Opinion

The pungent smell of the Amy’s Baking Company fiasco


Amy’s Baking Company is an Arizona restaurant making headlines for all the wrong reasons.  Social media meltdowns aside, their appointment of Rose+Moser+Allyn Public and Online Relations (Jason Rose being the named PR expert) should signal the start of serious damage control.

But the press release Rose issued left me even more confused. I think something else is afoot here and there are clear lessons which can be learned…

Let’s begin with the press release, cut from Tucson Weekly:

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.

There are a couple of points to highlight here:

1) “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.”

Now, I’ve watched Kitchen Nightmares.  99.99% of the time, Gordon Ramsey is called into failing businesses to try and reverse their fortunes.

This doesn’t chime with the “marketplace that has supported” the business.  If the marketplace supported it, presumably they wouldn’t have needed to go on the show.  If they hadn’t been supported, that explains why they were on the show – and indicates that there’s something wrong.  The PR tries to obfuscate that point.

2) “The Bouzaglos have been married for 10 years, after Sammy emigrated from Israel.”

Fascinating.  But why so high in the release?  To me, that detail doesn’t flow and, although it builds texture to the story, its relative prominence suggests that some other capital is being made.  Does it matter that Samy is an Israeli immigrant?

3) “The owners will likely be holding a press conference before the Grand Re-Opening”

I realise that Americans express themselves differently to us Brits.  However, “likely” is a really bizarre term to use.  The Dictionary.com definition is as follows:

  • probably or apparently destined (usually followed by an infinitive): something not likely to happen.
  • seeming like truth, fact, or certainty; reasonably to be believed or expected; believable: a likely story.
  • seeming to fulfill requirements or expectations; apparently suitable: a likely place for a restaurant.
  • showing promise of achievement or excellence; promising: a fine, likely young man.

Amy’s Baking Company either are holding a press conference, or they’re not.  “Likely” presumes failure immediately.  If the owners don’t turn up, are we just to shrug, look at their meltdown and excuse them as it’s ‘in their nature’?

Moving swiftly on from the slightly weird press release…

The social media meltdown.

Is it real?  Is it fake?  Was it staged? Were they really hacked?

At this point, who can say?

Because I’m a cynical kind of guy, I think it’s all been staged and that Amy’s Baking Company are going all Hans Brinker on us.

If this is true, then it’s one hell of a high risk strategy.

Still, something’s working as the company’s Grand Re-Opening is sold out (but are we really surprised?  Everyone loves a good train wreck – that’s why Kitchen Nightmares is so popular in the first place) – and you can’t odds the £/$millions of free publicity the ‘meltdown’ has got them.

Twitter. What’s going on there?

When something major happens, we all expect Twitter to erupt with a thousand fake accounts.  It’s just what happens now.

Normally, it’s possible to spot the fake accounts.

The thing is, I’m really struggling.

@AmyBakingCo looks really quite genuine.  But so does @ABCandBistro.

@Bouzagloabc is relatively convincing. @ABCBBaB could be real.

I’m not even going to touch Facebook.  That’s a whole new heap of burnt pizza.

What’s real?

What’s not real?

Much like the press release, authenticity of the meltdown or the sheer inconceivable rudeness that’s been shown on all platforms, it’s starting to warp the perception of reality around the case…

Weird.

What Rose+Moser+Allyn Public and Online Relations should now be doing.

First up – take control of the story, starting with Social Media.  Clearly identify which accounts are real, and which ones are fake.  Then use those real accounts in a structured, measured way to build dialogue and outreach into the social sphere.  If they don’t do this, the fake accounts could easily sabotage efforts.

Second, write a better press release.

Third, work out how to rehabilitate the brand’s owners, Samy and Amy Bouzaglo.  Either they’re chronically misunderstood or they’re kitchen psychos who want their own daytime reality TV show in the Jeremy Kyle vein (shudder).  Get clear about it, continue to be clear about it, and work on their image appropriately.

Fourth – and finally, if they really are kitchen psychos, either do a Hans Brinker, or drop them like the proverbial brick because you’ll just get dragged down with them.

So the conclusion?

Watch this space.

Because, for once, I’m genuinely unable to see the most likely outcome.

£/$millions in free PR value.

Two potentially self-destructive business people.

Almost equal levels of opportunity, and threat.

It’s all a bit… Weird (even if they’re a client I’d love to land)…

 

If you want to continue reading about this, then, in my opinion, Roger Dooley’s piece for Forbes is the definitive one and worthy of your time.

Neil Hopkins is a Marketing and Branding Theorist at heart, and a Marketing Communications Manager by day. His blog – interacter – is the primary location he shares insight and information relating to marketing, branding and advertising strategy.
You can follow Neil on Twitter, circle him (like an escaped bull) on Google+ or track him down in any number of other ways.

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