett said, the similarity doesn’t go beyond the fact that: “They’re both 2001 Bordeaux and there’s a “P” in there somewhere.” The member of staff has been described as manager level so it’s an unlikely mistake for an experienced employee.

The case for the defence:

  • The story was announced with one tweet at 1.15am. That’s hardly a carefully planned, multi-channel strategy calculated to deliver maximum impact.
  • There’s a definite authenticity to the tweet. Despite the forgiveness they say “One-off mistakes happen”. Why the implied warning not to do it again if it didn’t actually happen?

The view from Rule 5 is that it was a genuine cork-up, and someone correctly spotted that it might make an amusing piece of social content. When the tweet started to go viral the PR machine sprang into action to maximise the media opportunity.  There is one aspect of this story though, that we find hard to swallow – who orders wine priced at £4500?