Film & TV

Avoid Amy's Baking Company Freakout: Five Tips From PR Guru Larry Carrino

Yesterday, the Internet completely blew up with the story of the war between Amy's Baking Company owners Amy and Samy and everyone on the planet earth (with the possible exception of some cats).

The Scottsdale, Arizona, restaurateurs have the dubious distinction of having Kitchen Nightmares host Gordon Ramsay walk out on them, before telling them they were "too far gone" (to which Amy replied, "Yala, yala... It's Christmas. Let's go home"). Of course, in the 40 minutes or so prior to that moment, we also watched Amy's husband Samy tell a customer to "get the f**k out of here," Amy fire an employee for asking a question, and the couple pocket the servers' tips.

After the show aired, Amy got busy on her business' Facebook page calling Yelpers "shit" and saying that God was on their side. The couple later claimed that their Facebook, Yelp, Twitter, and website had all been hacked.

Look, we'll give them the benefit of the doubt concerning their Facebook postings (if you want to have some fun, Buzzfeed's curated a good selection), but this brought up a good question: Just how does a restaurateur handle tough situations and negative comments?

We consulted Larry Carrino of Brustman Carrino Public Relations. First, he thanked his lucky stars this was not his client. Then he gave us a list of five things a restaurateur should never do when dealing with the public. Before you get on the internet to reply to a Yelper or tout your "Kobe" hot dog read this:

1. Think before you post.

Yes, social media is an amazing tool but much like anything, if used badly it's dangerous. Twitter wars? Grow up. TMI? Have some self-respect. Consider what you're putting out there and what it says about you, not just what you're saying.

2. Don't attack reviewers, professional or otherwise.

If a reviewer gets something factually incorrect (the salad could not have had chicken in it because that salad doesn't have chicken in it!), then feel free to state your case but stick to the facts. Reviews are subjective, so calling out a critic, or Yelpers or bloggers as being "wrong" or "having an axe to grind" looks petty and ultimately accomplishes nothing. A negative review doesn't mean a libelous or factually fraudulent review. Know the difference. And also ask yourself, when reading criticisms, "Is any of this right and what can I do to improve?"

3. Be honest with customers and yourself.

Is the fish a day-boat catch? Do you really have those micro-greens grown to your exact specifications in some urban box garden? If so, feel free to tout their bona fides. If you're using frozen fish to make ceviche, guess what? That fish ain't fresh and neither is that dish. Don't BS the customer. They know more about food than ever before and if a savvy diner doesn't catch you, a critic probably will. Serve the best product you can and be honest about what you serve.

4. Don't believe your own press.

Buying into your own hype leads down a very unpleasant road, and not just for those who work for you. Let the media crow and the fans cheer, but keep your ego in check. When you have "arrived" and need learn nothing more and all you must do is bask in the adulation, sure in the knowledge that everything you touch is gold — things are destined to take a turn for the worse.

5. Don't drop the check with the goddamn coffee.

It's a small thing but man, oh man does it say "Here's your hat, thanks for coming." You know, I was going to order some Sambuca after the coffee but now? Forget it. It's called hospitality for a reason, folks.

Follow Laine Doss on Twitter @LaineDoss and Facebook.

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Laine Doss is the food and spirits editor for Miami New Times. She has been featured on Cooking Channel's Eat Street and Food Network's Great Food Truck Race. She won an Alternative Weekly award for her feature about what it's like to wait tables.
Contact: Laine Doss