- Amy and Samy Bouzaglo, owners of Amy’s Baking Company Bakery Boutique & Bistro, appeared on an episode of Kitchen Nightmares on May 10, 2013.
- During the course of the episode, the owners mention they have online “haters” on sites like Yelp. It doesn’t take long for the viewers to figure out why. The owners’ offenses start adding up, including having customers wait an hour for their pizza, not tipping their servers, and serving frozen ravioli to their customers.
- After trying to sit down with the couple and reason with them, Gordon Ramsey eventually gives up, labeling them as in denial people that can’t be helped.
For many business owners, this would be an embarrassing wake-up call. Maybe they should change their policies and try to win back business with a food (and ‘tude) makeover.
But this was not the case. The couple received negative comments on social media and shot back on May 14 with gems on Facebook such as:
These comments only fueled the fire. Tons of new negative reviews popped up on Yelp and Reddit boards helped curate the conversation. Their fan count, which was at about 2,000 before BuzzFeed covered it, 7,000 when I looked at it in the morning of May 14, and at over 52,000 a day later, is now full of the haters they were trying to fend off in the first place. Realizing their grave missteps, they released the following statement:
So, now that we’re all caught up, let’s talk about what we can learn from this:
1. Never alienate a potential customer
These owners seem to have received a sort of “Soup Nazi” reputation over the years – long before Kitchen Nightmares came along. Sure, there are a lot of people that hated them for their attitudes, but outside of the subpar food and service, there were genuine customers saying genuinely nice things about Amy’s desserts. Now anyone who had seen Amy’s as a place to get a dessert for any occasion will be forced to think twice. Do they want to buy from such negative people? (Some say the desserts aren’t made there, but that’s another issue).
2. Don’t feed the trolls
Trolls are the oftentimes anonymous users that spawn from sites like Reddit, and continue to insult a person or business in order to provoke them. They want to see that person act poorly in a bad situation. The best thing to do with trolls is to just ignore them. They can take almost anything and turn it into a larger spectacle, but if you say nothing in the first place, they’ve got nothing to keep going.
3. In social media, not all publicity is good publicity
This new audience may be your “fans”, but you will never make money off of them. Best to rectify bad publicity as soon as possible to keep the good fans you had
4. Anticipate bad coverage, and prepare responses to reframe the negative
The most cringeworthy thing about this debacle for me is that the Bouzaglos knew exactly when this episode was going to air, and exactly how they were going to look. They had “released a statement” on their Facebook page on the night of the episode, but instead of admitting they screwed up, they defended the fact that they don’t tip out their servers.
Simply saying, “We appreciate everyone’s feedback and are working on making Amy’s Baking Company a better place for our customers” would probably pacify a large number of people. And, if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.
5. When you make a mistake, own it
Some of the worst PR debacles have been fixed by the company coming back and saying, “You know what? We screwed up. We’re listening now.” PayPal experienced that not too long ago in an issue with not releasing donations to Regretsy that were collected through PayPal’s service. The worst thing to do is to deflect the blame. Based on previous behavior from the owners, it’s hard to believe that they were victims of hackers. Even if it were true, at this point they’ve lied about so much, nobody would ever believe them.
You can follow me on Twitter @tasty_sammich. We’ll talk about the do’s and don’ts of social media.