Nothing ignites the social media powder keg like a public meltdown by a restaurant owner. I call it the Zio Carlo effect. For those who don’t remember, the onetime owner of his namesake pizzeria and brewery where Fort Brewing & Pizza now stands stepped in the Facebook beehive when he drunkenly berated “Obama kids” on his business’ Facebook page. To his credit, Carlo later apologized and hosted a happy hour with free pizza. Many owners would later follow his blustery blueprint to temporary Pariahtown. In the last several months, the owners of Deep Ellum Brewing Co. and Oscar’s Pub showed their respective backsides on their companies’ “marketing tool,” though I’m guessing they would take exception to that opinion.
The difference between all of those missteps and the recent gaffe by Toasted Coffee + Kitchen owner Bob Sinnott is that his tirade singled out a person, in this case a former disgruntled employee. A Fort Worth outpost of his East Dallas coffee shop/toast-focused eatery will open in Crockett Row (formerly West 7th) any day now, and I can’t imagine anyone wanting to work at a place whose owner called a former employee a “total nut job” and a “spaced-out loser,” among other insults.
The imbroglio erupted after the employee in question left a negative review on one of the place’s social media sites. The former staffer called the place “dirty” and “overpriced,” and she accused Sinnott of mistreating workers, even failing to pay – a charge the owner strongly denied.
Throughout the thread, which at last look included hundreds of comments, Sinnott and the young former employee exchanged contradictions and insults as Facebook vultures interceded with helpful memes. You can probably guess the content: Sinnott snapped that the one-time worker probably lived with her mother, insulted her artwork, and encouraged her to “go do some drugs and traipse through the woods.” The staffer then called her former boss “sexist,” “delusional,” “out of touch,” and a litany of other bad-boss barbs. After accusing the employee’s boyfriend and an illegal alien friend (whose status the owner admitted to knowing) of stealing from him, Sinnott eventually tapped out, posting, “This has been fun.”
Here’s the thing: That former employee could have been the worst worker in the history of labor. Everything Sinnott said about her work habits might be absolutely true. None of that matters now. Had he taken the high road, I might be writing today about how excited I am for Toasted to open. Instead, he dropped trou and showed the world what a complete jerk looks like.
Whether it’s fair or not, business owners and public figures are held to a higher standard of online behavior than your average guy or gal. Sinnott conducted himself like a petulant teenage bully. He was unprofessional, demeaning, mean-spirited, and arrogant. If this is how he interacts with his staff out in the open, I hate to think what he’s like behind closed doors.
It’s not easy, but you can just say nothing. And if you can’t, use any one of these phrases the next time you’re tempted to jeopardize your business and the livelihood of your current staff just to feel like a big man from behind your keyboard: “Sorry you feel that way;” “While I strongly disagree, I’ll take your feedback into consideration;” “We’re working hard every day to improve.”
I don’t know if the former staffer was telling the truth about how horrible of a boss Sinnott was, but she succeeded in potentially damaging his business – with a lot of help from him.
Toasted owner Bob Sinnott posted an apology earlier in the comments section of our website:
“I wanted to provide an update to the story you published. I’ve had time to think and I apologize for my comments on the thread. I responded in a way that I regret and for that, I’m truly sorry. In full-transparency, I have legitimate reasons for concern about the conduct of individuals involved in the review, but will be handling the matter privately.”