Husband and wife restaurant owners Amy and Samy Bouzaglo provided an extensive lesson earlier this week in how not to use the Internet, especially after being filmed behaving poorly on Kitchen Nightmares and consequently coming under fire from hecklers on Facebook and Reddit. The story went viral, ensuring maximum exposure. But now the couple has enlisted the help of a PR firm to clean up the commenter inferno that they themselves fanned the flames of. And, wisely or not, they’ve decided the answer is a "Grand Re-Opening" event at their Scottsdale restaurant on Tuesday, May 21, which is going to double as a press conference and a chance for the Bouzaglos to set the record straight, or something.
The couple has retained PR firm Rose + Moser + Allyn, and yesterday’s press release states that "[On Tuesday,] 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." They will only allow a limited number of diners into the restaurant on Tuesday, who will be screened via e-mailing the publicist first. Also, a portion of the proceeds will be donated to "a charity organized to bring awareness to cyber bullying."
By the end of this past Tuesday, the heated, often all-caps reactions coming from Amy and Samy gave way to a measured statement insisting that the company’s website, Yelp page, and Facebook account had all been "hacked" and "We did not post those horrible things." It’s unclear whether it was on the PR firm’s advice that the Bouzaglos tried to distance themselves from the absurd threats and self-aggrandizing statements that were ultimately deleted from their Facebook page. But they all sounded markedly similar to some of the things both of them said while cameras were rolling on Kitchen Nightmares (e.g. "I AM NOT STUPID ALL OF YOU ARE. YOU JUST DO NOT KNOW GOOD FOOD." and "This is Samy. I am keeping note of all names here. We will be pursuing action against you legaly [sic], and against reddit and yelp, for this plot you have come together on." They’re all preserved for posterity here.). Even Forbes used the hacking statement as another example of poor form, saying it was an obvious lie and only proved to be fodder for thousands more comments and Likes.
Is the publicized reopening any wiser than the other moves we’ve seen from the couple thus far? It seems like the wisest choice would probably have been to go silent and lie low for a while and hope for loyalty from one’s original customer base. Also, unfortunately for Amy Bouzaglo, all of this attention has brought to light the fact that she’s an ex-con who served fourteen months in jail after trying to open a line of credit using another person’s social security number. The crime was committed prior to marrying Israeli immigrant Samy Bouzaglo, but she served out her sentence after opening Amy’s Baking Company with him in 2006.
When it comes to her online presence and defensiveness, she’s nothing if not consistent. As she proved in 2010, when she likely first caught the attention of Gordon Ramsay’s production team — and not long after her release from jail — she’ll always be at war with anyone who would dare give her so much as a single bad review on Yelp. As she said to a local TV news reporter then (see below), following a lengthy, heated online dustup with a Yelper, "I am not going to lay down and let people write whatever they want to write about me … I am going to fight 100 percent for what I believe in and my company." And fight she has.
As recently as Friday, before the infamous episode aired, Amy and Samy took to Facebook to say, "We do not feel the need to make any excuses for our behavior on tonight’s show." They did however, as they repeated in yesterday’s statement, deny taking any tips from waitstaff, as was shown on the show.
Maybe the best hope for the Bouzaglos would be to capitalize on their newfound fame and become a destination restaurant along the lines of Ed Debevic’s in Chicago, where you come for the food but stay for the abuse. Except that a sense of humor would be necessary for that.
Update: The Phoenix New Times profiles the PR guy, Jason Rose, and they predict "this trip has just begun."
Earlier: Meet Amy Bouzaglo, the Woman Who Blew Up on ‘Kitchen Nightmares,’ Then Erupted on Facebook
Amy’s Baking Company Owner Amy Bouzaglo’s Criminal Past Surfaces After ‘Kitchen Nightmares’ Meltdown [IBT]
America’s Thirteen Most Abusive Restaurants