If you’ve been on Facebook (or the internet, for that matter) today, you probably heard about Amy’s Baking Company in Scottsdale, Arizona and how they went absolutely bat-shit crazy on social media. They were featured on Gordon Ramsey’s American version of his show: Kitchen Nightmares, and boy was it EVER a nightmare. Read on to learn why the internet exploded with fascinated delight at the train wreck, as Amy’s Baking Company went ballistic.
It started back in 2010 when a local food lover decided to give “ABC” a go on a Saturday. He wrote a review of his experience on Yelp, and let’s just say it wasn’t glowing. I linked to Yelp just there, but because of the enormous volume of reviews that have been posted since this fiasco began, here is where you can read the original 2010 review that sparked Amy’s first tirade.
Yeah, if you read it, Amy Bouzaglo actually did call her reviewer “ugly” and a “moron”. But if you think that’s bad…
Known for his foul-mouthed straight-talking, Ramsey is famous for telling failing restaurant owners exactly what’s wrong. He does not mince words. Considering her track record of receiving criticism somewhat poorly (to put it mildly), it’s amazing Bouzaglo invited Ramsey in in the first place.
If you watched even a glimpse of the video clip linked to above, you can imagine that things turn sour mighty quick. The entire show was a fiasco, and for the first time in one of his television programs, (SPOILER ALERT) Ramsey actually gave up and walked out on a restaurant.
The show aired on Friday, 10 May. Cue: The it-shay itting-hay the an-fay.
It began with a post to their Facebook wall protesting the accusation that they withhold employees’ tips. If you visit their Facebook page now, you won’t see everything else that went on, because it has all been deleted. BuzzFeed does a pretty good job of summing it up (and those are real screen shots of posts they actually made – I saw them myself earlier today).
What went on? Ranting, raving, LOTS OF ALL CAPS, invocations of God’s support, defensive responses (in once choice response they called the commenter a “slut”), and sheer madness. They blew up at Yelp and at Reddit (thread now taken down). Kelly Clay at Forbes very helpfully drew some social media lessons for brands out of the whole experience.
But I would argue that another lesson could be drawn from this: This is sheer GENIUS!
Amy’s Baking Company has gone viral. People who have never set foot in Arizona are writing reviews on Yelp. They reached an enormous TV audience with the show, not to mention they set Reddit alight. Some commenters and reviewers are even saying they actually want to go eat at the place to see if the owners are really as insane as they seem.
And that’s why this is genius. They say no publicity is bad publicity, and if these people are smart (that’s a big if) they’ll recognize this as a golden opportunity. I’ve heard of restaurants that are known for an “act”: a tyrannical manager, perhaps, who entertains the guests with his belligerence, or (more banal) singing wait staff.
They’ve already got the publicity, now they just need to milk it. If they embrace the crazy and really go whole hog, they may actually carve a niche for themselves – but only if the quality of the food makes up for the terrible dining experience.
I say go for it, Amy and Samy. If it was all an act: well done, keep it up! If it was real: God help you, but don’t change. You’ve dug Amy’s Baking Company into a hole and you’re so far in you might as well just keep digging.
Update, Friday 17 May 2013
If you head over to ABC’s Facebook page, you’ll see that they’ve announced a grand re-opening on Tuesday, 21 May at which they plan to tell their side of the story. I get the feeling that things are just going from bad to worse. Have fun digging to China!