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July 29 - Aug 06, 2014

Johnny Rockets Waitress Victimized
By Poor Policy, Aretha’s Publicist?

By Mike Hudson

July 29, 2014

“I got up and walked out,” Franklin said of her visit, after an Artpark show, to Johnny Rockets in Niagara Falls Ontario.


Aretha Franklin, the undisputed Queen of Soul, has about the greatest publicist on the face of the planet. She’s a woman named Gwendolyn Quinn, and she deserves a fat bonus this week.
The New York Daily, News, the New York Post, the Toronto Sun and the Globe and Mail, the Hollywood Reporter, USA Today, the London Daily Mail and all of the online gossip outlets like the Huffington Post, Hollywood Reporter, Perez Hilton and Gawker were abuzz this week with news of a minor altercation between the 72-year-old Franklin and a 15-year-old girl employed by the Johnny Rockets hamburger franchise in Niagara Falls, Ont.
Franklin went there after performing a taxpayer-subsidized, sold-out concert at Artpark in Lewiston.

What happened was this: Franklin ordered a hamburger, was asked whether it was for here or to go, paid for it, was given the hamburger, and then sat down at a table to eat it. The young girl, who Johnny Rockets’ spokeswoman Cozette Phifer said had been employed at the restaurant for less than a week, told Franklin she couldn’t sit down at a table because she’d ordered takeout.

According to the legendary singer’s media machine, she was “screamed at” by the 15-year-old. A manager was summoned, and she backed her employee’s decision. Quite clearly that’s the policy at Johnny Rockets. Order something to go, and go you must.

There’s no way in the world that the girl recognized Franklin, who hasn’t had a hit in, well, a lot more than 15 years. And even if she had, store policy is store policy and the girl was only doing her job.

But there’s no arguing with international headlines and a story that goes viral on the internet. Johnny Rockets quickly capitulated, due in no small measure to the fact that an artist of Franklin’s stature commands far more media adulation than any low rent hamburger chain.

Also, it turns out that Franklin has what might be called a “special relationship” with the restaurant chain. Waitresses at some Johnny Rockets locations are known to choreograph a dance routine based on Franklin’s performance in the classic film, “The Blues Brothers,” and her love of the chain’s burgers and Cherry Cokes is the stuff of legend.

“We celebrate her birthday – we have Aretha Franklin day in all our (restaurants),” Phifer said. “We love her. She’s extremely important to our brand. So the fact it’s her that this happened to makes it all the worse for us. She’s an integral part of our business.”

The young girl at the center of the swirling controversy has not returned to work and has not been heard from since the incident a week ago Tuesday. A victim of poor policy by Johnny Rockets – who would put a 15 year old in charge of adult customers– and Franklin’s obviously world class public relations machine, it’s not much of a stretch to say that what happened to her amounted to child abuse.






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