Joe’s Versus Chink’s

    Is It Better To Be Well Recognized Or Politically Correct?

    For years Americans have fought to diminish racial slurs filled with malevolence and hate. When we hear a racist comment, we often shun the person who dared utter it and brush off the vitriol that hangs in its wake.

    Something I hate more than racial slurs? BAD PR. That’s right, I said it!

    As a Philadelphia publicist, it pains me to watch businesses throw opportunities down the toilet, because they hire a publicist who can’t do their job properly.
    With that said, Philadelphia cheesesteak legend, Chink’s Steaks, recently dropped their notorious business name and has decided to rebrand as Joe’s Steaks + Soda Shop. The original owner, Sam “Chink” Sherman, named Chink’s Steaks after his childhood nickname given to him for his almond-shaped eyes – not after the offensive Asian slur. Current owner, Joe Groh, who worked at Chink’s for twenty years before purchasing the business in 1999, has decided to rename the cheese steak institution as Joe’s Steaks + Soda Shop, highlighting their sodas, milkshakes and egg creams.

    Alright, I said it before and I’m saying it again: I hate bad PR. Groh’s current publicist, Neff Associates, really blew it. As I see it, there are a couple opportunities Neff missed. The first (and biggest) mistake Neff made was by not intervening in Groh’s decision to rebrand. Simple consulting could have convinced Groh that there was equity in the legendary name; Chink’s Steaks was filled with history, recognition and dare I say, slight hilarity. Might I add, there is something so Philly-esq about having a politically incorrect name for a cheesesteak shop. Ask a dozen random people on any street in Philly if they know about Chink’s Steaks and I would bet more than half of them would know the brand.

    Next, Neff squandered the opportunity to alert the media to the name change. His efforts netted them a little publicity around Philly, but they should have taken the story nationally. I’m sure Joe Groh would want tourists coming through Philly to see the sights and seek his shop out for cheesesteaks like they do with Pat’s and Geno’s.

    Groh recent caught a break in a Philadelphia Daily News article about business being off since the rebranding, which was written by Stu Bykofsky, which ignited several other local blogs to jump on the bandwagon, but I can’t see any of these sad stories about business being off due to the name change helping Groh’s bottom line. Neff completely wasted the only positive way to spin the disastrous name change by NOT being a proactive publicist.

    While sitting on his laurels, Neff missed another chance for great PR: the public’s attempt to reestablish the shops old name when some “Chinkz” graffiti showed up a couple of days ago. What a buzz worthy story — a community so up in arms at a steak shop’s name change that they would actively fight the new rebranding with guerilla tactics! (Not to mention, Groh’s decline in business since the dropped the name with old regulars boycotting.)

    If Neff was worth his shit, he would have come up with the novel idea similar to what Wit or Witout (another Northeast Philly cheesesteak institution) owner Tony Altomare just conceived: customers can order their cheesesteak meat chopped or un-chopped. Brilliant!!! Or do something similar to what Chris’ Jazz Café does around Mardi Gras every year: create crawfish cheesesteaks. Maybe offer shark cheesesteaks during the phenomenon that is Shark Week?! Or pumpkin cheese steaks around Halloween!

    Lastly, Neff missed the opportunity to connect with the disgruntled customers through social media. To combat the growing boycott of locals, the Philly Post’s Joel Mathis is organizing an eat-in for this Saturday via Facebook. If Neff were smart, he would instruct Groh to join Mathis’ Facebook campaign and connect with his loyal customers. But, yet again, Neff has come up about as short as his portly 5’4” frame.

    Hopefully Groh will be able to see the light and hire a publicist who can help him reestablish good standing with his Northeast Philly clientele and develop initiatives that help grow his customer base. Until then, he is just dancing wit a lazy publicist who is witout a clue.

    To read Stu Bykofsky’s Daily News article, click here:

    To read Joe’s Steaks + Soda Foobooz article, click here:

    To read about Wit or Witout’s novel cheesesteak options, click here:

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