Burger group Gourmet Burger Kitchen (GBK) has said that it was "very taken aback" by the response from vegetarian and vegans to its latest advertising campaign.
They feature slogans advertising GBK including "You'll always remember the time you gave up being vegetarian"; "vegetarians: resistance is futile", and "[cows] eat grass, so you don't have to".
One Tweeter named Lucy H Richards summarised: "You have also reinforced the stigma behind vegan diets, poked fun at animal suffering and pissed your customers off", adding the hashtag "#GourmetMurderKitchen", along with another user, Maria Chiorando, who wrote: "Can't help but wonder how wise it was to alienate all veggies and vegans with the latest ad campaign".
Commenters have also registered complaints with the Advertising Standards Agency, and others have been amending the posters with their own stickers promoting vegan and vegetarian viewpoints.
The campaign has also been criticised for taking place during ‘Veganuary', in which thousands of people have been attempting to follow a vegan diet throughout January.
Writing on its Facebook and Tweets by gbkburgers pages last night, GBK said: "We've been reading the reaction to our latest advertising campaign and needless to say, we're quite taken aback. The last thing we ever intended to do was offend or alienate vegetarians. The same vegetarians that we've looked after and fed since our very first restaurant. Our intentions were light-hearted and not meant to cause any offence, but clearly we have, and for that we apologise."
It said that it would continue to serve beef, as it had always been at the heart of its menu, but said it had decided to remove some of the adverts.
The comment added: "We've always catered well to the veggies out there, and that's never going to change. So having read all your comments and messages, we've made the decision to take down some of the adverts. We'll still serve beef. We'll still serve veggie burgers. But hopefully we'll not tread on anyone's toes while doing it."
Speaking to The Caterer, GBK added: "Our new adverts have purely light-hearted intentions and were not meant to cause any offence. We've been serving beef as a core part of our menu for the last 15 years and whist we're carnivores at heart, we have an extensive range of vegetarian options available. We value our vegetarian customers and their views, and have therefore made the decision to remove three of our five ads from the campaign."
The two adverts (pictured below) that will remain state: "Anyone fancy a nice, juicy 6oz lettuce? Nah, nor do we," and "Burger - it's the new quinoa".
The comments after the Facebook apology were unremittingly critical, however, with one user saying: "You were really surprised that taking the p*ss out of some of your customers' beliefs was not well received?", and another commenting that GBK had lost the custom of more than just vegetarians, stating: "When eating out we often have meat-eating friends so it's not just our trade you are losing. My husband eats meat but wouldn't want to go anywhere that felt like my needs weren't catered for."
Founded in 2000, GBK has 69 restaurants across the UK, including in Edinburgh, Liverpool, Bath, Birmingham, Swindon, Norwich, and across London.
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