Taco Bell's New Sister Restaurant Apologizes for 'Communist' Logo
Updated at 1:45 p.m. EST to reflect Yum Brands' decision to change Banh Shop's logo.
Opening a Vietnamese sandwich shop as fast casual chains are booming is a smart idea. Not looking into the potential Communist symbolism of your logo? Less intelligent.
Fortunately, Yum Brands is quick on the uptake when it comes to apologizing and making changes.
Yum Brands, the parent company of Taco Bell, KFC and Pizza Hut, opened a "banh mi" (a type of Vietnamese sandwich) concept named Banh Shop in Dallas last week. Banh mi has been rising in popularity, and testing the concept allows Yum Brands to dabble in the profitable and growing fast-casual business. While the location is only a test, early reviews of the menu have been positive.
Then came the backlash.
The logo for Banh Shop was a five-pointed red star. Red and yellow stars, especially in relation to Vietnam, carry some extremely unfortunate symbolism of the Vietnamese Communist regime that forced thousands of refugees to flee the country.
Since Dallas has the fourth largest Vietnamese population of any city in the U.S., the matter hits close to home for many of Banh Shop's potential customers. In the last few days, Banh Shop's relatively minor social media presence has been overrun by individuals calling for a logo change.
"[W]e are hurt and offended by your chosen logo, a red star, which is a symbol of communism and will offend thousands of South Vietnamese refugees in my community," reads an online petition started by Thanh Cung, the president of the Vietnamese-American Community of Greater Dallas. "The heavy majority of Vietnamese living in the Dallas area are political and religious refugees who fled Vietnam when North Vietnamese communist rule started in 1975."
On Thursday afternoon, Yum Brands issued an apology and announced plans to immediately change Banh Shop's logo.
"It was never our intent to offend anyone, but we see we have made a mistake and in hindsight, we should have recognized this logo could be offensive," Jonathan Blum, Yum Brands senior vice president wrote in an email to Cung, the petition writer. "Therefore, and effective immediately, we are changing the logo and removing the red star from all materials and signage at the restaurant."
Blum says the red star will be gone by the end of the day today and that a new logo is in development. Moving forward, Blum states that Yum Brands would greatly appreciate if Cung would be willing to review the new logo and other aspects of the restaurant that could be perceived poorly.
Yum Brands has never tried to sell the most "authentic" food from other countries. In an interview with Entrepreneur.com, Taco Bell President Brian Niccol said, "we've got to make sure no one believes our food is too spicy or 'too Mexican.'" Similarly, Yum Brands doesn't necessarily have to make sure that Banh Shop exactly reproduces traditional Vietnamese sandwich recipes. However, it does need to invest time in researching the culture that is inspiring the menu.
Fortunately for Yum Brands, the Dallas Banh Shop is still a testing ground for the company to see what works and what doesn't in the fast-casual Vietnamese market. Now, it looks like the concept may be able to turn critics into advisors as the restaurant moves forward – an important lesson for any entrepreneur on how to take criticism and learn from mistakes.