Never underestimate the power of a viral video. The owner of a Goodfellas Pizzeria shop in Lexington, Kentucky, learned that the hard way this week. But his handling of the situation was a good example of masterful damage control in the age of social media.
The Goodfellas Pizzeria in the Distillery District saw its Yelp rating plummet overnight after an employee kicked out Dave Portnoy, the founder of the Barstool Sports website, for a negative video review while the cameras were rolling.
Blunt-spoken and all attitude, Portnoy visits pizzerias around the U.S. and rates their pies from 0 to 10 on the spot in a video series called “One Bite with Davey Pageviews.” He was complaining on-camera about his cheese slice from the Goodfellas store when an unidentified employee stepped up and asked him to leave.
“Frankly, this one could have been sitting around for a while—it is not warm,” Portnoy complained, after pulling a large slice from his pizza box.
When someone off-camera shouted, “9.1,” Portnoy responded, “It’s ice cold. They gave me an ice-cold slice. You could go ice fishing with an igloo on this.”
As shown in the video, a Goodfellas employee promptly approached and asked, “You guys got permission to shoot on my patio today?”
“Uh-uh,” Portnoy answered.
“Cool. So I’m gonna need you to make your way out this way,” the employee said, pointing away from the pizza shop.
“OK,” Portnoy said. “I’m gonna give this a 0.0. Goodfellas! Kicked out! National pizza review, 0.0!”
After handing off the mostly uneaten slice and pizza box to the employee, Portnoy stalked away, exclaiming, “What a mistake that guy made!”
Indeed, when the video was posted on Barstool Sports Monday night, the site’s fans reportedly swarmed to the restaurant's Yelp page and left their own negative reviews, apparently to punish Goodfellas for kicking Portnoy out. Kentucky.com reported that the restaurant’s Yelp rating dropped from “at least 4.3 out of 5 [on] Monday afternoon … to 1.5 Monday night.”
Thanks to a counter-response from fans of the pizzeria, its Yelp rating is presently at 2.5. Yelp has “temporarily disabled the posting of content” on the restaurant’s page due to “unusual activity."
Apparently no one was more surprised by Portnoy’s video and the abrupt Yelp downturn than the Goodfellas store’s co-owner, Alex Coats. In an interview with Kentucky.com, Coats owned up to the mistake without excuses. He said he knew Portnoy and Barstool Sports were in Lexington and had alerted his managers to be ready for a possible visit. “Unfortunately, we dropped the ball,” he told Kentucky.com. “They served him a cold slice of pizza, and it escalated from there.”
Coats said his restaurant and other Goodfellas stores were getting slammed with “hate calls. We had to shut down the phones.”
“We’ve been working at this for 13 years, and it went down the drain in a matter of hours,” Coats added.
“We try to instill in everyone that we hold a super-high standard, and we want the best product at all times,” Coats said. “That’s what upsets us the most. We dropped the ball. All we can do is own it, correct ourselves and learn from our mistakes.”
Goodfellas tweeted an apology, replete with four-letter words, to Portnoy for the “insulting service” on Tuesday afternoon and asked him to return for a redo on his next trip to Lexington. The company also tried to make amends with a more gently worded Facebook post.
Portnoy accepted the olive branch and also blogged about the whole affair earlier Tuesday.
“I got to be honest,” Portnoy wrote. “I kinda feel bad for them … Now the fact that they’d serve an ice-cold slice without asking if the customer wanted it heated up is really bad, but it does suck to have a random review ruin your entire customer-service relationship. That’s not what I try to do with these things. I guess sometimes the pizza game teaches you hard lessons. So, yes, next time I’m in Lexington, I’ll gladly give this place another shot.”