Sometimes the things people do on social media leave us scratching our heads. Some seem proud to show off their ignorance by posing questions to Twitter like “Is Ebola a country?”, while others just seem to have a vast knack for spewing general (occasionally hilarious) nonsense. While it may seem obvious that anything posted to a social media account can eventually be seen by millions and millions of people, unfortunately plenty of restaurant owners and chain restaurant social media managers seem to forget this fact.
There are lots of ways to fail miserably in the social media department. You can post something insensitive, you can overreact to an unhappy customer, you can accidentally tweet from a corporate account instead of a personal one, you can make your password so simple that hackers take your account over, and so on. And from huge fast-food chains to small-time coffee shops, plenty of restaurants have demonstrated that they’re far from immune to social media fails.
The worst social media disasters are the ones that have a snowball effect; what starts off as a minor complaint or an honest mistake can grow into a major meltdown as more and more people get wind of it, or the restaurant tries to fight fire with fire. When someone posts a negative Yelp review, for example, it’s perfectly reasonable for the owner to follow up, apologize for whatever went wrong, and offer to make it right. What isn’t reasonable is to reply by calling the customer a “mentally ill raging alcoholic,” as one Massachusetts chef did back in January.
When it comes to restaurants, an inappropriate chef or owner can be a major liability, as can a careless social media manager for a chain. In the past, one outburst might have resulted in a customer simply not returning; today, a poor experience can lead to a bad Yelp review, which in return can spark a tirade that the entire world can see. Read on for 13 examples of restaurants failing miserably at social media.
Ninja City, Cleveland
When an Asian fusion restaurant in Cleveland received a one-star Yelp review from a customer who had legitimate complaints in September, owner Bac Nguyen tracked him down on Facebook and flew off the handle, insulting the customer (he called him “ugly and physically weak”) as well as his girlfriend, and telling him to never return. The back-and-forth continued for some time, getting progressively more heated. The conversation went viral, and now there are petitions to boycott the restaurant going around.
In February 2013, a waitress at a St. Louis Applebee’s, Chelsea Welch, posted a photo of a receipt to Reddit. The customer, a pastor, didn’t leave a tip for a fellow employee, writing “I give God 10%, why do you get 18?” on the receipt. Welch was immediately fired for violating a customer’s privacy. Within hours the firing, a barrage of negative comments hit Applebee’s Facebook page and Twitter, causing a nightmare for the company, and they didn’t exactly handle it with aplomb. They disabled the comments on their Facebook page and posted a note to it saying simply that they “wish this situation hadn’t happened,” and more than 20,000 responded, very few favorably. Applebee’s should have known that the firing would lead to a social media nightmare.