Social Media Fails Restaurants Regret
October 29, 2014
Don’t they know that the whole world is watching?
Social Media Fails Restaurants Regret
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.
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, most not favorably. Applebee’s should have known that the firing would lead to a social media nightmare.
Amy’s Baking Company
Yelp/ Georgie M
This Scottsdale, Ariz. restaurant’s owners’ epic meltdown is one of the most infamous (and insane) social media fails. After Gordon Ramsay famously walked out of the eatery during an episode of Kitchen Nightmares that aired in May 2013, a handful of negative remarks were posted to the restaurant’s Facebook page. Owners Samy and Amy Bouzaglo reacted poorly (to put it gently), replying in all-caps rants with plenty of name-calling and foul language. The freak-out eventually spilled over to Reddit and Yelp, with more than 1,000 comments in total. The Bouzaglos claimed that the accounts were hacked, but we have a hard time believing that.
A word of advice: if you work at a fast food chain, don’t mess around with the food in any way. And if you do, don’t document it, and certainly don’t post it to social media. A Taco Bell employee did just that in 2013, when he posted a photo of himself licking a stack of taco shells to his Facebook account. The photo, of course, went viral, but when Taco Bell finally released a statement it was too little, too late, and the chain’s reputation for cleanliness took a major hit.
Bushwick Coffee Shop, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Michael Avila, the owner of a popular Brooklyn coffee shop, recently took to Instagram to post a long-winded, borderline-incomprehensible rant against gentrifiers, especially Jews, who he claimed “function via greed and dominance.” He further defended his stance on the shop’s Facebook page, which has since been taken down, and the press ate it up. The shop may still be in business, but its reputation (and that of its owners) has certainly taken a hit.
February 2013, someone hacked into @BurgerKing and turned it into a full-fledged McDonald’s parody account, even uploading a Fish McBites background photo. They sent out a fusillade of incomprehensible tweets over the course of a couple of hours before Burger King shut the profile down and restored it, but in the process they picked up more than 30,000 new followers. McDonald’s defused any suspicions that they were behind it by tweeting, “We empathize with our @BurgerKing counterparts. Rest assured, we had nothing to do with the hacking.”
Country Pride Restaurant, El Campo, Texas
In July, the co-owner of a barbecue restaurant near Houston took to Facebook to rant about being given a ticket for not wearing his seatbelt “from a Mexican,” and the screed was loaded with racist, anti-Mexican hate speech. The post went viral, and the co-owner was reportedly fired.
In January 2013, an Australian teenager posted a photo of a “footlong” sub from Subway, with a tape measure clearly showing that it was in fact 11 inches, not 12, to Subway Australia’s Facebook page, and it quickly racked up more than 100,000 likes. Subway responded in about the most head-scratching way possible, saying that “Footlong” is just a trademark, and “not intended to be a measurement of length.” Soon, customers all over the world took to measuring their sandwiches, and it turned out that few were actually 12 inches. Claims of false advertising ensued, and the company told the Chicago Tribune soon after that they’ve “redoubled their efforts to ensure consistency and correct length in every sandwich.”
Voltaire, Kansas City
After a couple tried to place a takeout order at a Kansas City restaurant and was rebuffed because “the food is plated beautifully,” they took to Yelp to complain about the eatery, which they called the “most unfriendly and arrogant restaurant in KC.” Well, the owner couldn’t abide that, so he replied with an epic and painfully high-minded screed defending his employees and their decision to not allow food to be taken to-go: “We just prefer to have our guests dine with us, allowing for the proper presentation (and temperature) of their fare that has been skillfully prepared by our kitchen.” He then provided and lengthy and rambling analogy comparing the event to a tax lawyer being asked to handle a divorce.
In January 2012, McDonald’s decided to engage with their Twitter followers by asking people (and ideally farmers, for some reason) to post great things about the chain using the hashtag #McDStories. It quickly became a textbook example of the dangers of crowdsourcing, as users took advantage of the opportunity to tell not-so-great stories, like the one who posted “Once when I was little, I was playing in the McDonald’s playhouse and a rusty nail stabbed me in my foot. #McDStories.” The campaign was halted after two hours.
Thai Noodles Etc. House, Austin, Texas
While the country was still reeling from the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012, one Thai restaurant owner thought it would be a good idea to take to Facebook for an anti-Israeli rant. “I’m failing to give a damn about the CT shooting. I don’t care if a bunch of white kids got killed,” he wrote. “When Israel launched missiles at the school on Gaza, everybody was too busy j------ off,” he wrote. “Why should I [sic] care about people who don’t give a damn about me?” The remarks went viral, and boycotts soon followed. Instead of apologizing, the owner only doubled down and made matters worse: “I am pretty much sick of some people telling me what to think, how to think, or how to feel today, and if you don’t like my foods, ---- off and eat someplace else,” he posted. His Facebook page has since been deleted.
Chick-Fil-A president Dan Cathy’s stance against gay marriage ruffled plenty of feathers when it was exposed in 2012, and naturally many took to the company’s Facebook page to complain. The company’s social media response was inept, to say the least: “…Our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena.… Our mission is simple: to serve great food, provide genuine hospitality and have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.” In short: “We’d like to sweep all of this under the rug and hope that you’ll forget about it, too.” By refusing to address the issue, they angered even more people, and the company’s reputation took a permanent hit.
The chef and owner of a well-liked Boston restaurant called Pigalle responded in the most inappropriate way possible to a woman who posted to the restaurant’s Facebook page in November 2012 to complain about “crappy food” served to her on Thanksgiving, including a pumpkin pie that “literally tasted like vomit.” While the poster certainly could have used more tact, chef Marc Orfaly flew into a rage and unleashed a torrent of insults at the woman, calling her “uneducated, unintelligent, and unpolished,” and topping it off by saying “a good new years resolution judging from your fat face would be to give up the pie sweet pea.” The owner later apologized, but not before the rant went viral.