How “Amy’s Baking Company” Has The Worst PR Strategy I’ve Ever Seen

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1 week ago, I watched the most entertaining episode of Kitchen Nightmares yet, as Gordon Ramsey actually walked out on a restaurant for the first time in the show’s history.

Short version: Amy’s Baking Company shot itself in the foot this week and destroyed their reputation via social media and their behavior on the show.

For more insight on what happened, here is the most comprehensive article I’ve read on the subject, but right now I’m just going to discuss the aftermath and what to make of their upcoming PR efforts.

Here are the facts: the internet hates this restaurant. Their biggest challenge is that they are trapped in a black hole of negative publicity. Can they really be saved at this point?

I get that they hired a PR firm, but even I have more Twitter followers than those guys. Yes, they have an impressive client list, but everything about Jason Rose, his firm and their website screams old-school, and this brand is facing problems because of the owners’ inability to grasp the new school. Social media, that is.

I mean, did they really expect people to believe they were hacked? For days? Especially when the content matches up with how they were portrayed in the show?

What convinces me the most that these hacking claims are a lie is the follow-up. Your statements amid a PR crisis speak volumes, and I don’t believe this PR firm they’ve hired understand how shallow their strategy has been so far, so let’s analyze.

Their first follow-up statement:

“Obviously our Facebook, YELP, Twitter and Website have been hacked. We are working with the local authorities as well as the FBI computer crimes unit to ensure this does not happen again. We did not post those horrible things. Thank You Amy &Samy”

First of all, this isn’t “obvious” to anyone that witnessed the couple in action via the show. Their disrespect towards their customers, their employees, and Gordon Ramsey was caught on film. And yes, it portrayed them as crazy. That’s not spin, that’s being caught red-handed.

Yet, they still claim to be the victims in all this and expect people to believe them.

Next Facebook post:

“Other Side of Amy’s Baking Company Controversy in Scottsdale To Soon Be Told

SCOTTSDALE, AZ. MAY 15, 2013 — Amy’s Baking Company will host a Grand Re-Opening on Tuesday night, May 21, following unflattering portrayals on national television.

Customers will be able to decide who is correct: a famous celebrity chef or the marketplace that has supported the small, locally-owned business for six years. 

When re-opened, a portion of proceeds will benefit a charity organized to bring awareness to cyber bullying. 

Seating is limited. Reservations may be made by emailing sjones@rosemoserallynpr.com. 

Diners will also have the opportunity to meet, and judge for themselves the character of owners Amy and Samy Bouzaglo, who have devoted their lives to and earn their living from their small restaurant. The Bouzaglos have been married for 10 years, after Sammy emigrated from Israel. 

The owners will likely be holding a press conference before the Grand Re-Opening and answer falsehoods depicted on a reality television show, including assertions that the restaurant confiscates tips from servers. 

In fact, wait staff is paid $8-$14 per hour, two and half to nearly five times the standard hourly wage for servers. 

Questions will also be answered about what happened to their Facebook page. 

Amy’s Baking Company was recently featured on the hit PBS show “Check Please” and has received A+ reports from CBS 5 for kitchen preparedness. 

“We are very upset by what has taken place, apologize about the acrimony that has ensued but now must fight back to save our business. We hope and believe much good can result from what has transpired. We ask the public to keep an open mind as we begin to tell our side of the story,” Samy Bouzaglo said. 

For more details, please contact Michael Saucier. 

-30-“

I kept the boilerplate at the end because it shows you how “press release” this is.

Okay, let’s begin with “Other Side of Amy’s Baking Company Controversy in Scottsdale To Soon Be Told”

Other side? How can there be another side when we’ve caught you in the act? Shifting the blame is a classic PR move that doesn’t really work anymore now that information is so easily shared. ABC has been picking fights with bloggers and critics for years. No one is convinced that there is another side. 

It’s also evident here that this was written by their PR handler due to the language. We need statements from the owners, not their advisors.

SCOTTSDALE, AZ. MAY 15, 2013 — Amy’s Baking Company will host a Grand Re-Opening on Tuesday night, May 21, following unflattering portrayals on national television.

“Unflattering portrayal” is interesting language, because it seems to imply that the depiction of them is not accurate, even though the word “portrayal” literally means to describe. Nice try. The Grand Re-Opening seems like a smart move, since it keeps their publicity going and will no doubt draw interest, but to me, it just makes the restaurant look more guilty. If they really didn’t say all of those terrible things, why did they have to close down? Acting guilty can be just as worse as being guilty.

Customers will be able to decide who is correct: a famous celebrity chef or the marketplace that has supported the small, locally-owned business for six years. 

Asking us to pick between Gordon Ramsey and them is quite possibly the dumbest decision I’ve ever seen a modern PR firm make. He’s famous for a reason. He’s well-loved. The public is absolutely going to pick a professional, well-loved chef, over a restaurant that’s been harassing customers and employees for years. If the market has been so kind to them, then why did they need Gordon Ramsey’s help in the first place? If the problem was always cyber-bullying, wouldn’t that be a reason to hire a PR firm over a “famous celebrity chef?” 

When re-opened, a portion of proceeds will benefit a charity organized to bring awareness to cyber bullying. 

