Epic Facebook meltdown, PR fail or publicity ploy?

by PR Coach on May 14, 2013

Epic Facebook meltdown results in PR fail

Owner Samy threatens diner after 90-min wait for pizza

You’re about to witness one of the biggest social media meltdowns and PR fails in the short recorded history of the Internet.

The big question is was it a staged publicity stunt?

It happened Monday on the Facebook page for Scottsdale, Arizona’s Amy’s Baking Company Bakery Boutique & Bistro.

I mean what’s with the restaurant name BTW? Having trouble deciding whether they’re a bakery, boutique or a bistro?

No wonder they have 65 menu items including  Mystic pizza as well as vegetarian food and delightful desserts among other items.

Editor Update (May 15):
The Facebook posts from owners stopped abruptly Monday night. A day later, all negative posts were removed. A post by the owners claimed they were hacked. Uh, c’mon. I’m calling BS on that one. Definitely a publicity stunt. Wonder how many more variations they can play before people find out? Oh and the FB page now has 52,000+ “likes” compared to less than 3,000 last week. Fortunately, the articles below contain lots of the original posts for the record. The internet’s wonderful like that.

What do you think? PR fail or publicity stunt? Take our poll.

The restaurant was already growing famous for starring in the season-ending TV episode of Kitchen Nightmares featuring explosive chef Gordon Ramsay.

Gordon Ramsay creates PR fail for AZ bistro owners

You know. That chef Gordon Ramsay. The one with the international audience and the clout to make or break a restaurant in trouble.

In the season finale, we meet Amy and Samy Bouzaglo, owners of the Bistro. In true fashion, we see the quirky owners go head-to-head with Ramsay. Great TV fare with lots of shouting, crazy antics, and the kind of reality TV Kitchen Nightmares is famous for.

The problem is these owners really had no idea what they were dealing with in terms of TV. Nor did they seem to care about the potential missed business opportunity. Instead, the owners’ bizarre behavior and odd personalities played right into the hands of reality TV.

They argued with Ramsay. They refused advice. They swore and talked about their customers as if they didn’t care. They admitted taking tips from service staff.

For the first time, Ramsay walks, saying:

” I can’t help people that can’t help themselves and cannot ever take one ounce of criticism. If you’re not willing to change, I’m not going to butt heads, argue, scream… but this is not normal. And it’s not normal for a restaurant to go through that many staff, it’s not normal for a kitchen that small to have 65 items on the menu, and it’s not normal for the level of animosity that you’ve built inside this restaurant and outside. You have the right to run the business the way you want to run your business. I have the right to do the right thing. And the right thing for me is to get out of here.”

The animosity spilled over onto their Facebook page as critics, online trolls and haters jumped aboard to trash the food and the follies during the weekend.

Restaurant owner's Facebook food fight and PR fail

Restaurant owners’ Facebook food fight flares up

By Monday, the food fight was in full force on Facebook as Amy and Samy both jump into the fray.

Here’s where there seems to be a difference of opinion. Did Amy and Samy Bouzaglo make a sneaky  publicity play? They don’t seem to be media savvy or sophisticated social media users.

So far, I’m on the side of a simple epic social media meltdown. They simply got sucked into the social media swirl and came out of it with omelet on their faces.

Buzzfeed chronicled the Facebook food fight in its May 14 story This Is The Most Epic Brand Meltdown On Facebook Ever.

Suffice to say, they do a humorous and entertaining job of highlighting the pitched battle on the Bistro’s Facebook page.

The producers of the show are delighted with the fireworks. It’s a publicity dream. Conflict. Heroes and villains. Ratings. Buzz. Speculation. Viral social media. Chatter in every channel.

Hmmmm. Nah. They couldn’t have staged this for the season finale. Could they?

Let’s pretend they didn’t.

Meanwhile, back at Facebook.

