Like many restaurant and small business owners, 33 & Melt owner Carrie Hudson has struggled with keeping her business afloat following the executive order on March 20, in which Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said all restaurants must move to take-out or delivery and “suspend on-premises food consumption for customers.” The order will expire whenever DeSantis rolls back a state of emergency he issued as a response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Despite the executive order, 33 & Melt’s official Facebook page announced last night that the restaurant would be reopening for dine-in guests May 1, because “we are over this,” which left the restaurant’s Facebook page on the receiving end of thousands of negative comments, shares, and immortalized on the Orlando subreddit.
Many expressed their concern and disappointment over the restaurant’s decision to reopen during a global pandemic, but the person behind the Facebook account continued to aggressively reply to comments as they began to roll in.
“I used to like going there with my family. Not sure what the owner is thinking right now but just have to believe that she is having a temporary lapse in judgment due to severe stress,” Carrie Smith wrote on Facebook.
“We are huge fans of your establishment but your blatant disregard for the health and safety of the community makes me question if we can continue to be patrons. […] I’m sorry, but this is just plain selfish and wrong,” Debbie Ann commented.
“You know what I’m over? Business owners pretending they know better than scientists and putting their communities in danger,” Joey McElroy posted.
“How many doctors and scientists do you have consulting you? I have several. I can forward you the links and text if you’d like,” 33 & Melt retorted.
The Facebook thread became a case study of how to not run a restaurant’s social media channels. As an agency with restaurant clients of our own, we understand the financial strain that 33 & Melt is going through, and how the stress can inflict emotional trauma to business owners on an unprecedented scale. However, with mounting worry and fear about the current coronavirus outbreak, it is worth taking a step back to look at how posting about a restaurant reopening might not be well-received by a community that has been affected by the virus and has been living on the edge for well over a month. The town of Windermere, where the restaurant is located, 36 cases as of this week.
As we recently shared on a blog post about handling negative social media engagement, replying to negative posts in an aggressive manner can have a negative impact on your brand image. We have found that many business owners have a hard time separating themselves from their business, which in cases leads to Facebook posts such as the one posted by 33 & Melt. If you are unable to separate yourself from your business, we recommend delegating the task of running your social media accounts to an agency that can provide further insight into managing your brand image and stop you from committing future social media blunders.
Unfortunately, it might be a bit late to claim that they’ve been hacked or that it was part of some elaborate social media campaign, but it is never too late to issue an apology and let your audience know you will continue to work with community and health leaders on how to best move forward.
Update: Before the post was taken down, it reached almost 5,000 comments, shared over 900 times, and covered by local publications including Orlando Weekly, FOX 35, and WESH 2.