by Kim Niemi
Last May, viewers of the popular restaurant remake show Kitchen Nightmares were introduced to Amy’s Baking Company in Scottsdale, AZ. It wasn’t long after that pretty much everyone – whether they watched the show or not – knew the names of owners Amy and Samy Bouzaglo. The married couple and their eatery became overnight sensations, but not in the good way.
In case you did manage to miss all the hubbub, here’s a quick recap of the story: The Bouzaglos requested the help of acclaimed chef Gordon Ramsay to quash negative online reviews the restaurant had been receiving over the previous two years. Bloggers and “Yelpers” were hurting their business, Amy claimed, and she basically wanted Ramsay to come and bless the establishment with his foodie cred.
After Ramsay noted several issues with the way Amy and Samy communicated (or failed to) with each other, and dealt with staff (not to mention issues with the food itself), the episode devolved, ending with a Kitchen Nightmares first – with the Bouzaglos unable to accept criticism of any kind, Ramsey declared them an impossible case and walked away.
What happened next was essentially a course in what-not-to-do with social media.
In response to viewers, who took to the Internet to comment on the erratic behavior showcased during the episode, Amy and Samy lashed out via the restaurant’s Facebook page, which only fanned the flames, as the public took their comments to Reddit and Yelp as well. Later the couple claimed their Facebook page had been hacked, and that they hadn’t made any of the incendiary comments that had caused the public to react so negatively.
But there wasn’t anyone who actually bought that story. It was a case of social sabotage for the record books.
But of course time moved on, Miley twerked, and other stories caught the public’s eye. But just how has Amy’s Baking Company fared since the initial media storm?
A few weeks ago Kitchen Nightmares’ 7th season opened with a return to the bakery bistro, and it’s now clear that recovery from last year’s incident has been a slow and painful process. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: avoiding social sabotage in the first place is always the best strategy. What could the Bouzaglos have done differently? Everything. Here are a few lessons to take away from their experience:
Lesson 1: Television isn’t for everyone
Putting yourself on reality television is a form of social sabotage. During the return episode, Amy claimed that she and Samy were “edited” to look crazy. While it seems unlikely to be the case here, it is something to consider when you sign up to be on a reality show. You don’t have control over the message, and that’s a disadvantage.
Lesson 2: People can smell a lie a mile away
Listen, people do get hacked. But if you take down your Facebook page and start a new one and the same thing happens… Best to own your meltdowns, apologize, and move on. Learn from the experience. Don’t lie about who’s to blame. It just gives your haters more ammunition.
Lesson 3: There are no easy fixes
In the days that followed the airing of the first episode in 2013, Amy and Samy hired a PR firm to help them move forward from the fallout. Unfortunately, the damage was already done, and judging from the return episode, there’s a long way yet to go.
While the restaurant has become a bit of a tourist attraction, with people wanting to see the site of the groundbreaking episode in person, the reality is that without changing their attitude and addressing the actual problems in their business, the Bouzaglos may end up losing it.
When Kitchen Nightmares reporter Ana Garcia arrived to check in on the couple at work, the restaurant – though open for business – was empty. Not a good sign. An attempt at rebranding, embracing the “b*tch” persona that the show amplified, to try and sell Amy’s Baking Company merchandise is smart, but may not be enough to cover the lost revenue of the social sabotage fallout.
Once again, the best move would have been to refrain from posting on social media in the first place. It’s too late for Amy’s Baking Company, but at least you can still learn from their mistakes.
Need help with your social media strategy? Let us help you create a social media policy to keep social sabotage at bay.