More shifting the blame. They are still trying to perpetuate the myth that they are victims, even though we saw firsthand on the show why they are getting all of this hate. They’ve been shown that they bully everyone else, but they claim that they’re the ones being bullied. Giving to a charity is good in theory, but choosing one that satisfies your complaints comes off as self-serving. If they really wanted to appear authentic, they should have chosen a charity to help the hungry. Since, you know, they’re a restaurant.  

Seating is limited. Reservations may be made by emailing sjones@rosemoserallynpr.com. 

Who is “sjones?” I don’t really care, but what’s odd is the email. Why are reservations being made with the PR firm? This makes no sense. 

Diners will also have the opportunity to meet, and judge for themselves the character of owners Amy and Samy Bouzaglo, who have devoted their lives to and earn their living from their small restaurant. The Bouzaglos have been married for 10 years, after Sammy emigrated from Israel. 

We can judge pretty easily from the tape. No one is asking to meet these people in person unless they just want to observe the train-wreck firsthand. Rebuilding a reputation is pointless when there is no apology. Also, this whole “small local restaurant” thing is easy to figure out. They want us to feel like they’re just a small business trying to make it, but oh no! They’re being bullied by the “big guys” like famous, celebrity chef Gordon Ramsey. Are you kidding me? First, anyone who has seen the extravagant decor within the restaurant can tell that they’re not “the little guy.” The rest is obvious. They’re the bullies, and constantly saying the opposite doesn’t make it true. Also, being married for 10 years and emigrating from Israel doesn’t say anything about your character…

The owners will likely be holding a press conference before the Grand Re-Opening and answer falsehoods depicted on a reality television show, including assertions that the restaurant confiscates tips from servers. 

The owner and many employees have already confessed that tips are being confiscated. Denying it is pointless.

In fact, wait staff is paid $8-$14 per hour, two and half to nearly five times the standard hourly wage for servers. 

Yes, because servers keep their tips, hence they don’t need a high hourly wage. Gordon Ramsey rightfully pointed out on the show that the customers would not have given any tip if they knew that the owners were taking them. If the owners are paying them this wage, then they should have a policy in place where the servers can’t accept tips, which is not the case. 

Questions will also be answered about what happened to their Facebook page. 

Can’t wait to see this excuse in action, especially since posts like the ones from the other day weren’t the first. Hate language has been seen on their site long before this fiasco.

Amy’s Baking Company was recently featured on the hit PBS show “Check Please” and has received A+ reports from CBS 5 for kitchen preparedness. 

We already know that Gordon was impressed with the cleanliness. That doesn’t make the food or customer service better. In PR, we call this “bolstering” which is an attempt to highlight unrelated positive aspects of a company in order to decrease attention to negative aspects. This doesn’t work well when the negative has been so greatly highlighted, and no apology or remorse is evident. 

“We are very upset by what has taken place, apologize about the acrimony that has ensued but now must fight back to save our business. We hope and believe much good can result from what has transpired. We ask the public to keep an open mind as we begin to tell our side of the story,” Samy Bouzaglo said. 

Oh look! A statement from the owner! What?? An apology? Why didn’t they start with this? Because at this point, it doesn’t even seem remotely genuine. If they were so sorry, they wouldn’t bury this at the bottom. Also, more tricky language. They apologize for the acrimony that has ensued. Okay, well that doesn’t say you apologize for your acrimonious behavior, just what’s “happened.” Wow, just when I thought they couldn’t shift the blame one more time.

For more details, please contact Michael Saucier. 

Who?

So much of this nonsense could have been avoided if they simply said this:

Sorry. We’ll change. 

Because that’s all people want. We don’t want to be accused of being closed-minded. We don’t want fancy PR strategies or a big press event. We want to see responsibility and admission of guilt. But according to them, we “the customers” aren’t always right, but they are.

May 21st can’t get here fast enough.

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Don’t forget to check out New Professional News every day, updated at 8am for a list of today’s main headlines as selected by my editorial team (me)  

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4 thoughts

  1. Jon you have provided the clearest reasoning for why I am so passionate about Amy’s shutting down for good. The Bouzaglo’s continue to claim they are victims when in actuality their staff, customers, and now everyone who posted comments on their Facebook page has been victimized by them. They are the thief’s, lairs, abusers, and attackers. I have never wished failure on anyone before but I do now!

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    1. I love the justification that they pay “2 to 5 the standard” wage for servers. One of my past employees earning over 20 bucks an hour told me he could not report to work at the time I wanted because his waitress wife earned 275 to 300 dollars in tips per 8 to 9 hour shift. Take your 8 to 14 dollars per hour, Samy and stuff it!

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      1. I suspect that their heavy turnover could have (also) been a result of bad tips due to the food and owners being terrible. So to keep their servers (or try to), they might have changed the policy to an hourly wage to attract the workers, but then confiscated the tips to offset their costs. That’s the only explanation I can think of.

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  2. This definitely looks like something that’s going to run and run. It is a prime example of not knowing when to own up to your mistakes and look at moving past them. Lying to everyone about being hacked has just made it worse and they are now at the point where the restaurants reputation is beyond repair.

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