3 PR lessons from Whole Foods’ ‘Yellow Fever’ crisis response

The grocery chain’s partnership with an Asian eatery with a provocative name has drawn online fire. The retailer has deferred to chef/owner Kelly Kim to reply, but how wise is that strategy?

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The restaurant owner insists the name isn’t racist, but the social media outcry over a new partnership is hitting Whole Foods just the same.

A California pan-Asian restaurant was given floor space in a Long Beach Whole Foods location, and some aren’t happy with its name, Yellow Fever, which to some recalls an infectious disease and to others suggests white sexual fantasies about Asian women.

The Washington Post reported :

[Owner Kelly] Kim, who said that before this week the name wasn’t an issue, did not take the term to have an overtly sexual or even negative meaning, adding that it is more nuanced than what critics have said.

The term implies “an attraction or affinity of Asian people or Asian things,” such as Korean pop music or karaoke, she said. “I never took it to a have deeper meaning. … It’s a little tongue in cheek, but I never saw it as offensive or racist or anti-feminist,” she said.

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