Atlanta restaurant demonstrates the wrong way to use social media

The appropriately-named Boners BBQ recently conducted a clinic on the worst possible way to handle social media as part of a bar or restaurant’s advertising/marketing efforts.

When owner Andrew Capron discovered customer Stephanie Stuck had left a less-than-positive review of his establishment on Yelp – Stuck called the food “tepid,” the flavors “odd to bland” and the atmosphere “a bit lackluster” – he responded by going on his restaurant’s Facebook page and unleashing an obscenity-riddled tirade.

Capron posted a picture of Stuck he found on her Facebook page and advised other restaurant owners that if they find her in their establishment they should “tell her to go outside and play hide and go f$#% yourself.” He also called her a name that rhymes with stitch.

Not surprisingly to those of us who know a little something about social media, the response blew up in the face of both Capron and his BBQ joint.

Initially Capron faced a backlash of fans who did not agree with the tactic of calling out Suck so publicly. Boners took the post down by the end of the day. But that didn’t stop word of Capron’s behavior from making its way across multiple social media platforms, including Facebook and Twitter.

Capron ended up issuing a Facebook apology that included the offer of a free meal. But that didn’t stop the story from going viral, drawing negative publicity from outlets ranging from to Huffington Post to the New York Daily News.

Stuck told her story to all manner of media and in almost every instance the restaurant came across looking like a mean-spirited bully. Emotional and ill-advised as it was, Capron’s response to negative feedback further illustrates a point about social media we’ve been making in this space for some time.

Had Boners jumped on Yelp and/or Facebook and sounded genuinely concerned one of its customers wasn’t completely satisfied, public sentiment would have swayed towards the restaurant. Even those who might have been swayed by Stuck’s assessment would have been impressed that Boners cared so much about every person who walked through its doors – even the ones who make their displeasure public.

Not only did Boners fail the cardinal rule by not taking advantage of an opportunity, but it doubled down by creating a situation that didn’t need to exist: Bad review on Yelp (deserved or not) = bad. National news story where your establishment comes off looking evil = worse.

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Comment by Paul Paz on January 19, 2012 at 9:17am

If this is how the owner treats his customers.... it could be a nightmare to work for him.

Comment by Steven Groves on January 18, 2012 at 1:43pm

Boy do I have stories about missteps in social by companies who thought they could control what was being said about them - usually with some heavy handed technique like Boney's in Atlanta.

Review sites are wholly underestimated by restaurant I think - this kind of behavior though is completely and totally unwarranted, but not always unusual.  In my dealings with restaurateurs, chef/owners & GM's I have seen only a few enlightened thought-leaders that get how a review site can be used to keep a pulse on the work being done by the staff.  

Sometimes it is easy to somehow forget that the person posting the review is a customer of the restaurant, a patron.  There seems to be a predominate attitude by many I've come across that a person who make a post that might be even a little unflattering must be either evil agent sent in by a competitor or some rube who cannot tell a soup from dishwater.  Rarely do I hear a comment from a restaurateurs that they embrace the consumer review as a valid report card on the business.

A patrons experience is just that, a single patrons sole experience in your business - good or bad, it is their experience they are making a comment about and to not honor the persons review is to dishonor the patron posting it.  How would you want your comments to be received if the tables were turned?

I encourage the use of a review site as the proverbial 'canary in a coal mine' - an early indicator of problems or issues that may need to be monitored before they become full-fledged issues.  Review sites are not the end of it, but they are a snapshot of a moment in time by a patron that actually took the time to share what they thought.  

To fret about a bad review on a site is unwarranted - you have to trust the consumer to look at your reviews in context.  If you have 100 reviews and 2 are bad,  sounds like you're doing pretty good and a consumer can make the same observation, they get it too.  I believe that consumers will look for the average rating, not the one off bad review.  In this respect I'd encourage more reviews by patrons to improve the odds that your rating will not be affected by a single poor one.

Comment by Michele Wagaman on January 17, 2012 at 10:40am

First off, very cute and appropriate opening image!

Secondly, when I read this article, I couldn't BELIEVE what I was seeing. I understand that social media is a new thing for many people, but new or not, any business owner should know that this is by far the biggest no-no! After Capron posted the image, there were former patrons of B****'s BBQ commenting, "Thanks for posting this. Now I'll never visit your establishment again!"

I just checked their facebook page today, and what do ya know, it doesn't seem they have changed. Now customers are saying they don't want to go back for fear they might be ridiculed if they don't like their food or make any sort of complaint.

Comment by Emerald Reilly on January 16, 2012 at 11:46am

I agree with Chris. This is the greatest example I've seen of what NOT to do as a brand dealing with negative criticism. No matter how many times Capron issues a public apology, the brand's image has already been impacted. It had nothing to do with the review the Stephanie posted on Yelp, but rather to the way in which he reacted. 

Comment by Chris Leo on January 14, 2012 at 6:15am
Negative reviews should be seen as an opportunity to "rise to the occasion". Clearly this concept never made its way to Mr. Capron. Unfortunate.




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