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Kitchen Nightmares Meltdown

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Kitchen Nightmares Meltdown


Many reality shows are pure escapism and brain candy, but some can be used as weekly business cases to help entrepreneurs learn from others’ mistakes or challenges. From Undercover Boss to The Apprentice (yes, even the celebrity train wreck of the last several seasons), small business owners can learn a great deal about business topics like team management, marketing, operations, etc. Perhaps the best lesson recently came from Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares, which broke new ground this past week by inadvertently creating an experiment in small business crisis communication. In case you missed it, the show’s season finale featured Amy’s Baking Company, a small bistro in Scottsdale, Arizona where owners berate both customers and staff, present frozen food as freshly prepared and confiscate tips from servers. When Gordon Ramsey attempts to provide constructive criticism, he is ignored or disputed to the point that he walks out on the project. The social media firestorm created by these entrepreneurs is a scenario SEE SPOT Marketing helps clients avoid but also highlights 4 principles that every small business owner should remember when using social media.

Facebook isn’t the only place people are talking about your business

There are dozens of social media outlets and each business needs to be aware of the primary channels used by their customers. This not only allows you to quickly detect and respond to complaints but also get a sense of who your most loyal customers are and learn more about them. It can also help you find out what your employees may be saying about you. In the Bouzaglos’ case, part of the overall frenzy was fueled by an employee (that was fired during the episode) doing her own. This fame grab by the disgruntled employee fueled awareness of the Facebook tirades and allowed other former employees (and total strangers) an opportunity to further bash the owners. It also drove people to Yelp where the number of 1-star reviews skyrocketed further hurting the business.

Think of social media as your online store

Would you insult and threaten your customers while they were in your store, staring you in the face? No? Then you shouldn’t do it on social media either. In other words, take the high road. If someone makes a complaint, don’t immediately take offense and fire off a kneejerk response, ask him or her if you can discuss the situation in person or over the phone so you can get the full story and address it personally. This personal touch from the business owner goes a long way toward turning the situation around and it’s very likely they’ll go back to same said social media and praise you for the effort.

The internet (even social media) is written in ink, not pencil

It’s assumed that this rule goes without saying, but clearly some people still don’t get it. The Bouzaglos spent hours responding and insulting people and then deleted their posts, which were littered with F-bombs, targeted insults and religious references. The assumption is that if they deleted it, the story would go away, but true to the archival nature of the web, are flying around the Net outside the Bouzaglos’ control, much like those Reddit threads and Yelp reviews. To make matters worse, they tried Anthony Weiner’s approach and claimed their account had been hacked in an attempt to push off the responsibility for their actions. Since clearly no one is buying this story after seeing the show, how do they salvage the situation?

Action can change perception

If Amy’s Baking Company was a SEE SPOT Marketing client, we’d immediately take the approach we outlined in a previous post on. The Bouzaglos have correctly hired an image consultant and have planned a grand reopening but this may be too big a hole to climb out of. Only time and lots of efforts on both the image consultant’s and his clients’ part will tell if the business and the owners’ personal reputations will survive.

Are your customers screaming for you to reach your own Big? Click to send us a note and one of our strategists will be happy to follow up with you.

Image by Peter Gaglias via Flickr.

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