Stella's apologizes after photo manipulated and posted to Instagram

A customer at a popular Winnipeg restaurant chain says she was shocked to see they had taken a photo she posted to social media and erased its pro-choice message before reposting it.

Local restaurant chain blames post on 3rd-party business used to manage social media

Marieke Gruwel says the Stella's restaurant chain in Winnipeg altered her photo — removing its pro-choice message — then posted it on their social media accounts. (Marieke Gruwel)

A customer at a popular Winnipeg restaurant chain says she was shocked to see it had taken a photo she'd posted to social media and erased its pro-choice message before reposting it. 

Marieke Gruwel, 24, said she took a picture of her food while eating at a Stella's restaurant in October 2016. Along with the food, there was a button in the photo that she had picked up at a feminist event. 

The button said "pro-choice, pro-woman, pro-brunch" and had the website address for the city's Women's Health Clinic on the bottom.


The version of the photo posted to Stella's Instagram account erased the text except for "pro-brunch." 

"I was very surprised that they would take a photo of mine that I put up on Instagram a year and a half ago, just to edit it, and edit out the most important parts. When people go to Stella's, they post photos of their food all the time," said Gruwel, a Winnipegger studying at Concordia University in Montreal.

"A lot of labour is put into these kind of buttons. People pass these around to get their message out. And there's a cost. And for not-for-profits, it's probably a lot of money," she said.

"So for Stella's to take something [the clinic] created ... I think it's horrifying that Stella's would blur out their information to use it for their own gains."

The chain, which has some eight locations in Winnipeg, posted an apology on its social media accounts amid mounting online criticism, saying it took "the wrong approach." 

"We use a third-party agency for our social media and are currently evaluating our process for creating and approving content to prevent us from making this type of mistake in the future. We deeply apologize to the original poster Marieke Gruwel, the Women's Health Clinic, and all of our guests."

The Women's Health Clinic said it also received an apology.

"As a feminist, non-profit organization we are disappointed a message that represents one of our core values was manipulated to suit a corporate purpose," said Christine Ens, chair of the clinic's board.

But the apology doesn't go far enough, said Gruwel.

"They essentially shifted the blame to a third-party who they say runs their social media," she said. "But they made no stance, no clarification of where they stand — if they are in fact pro-women, or if they do support the work that organizations like the Women's Health Clinic do."

"So I think… a really good first step is some sort of compensation to the Women's Health Clinic." 

With files from Susan Magas