Traverse City Record-Eagle

Food

May 23, 2013

Restaurant learns online reviews can make or break

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — It was the customer service disaster heard around the Internet.

An Arizona restaurateur, fed up after years of negative online reviews and an embarrassing appearance on a reality television show, allegedly posted a social media rant laced with salty language and angry, uppercase letters that quickly went viral last week, to the delight of people who love a good Internet meltdown.

“I AM NOT STUPID ALL OF YOU ARE,” read the posting on the Facebook wall of Amy’s Baking Co. in Scottsdale, Ariz. “YOU JUST DO NOT KNOW GOOD FOOD.”

It was, to put it kindly, not a best business practice. Add to that an appearance earlier this month on the Fox reality TV show “Kitchen Nightmares” — where celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay gave up on trying to reform the restaurant after the owners refused to listen to his advice — and you have a recipe for disaster.

“That’s probably the worst thing that can happen,” said Sujan Patel, founder and CEO of Single Grain, a digital marketing agency in San Francisco.

In the evolving world of online marketing, where the power of word of mouth has been wildly amplified by the whims and first impressions of anonymous reviewers posting on dozens of social media websites, online comments, both good and bad, and the reactions they trigger from managers, can make all the difference between higher revenues and empty storefronts.

Hotels, restaurants and other businesses that depend on good customer service reviews have all grappled in recent years with how to respond to online feedback on sites such as Twitter, Foursquare, Yelp, Facebook and Instagram, where comments can often be more vitriol than in-person reviews because of the anonymous shield many social media websites provide.

No matter how ugly the reviews get, businesses need to be willing to acknowledge mistakes and offer discounts to lure unhappy customers back, digital marketing experts said.

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