Amy's Baking Company Bakery Boutique & Bistro Facebook page: PR Fail meltdown

Amy’s Baking Company Bakery Boutique & Bistro Facebook page

Anyone who’s ever managed an online crisis knows how this one is playing out. The trolls and haters always win.

It’s like Amy and Samy were possessed. They couldn’t help themselves from tossing insults, invective and verbal grenades back at their online haters. That of course simply ratcheted things even higher.

It went on for four or five hours with exchanges like the following:

Facebook insults were flying; PR fail results at Amy's Bistro

Facebook insults were flying

Can the owners save their business from this PR Fail?

Their personality quirks and dirty linen were aired on national TV. Then they melted down in front of a global social media audience on Facebook.

Their reputation seems to be in tatters. It’s hard to see how anything can be salvaged.

But stranger things have happened in the celebrity world. Maybe they could turn this infamy to their advantage?

I remember a local, popular restaurant in our town. It was renown for serving tasty breakfasts and lunches with insults by the two gay owners. It ran successfully for years in an historic mansion until it closed to make way for upscale condos.

Five PR things Amy and Samy should do

If this wasn’t reality TV, here’s how you’d start on the road to rehabilitating their ravaged reputation:

  1. Make an unreserved apology on their Facebook page and any other social media.
  2. Run several local newspaper ads apologizing for their behavior.
  3. Don’t engage with trolls and spammers on their Facebook page. Shut down comments temporarily and explain your hope that you can “get back to business.”
  4. Go quiet in terms of social media for several weeks. Monitor comments.
  5. Deliver exceptional quality of food and service in order to re-earn the trust of past and future customers.

Of course, now that they’re infamous, there’s only one real course of action.

Create a one-off TV program and response called Restaurant Rehab. Hollywood and Netflix have financed stranger productions than that. Maybe with the right number of celebrity patrons in a food fight? Wonder if Charlie Sheen’s available for a cameo? Lindsay Lohan? OJ?

All kidding aside, this is a long-term rehab project. Judging by what I’ve seen on TV and social media, I’m sure they’re not up for that battle.

Without a doubt, it’s appears to be one of the most infamous PR fails that will be studied for many years. Ironically, the lessons are very simple and the negative impact could have been easily avoided.

Unless, they were simply sly like a fox. But the public and customers are very quick to respond when they realize they’ve been manipulated.

Producers are walking a thin line here but by next season, everything is new again.

Meanwhile, Ramsay has plans for other new shows in the future.

I wish Amy and Samy good luck. They’ll need it. I don’t think any amount of good PR can solve this train wreck.

I suspect they’ll trade on their insults and infamy for as long as possible and then one day lock up the Bistro.

What do you think? Did they know what they were doing on Facebook? Is there anything they can do to repair their reputation? Was this not one of the funniest reality TV episodes in ages?

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Author: Jeff Domansky

Visuals: Taken from YouTube TV clips of season finale

More reading:

A Dose of Reality: Gordon Ramsay Serves Up Wild Week of Nightmares and Hell [the Trades]

Amy’s Baking Company Freaks Out Online After Epic Meltdown On Gordon Ramsay’s ‘Kitchen Nightmares’ [Huffington Post]

How Not To React To Internet Criticism: The Epic Facebook Meltdown Of Amy’s Baking Company [The Consumerist]

Is Everything on Kitchen Nightmares Totally Fake? [Eater.com]

Kitchen Nightmares Restaurant Freaks Out on Facebook [Eater.com]

Kitchen Nightmare Comes True for Arizona Restaurant Owners [Yahoo Shine]

Nightmare Restaurateurs Who Scared Gordon Ramsay Flip Out on Facebook [Gawker]

Screaming, Expletives, and, Eventually, Police: All in the First Night of Kitchen NightmaresTaping at Amy’s Baking Company [Phoenix New Times]

This Is The Most Epic Brand Meltdown On Facebook Ever [Buzzfeed]

Watch Gordon Ramsay Give Up on Delusional Restaurant Owners in Kitchen Nightmares [Eater.com]