Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares turns social media horrorshow

Simon van Wyk

Simon van Wyk
Founder, HotHouse Interactive. Tweet him @Hot_House

Lessons in how not to handle social media were played out in excruciating detail across the social landscape this week. It all started with the appearance of Amy’s Baking Company Bakery Boutique & Bistro on Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares. The experience did not go well for the restaurant’s owners, Samy and Amy Bouzaglos, who came across as wholly unsuited to running an upscale eatery. They swore at customers, wouldn’t accept a diner’s feedback and revealed how they resold cakes made by other bakeries at a higher price. Gordon Ramsay actually walked out of their restaurant, unwilling to digest any more of their unsavoury business antics.

The restaurateur’s exit sparked a torrent of social media shaming from people on Reddit and a volley of one-star reviews on Amy’s Baking Company‘s Yelp page. There the whole sorry episode should have ended, however the owners took it upon themselves to respond to the commenters on Reddit and Yelp by throwing a volley of torrid abuse back at them. It’s not pretty.

Epic meltdown on Facebook

Their posts started out defensively before degenerating into a barrage of insults and profanities. For instance, some of the owner’s cleaner posts on their Facebook page read:

The owners have since issued a retraction of sorts, claiming that the restaurant’s social media accounts had been hacked. Believe that if you want to.

The real irony in this story is that the whole thing started with the restaurant appearing on Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares – the show that is designed to help failing restaurants. The restaurant was already in trouble before the social media disaster. Now, while everyone on the planet has heard of the eatery and its somewhat combative owners, I’m not sure anyone’s going to be queuing up to eat there.

Of course Amy’s Baking Company is certainly not the first business or brand to damage their reputation and credibility on social media.

Last year in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, American clothing retailer Gap, got itself in all sorts of trouble by using the disaster as the springboard for an ill-thought through promotional tweet:

“All impacted by #Sandy, stay safe! We’ll be doing lots of Gap.com shopping today. How about you?”

It beggars belief that a company of Gap’s standing could let this particular tweet slip through their approval net. By way of an apology, the company made a donation of $1 million to the American Red Cross, and posted a written apology on their Facebook timeline.

Likewise, back in 2011, shoe designer Kenneth Cole used the Cairo riots as a platform to sell his new collection.

“Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online.”

Of course Kenneth Cole promptly apologised for making light of the riots in Egypt, but not before the Twitterverse was running rampant with a #boycottKennethCole and a spate of fake insensitive Kenneth Cole tweets.

Hijacked hashtags can also create all sorts of issues for unwary brands. Starbucks created the #spreadthecheer hashtag hoping to encourage Starbucks fans to tweet upbeat holiday messages under the hashtag. Unfortunately users hijacked the hashtag and tweeted out negative sentiments about the chain’s workplace practices.

In the same vein, McDonald’s oversaw its #McDStories hashtag fiasco where people began sharing some unpalatable stories about the fast food chain. One user’s tweet really set the tone:

“I used to like McDonald’s. I stopped eating McDonald’s years ago because every time I ate it I felt like I was dying inside. #McDStories.”

Typically social media meltdowns don’t have a lasting effect on brands. It’s more a matter of weathering the storm, and damage control. Of course we’ve never seen anything quite like the Facebook meltdown for Amy’s Baking Company, and while it did strike me as a media stunt gone wrong, I think this one may have long-lasting impact. That said, the business was already in trouble.

While the Samy and Amy story has made for riveting reading, there are a few takeaways that we should all take on board.

  1. Don’t use social media when you’re upset. Consider waiting an hour or two – or better still, sleep on it. Things always look so much different in the cool light of the next day
  2. Respond only to key comments and try not to be defensive. The best approach is to address the issues raised unemotionally to show that you are listening, and demonstrate that you’re doing your best to make amends. Certainly apologise if you need to
  3. Don’t feed the trolls. While it’s important to respond to major comments – you don’t have to respond to everyone, as many of the commenters may be trolls waiting for you to stoke the flames. Silence typically works wonders
  4. Never use derogatory language or make abusive and personal comments
  5. Never use CAPS LOCK.

 

 

Comments

  1. Scott Maxworthy says:

    According to their Facebook page owners Amy and Sam B. have appointed “Arizona’s PR Heavyweights” Rose Moser and Allyn (RMA) for their “Grand Re-Opening on Tuesday night, May 21, following unflattering portrayals on national television.”

    Phonenix New Times blogger Amy Silverman says Mr Rose specialises in damage control and is the PR mastermind behind a local County Sheriffs purchase of a restaurant called the “Pink Taco” ( I kid you not!).

    Watching with great interest how this all unfolds – forget Kony 2012 it’s Amy 2013.

    Also loved this Facebook comment “Even Charlie Sheen is saying ‘damn what a trainwreck!’”.