Until last month, few had heard of Amy's Baking Company Bakery Boutique & Bistro restaurant in the US city of Scottsdale, Arizona. It's a family-owned eatery offering slightly upmarket burgers, pizzas, and cakes.
But then irascible Scottish chef Gordon Ramsay came to town with the crew of his show "Kitchen Nightmares," and the resultant broadcast drilled a hole through the cybersphere. The tale is a primer in how NOT to use social media during a business crisis.
Web site buzzfeed.com dubbed it an "epic brand meltdown" (note that this post contains foul language, threats and bizarre allegations) which is true. Amy's is still an operating restaurant...although their agreement to appear on the television show may curtail the eatery's career.
During the evening dinner service filmed before host Ramsay's arrival, head chef Amy Bouzaglo and her husband Samy cursed like sailors and verbally abused customers in the main dining area. Customers with complaints about the food (apparently a common occurrence) were told to leave and not come back. Back in the kitchen, the eponymous chef told the camera: "The customer is not always right."
It got worse from there, as Ramsay was served a succession of dishes (one of which he described as "cat food") and continuing mayhem resulted in one of the servers being fired on the spot. Note that in the USA, there are a few restaurants which feature rude service as a highlight (many San Francisco resident fondly remember the Sam Wo restaurant in Chinatown, where infamous waiter Edsel Ford Fung was notorious for verbally abusing patrons and slamming dishes on tables....and the food was great. In these situations the rude attitude is part of the entertainment.
But there was nothing entertaining about Amy's Bakery. Like most, I wondered why on earth a married couple would put themselves through that every night.
And their subsequent use of social media was wrongheaded. This particularly obstinate, argumentative wrongheadedness can be reverse-engineered: if we view what happened as "worst practice," we can derive a few best practices from this whole sorry, sticky, soggy mess (sorry but the pizza crust looked dire). Let's look at what NOT to do.
Don't insult your customers
In 2010, someone posted a negative review on Yelp—a crowdsourcing site where users post reviews of local attractions. Reaction was swift and merciless, as Amy took to her computer and lambasted the customer's lack of culinary knowledge.
If your brand has a significant customer-facing element, you need to have employees monitoring social media in real-time for negative comments. You protect your brand's value by responding to these comments rapidly. You contact the person posting them, try to figure out the problem, and offer solutions. It's called customer service and it's not new—simply more time-critical nowadays.
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