Thursday, May 30, 2013

Amy's Baking Company outrage

There's a number of problems that Amy's Baking Company has to address in order to get the business on track. But the main relevant issue in this particular case is that both owners do not realize the importance of feedback and criticism. "KitchenNightmares" episode featuring their business proved that they don't have what we call people skills and are absolutely not familiar with restaurant ethics. It was a nightmare in a true sense of this word: customers got insulted and kicked out of the place, employees were treated like garbage, quality of dishes could not get any worse, etc. Nothing  stopped the owners, married couple, from swearing and yelling at each other, staff, and customers - neither the TV cameras, nor the common sense. The main goal of the TV show was to help the striving business to revive by creating a "teachable moment", which was supposed to only improve the service. There was an obvious need for that in Amy and Sammy Bouzaglos' company as their mistakes included:

- wrong handling customer's feedback,
- not leading by example;
- assurance that the customer is not always right;
- blaming online reviews, taking them as attacks, and thereby making them worse.

Referring to Grunig and Hunt's models of publicrelations can help in establishing company's Corporate Social Responsibility efforts. The models are perhaps the most commonly used theories in the field and help to separate problems to address their different parts in particular. Amy's Baking Company perfectly fits into Press Agentry, or Publicity model, which deals with the activities of those who will do anything to gain publicity in a style of one-way communication (organisation to target public) typically involving ones personal emotions. The information given by a company is often distorted, half-true or incomplete. Amy was caught lying in front of the TV camera: she ardently denied firing about 50 employees, when her husband Sammy "honestly" admitted firing approximately 100 of them. The model's main purpose is propaganda as Amy considered her dishes as perfect, delicious, and nothing else serving undercooked pizza and frozen ravioli. The model also involves little research, while in this case no research takes place whatsoever as the owners don't even care whether customers liked the food or not. Nine times out of ten the food goes straight to the trash bin passing the main chef, who actually should know about the dish being thrown away. Sammy just does not bother telling his wife that the order was not eaten because "stupid customers don't know what the real good food is".

Amy's Baking Company marketing strategy is focused on a specific type of customer. They position themselves as European Bistro, Pizzeria, Bar, and Cafeteria. They also serve vegetarian food, fanciful cakes and desserts. Thus, their target market are homemade bakery and fine European food lovers including teens, students, young adults, families and children, seniors, vegetarians, lunch and happy hour crowd, take-away customers. According to the About Us section of company's official web-site they assure with confidence that customers will not be disappointed. However, as we were following the media blow up on their disastrous services it turned out to be false. They do not meet the expectations set up by themselves and wanted to be seen as the restaurant striving for quality over quantity. But Amy blindly believed that her cooking was superb, even though many customers expressed dissatisfaction about it. Not to mention Chef Ramsey. The Review section only contains good but outdated comments from 2012, which suggests that the website was moderated in order to keep only positive feedback. The Bouzaglos are notorious for their outrageous responses to the reviews on Yelp.

This case generated a lot of conversations about what not to do on social media as a brand. Such behaviour is not acceptable in modern business world. It may become a big lesson for anyone, including new entrepreneurs and companies that were around for a while.

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