Table No 5 backtracks: How sincere is the eatery's 'apology' for its misogyny?

Updated 12 Nov, 2015 01:44pm

Sahar Habib

Islamabad-based restaurant Table No 5 sparked off a social media controversy for its misogynistic marketing campaign

Islamabad-based restaurant Table No 5 sparked off a social media controversy for its misogynistic marketing campaign
Islamabad-based restaurant Table No 5 sparked off a social media controversy for its misogynistic marketing campaign

Table No. 5, the nondescript Islamabad restaurant currently in the news for all the wrong reasons, is located very close to my house. I had been meaning to try it out until I was alerted to their remarkably offensive marketing campaign.

Kudos to Girls at Dhabas for propelling this conversation forward. As the backlash steadily built up, I hated to think Table No. 5 was getting all this attention and publicity. Having said that, I wasn't expecting them to respond in any way other than their persistent cockiness.

So I was quite surprised when they posted an apology on their Facebook page yesterday evening and announced they were in the process of revising the names of certain items on their menu.

It makes you wonder though what led to them changing their tune. I find it hard to believe that they suddenly realized they are wrong when only a few weeks ago (before this whole issue blew up) their responses went something like this:

Have they finally realized that their marketing strategy was an incredibly poor business decision from the get go?

A marketing mess-up

As a new business in the food industry, and that too in Islamabad, I’d imagine the smartest strategy would be to reach out to as many potential customers as possible rather than actively trying to exclude half of them.

One thing is clear, though: the owner(s) genuinely seem to have thought this was an incredibly clever idea and that they’d get away with it.

It’s one thing to claim that their marketing strategy is cheeky, funny or harmless, and just a joke. In a culture and society where such ‘jokes’ are unfortunately common and largely acceptable, I was angry but not shocked.

But their menu wasn't fooling anybody. Though it has since been taken down and is being revised, here’s a section of the menu:

These names aren't very creatively disguised, so I’m sure it’s pretty clear who these men are.

Table No. 5 can feign innocence all they want, but did they seriously think people wouldn't realise that every one of their sandwiches has a poorly-disguised similarity to a well-known proponent of abuse against women.

Yet, the eatery insists that its critics are overreacting and jumping to conclusions.

That’s not simply sexist then. That’s a whole other level of offensive because besides alienating half of their potential customer base, they also assume that everybody who comes across their menu is stupid. Here's another example of their misogynistic advertising:

As for their backtracking yesterday, first came this post, which I really can't take seriously. The fact that they had to explicitly list things like “no misogyny”, “feminist friendly”, and “not offensive”, illustrates how they continue to be lightyears away from grasping the point. Is it that hard for Table No. 5 to come up with an inclusive and inviting marketing campaign without having to remind themselves not to be offensive?

This again made me question the ‘sincerity’ of this apology, which sounds like it’s directed at the “aggravated...population of dedicated Facebook activists” who have “won this round”. Again, Table No. 5 misses the point. They still don’t realize what they did wrong and why people are so upset, despite countless comments on Facebook attempting to do so. Their marketing campaign offended a lot of people but they seem to think the backlash is a result of a handful of crazy feminists out to get them.

I’m not going to change my mind about boycotting the restaurant just because they seem to be turning over a new leaf. I’m not fooled by this half-hearted ‘apology’; the damage has been done.