#boycott Byron: Voting with your mouth

“How to spend it?” has become the single most important question when classifying and stratifying Britons today. There has never been greater competition between the institutions, restaurants, and retail outlets luring the cash out of your pockets. Moreover, the choices within the categories have grown enormously too.

Just a few years ago, burgers were all rather similar and they weren’t very good. The worst of the bunch, the fast-food patties, were rather like the rubber soles of a desert chukka boot – and they don’t appear to have changed much with the times. However, the mid-range burger joint has shot up and up as consumers were willing to spend more and more on increasingly easy foods to eat.

Byron was one of the major protagonists of this movement. The high street burger chains now represent reasonably good value for a quick, cheap, and profoundly unchallenging millennial’s meal. Yet, despite becoming the behemoths of the UK menu, in London especially, they are quickly being supplanted by pop-up joints from the East and South East. Edgier, messier burgers, cooked in shacks with no overhead costs and expensive staff to manage are dominating the marketplace. And this is where the trouble all really begins.

The recent boycott of the UK burger restaurant, Byron, has grown increasingly popular in recent weeks after it was reported that the chain had assisted the Home Office in deporting 35 members of their own staff.

While immigration officials initially said that their operation had been deployed with the “full co-operation” of Byron, many members of the public have reacted angrily to news that Byron will not face civil penalties.

As the restaurant reportedly carried out all of the correct “right to work” investigations but were presented with false or counterfeit documents, any action currently being taken by the Home Office is directed at the workers, including people from Albania, Brazil, Nepal and Egypt.

People have since taken umbrage with the company, arguing that they should not have used what many believe were “underhanded” techniques of luring employees into a trap set by immigration officials.

The #boycottByron movement has already entered the common lexicon, already being compared to #Rhodesmustfall, and a similar protest movement against gentrification in East London.

Over 2,000 people recently gathered outside the Holborn branch of Byron burger for a “non-violent” protest to: “Shine a spotlight on Byron’s unethical behaviour.” The Facebook group ‘Protest: Shame on Byron – No one is Illegal’ is already attracting thousands of likes from supporters.


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Unfortunately, high street burger joints are just no longer cool – making Byron an easy target. Despite the heavy use of the work “boycott”, I would honestly be surprised if many or even a minority of the activists involved in this movement were regular diners at Byron. It certainly doesn’t fit in with their Corbynista, new-world-order aesthetic to be sat next to be sat in Holborn eating a £10 burger.

Nevertheless, the employees have broken the law and in doing so they have put the professional and legal reputation of their employer at risk.

Frankly, this is just another example of the regressive left pushing on the revolving door of workers rights and faling flat on their bums back out on the streets.

The zero hours contracts the illegal dishwashers and waiting staff were on are on this occasion, quite noticeably now not being criticised. When they are being given out they are referred to as though they were one notch away from indebted servitude. But when they are taken away they suddenly become a human right.

Unfortunately, now more than ever, we are embarking on a line of underdeveloped, often entirely false politics driven by social media and executed by children. The hard earned rights workers genuinely protested for in the 60s, 70s, and 80s are increasingly at risk of being washed away in a tsunami of keyboard activism.

For example, in the case of #boycott Byron, an established UK business is being compelled by a baying mob to break the laws of the country they operate within. Strong arming the company into submission, under the guise of “peaceful protest”, is precisely the type of PR move that will mean that chains like Byron will insist on much greater restrictions on illegal workers.

Moreover, rather than criticising the Home Office for the way it handled the affair, the boycotters are setting loose boxes of cockroaches to shut down the whole business – in doing so also damaging all the other thousands of members of low paid staff Byron employ.

I was taught one, utterly invaluable lesson as a child: “Always vote with your feet.” I shop in outlets which I believe represent good value for money and I eat in establishments that meet my standards of quality and service.

 

There are plenty of places I do not eat in for all sorts of reasons, whether they are related to the quality of the food, the competency of the staff, or even the (un)ethical dealings of the company’s owners. That said, the crux of this boycott is that an increasingly loud and unintelligent branch of our society think that it is okay to inflict their personal sense of moral outrage on others. To these people, I offer the following advice: “Sure, tell people it’s no good, tell them it’s unethical, but don’t you dare tell me where I can eat.”

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