Customers boycott Paris Baguette following death of employee

Hailey Chin

Paris Baguette is under fire after a 23-year-old employee died during a graveyard shift at a food company factory on Oct. 14.

While operating a machine that mixes sauce, the employee was pulled into the machine. Her body was not discovered by co-workers until the next morning.

The way the bakery mishandled the situation drew criticism, as officials sought to take advantage of the victim’s parents’ grief by offering a settlement to avoid a lawsuit.

“They gave me a specific number… Because all of us weren’t in our right minds, I think they wanted to negotiate with us right there and then,” the mother of the victim — whose name was protected by news outlets — said, according to Yahoo News.

The bakery also received criticism following their decision to send bread to the funeral. Some thought the decision was insensible and thoughtless.

The mother of the victim hired a lawyer the next day.

Following the incident, South Korean customers launched a boycott of Paris Baguette.

SPC Group, Paris Baguette’s parent company, holds operational rights in South Korea to well-known food and restaurant brands such as Baskin-Robbins and Shake Shack.

Paris Baguette has over 3,600 locations around the world, with a majority of these locations in South Korea and China.

Paris Baguette also has a significant presence in the United States, as more locations pop up around the country. There is even one location open near Baruch College. The bakery strengthened its presence in New York in 2020 with a franchise deal in Little Neck, New York.

“Paris Baguette is a well-known name to New York residents and visitors and we are excited to have our new franchisee bring that to the Little Neck community,” Gregg Koffler, who is vice president of franchise sales and development at Paris Baguette, told Business Wire. “We know this will be a great fit for this area based on the customer support we already have throughout the rest of the region.”

The company faced setbacks during the COVID-19 pandemic and was forced to close six locations in the United States.

However, the company continued to sign franchise deals in Portland, Oregon, Raleigh, North Carolina and Los Angeles, California. Much of this has to do with the company’s wide-range of to-go and takeout options, which are contactless, and the demand from customers who enjoy its wide array of pastries and cakes.

The influence of this incident may stretch as far as San Francisco, as news of this horrible tragedy traveled through the internet.

“Is there a Paris Baguette near you? (There [are] a lot in the San Francisco Bay Area!),” Jeri Dansky tweeted. “If so, you probably want to read this thread & then avoid shopping there.”

This incident may damage Paris Baguette’s reputation and put a halt to its expansion plans for the company to double its footprint in the United States. The company aimed to open 1,000 U.S. stores by 2030 and reach 56 new stores by the end of the year, according to Modern Retail.

Although the impact the incident will have in the United States is still unfolding, the boycott proved to be effective in South Korea.

“It is true that sales have decreased,” an employee told Koreaboo, “In places where it has been particularly affected, I have heard sales have dropped 30%.”

SPC CEO Hur Young-In came forward with a statement, acknowledging what happened.

“I take full responsibility for this accident and deserve criticism from the public,” Hur said, as reported by Yahoo News. “I would like to apologize to the factory workers who worked near the victim. The company should have understood their trauma and sadness and should have been more considerate.”