Trainer Bob Has Let Us Down, But So Has Bar La Grassa

We were rolling through another typical Tuesday afternoon over at Fast Horse world headquartersClassic Vinyl was on Sirius Radio, Scott was complaining about the quality of the office candy bowl, and I was rolling through Hootsuite, checking on Twitter streams. Amidst the tweets of lunch updates, top 5 tips and Tuesday mundaneness, rolls out this news from @StribTaste, which is followed by a battery of retweets and debate.

Essentially, Bob Harper — famous for his trainer stint on NBC’s “Biggest Loser” — was in Minneapolis, decided to eat at one of his favorite restaurants Bar La Grassa, had Amex call to make the reservation a few hours in advance, and did not succeed. Thus, he tweeted to his 120,000+ followers:

Followed by:

Of course, the longer-than-140 characters story isn’t quite so… Per Rick Nelson at

It started when Bar La Grassa manager Michael Lecy fielded a late-afternoon call from the concierge service at American Express. Could a party of five take a 7:30 table that evening? Sorry, we wish we could accommodate you, but we can’t, was the response. “I couldn’t even get a table for five if I was calling on a Saturday for that night,” Becker said with a laugh.

AmEx followed with a second call (“They said, ‘The customer is willing to release his name,’ ” said Becker) and a third, but there were no tables at 7:30. Honest. “The only way we could accommodate them is if we screwed someone else over, and we don’t do that,” said Becker. Other available times were offered but not accepted.

The customer? Bob Harper, aka Bob the Trainer on NBC’s “The Biggest Loser,” in town for a Mall of America appearance.

This epic event occurred last Saturday, Jan. 22. When all was said and done, Bar La Grassa talked about 15 Bob-ites off the fence after they angrily called in. Fast forward to today’s post, 10 days later. Owner Isaac Becker says:

I’m over social media.


Now, let’s be honest: we at Fast Horse like our jobs, which almost always is about communicating, and often involves communicating online (you can tell I’ve recently had to break down my job to my parents). But, even I’ve had those moments where I wistfully recall a world pre-Facebook where everyone’s moves weren’t followed on a live basis, where a small misstep could be taken away with a control-z and wouldn’t live on in forever, online perpetuity.

I get where Isaac Becker is coming from.

But throwing away all of the tools at your disposal for sharing your story online is, well, akin to throwing away the baby with the bathwater. Sure, Bar La Grassa is one of the most popular restaurants in Minneapolis, but what about those sad, freezing cold midweek nights two years from now? What about an unjustified tweet like Bob’s that doesn’t get a blog post from the Star Tribune? What happens with a news outlet writes an unfavorable story, instead of defending your restaurant? How does Bar La Grassa share its story? How does Bar La Grassa hear what its customers are saying (yes, we’ve heard of this thing called a telephone)?

Social media, at its finest, isn’t about the tools. It isn’t about having 2,000 or 120,000 followers. You don’t HAVE to have a Twitter account or Facebook page. But you do need a plan to combat the Bob Harper’s of the world — and it often involves a social media strategy of monitoring, responding and sharing.

OH – and let’s be honest: while the 15 phone calls from angry Bob fans haven’t destroyed Bar La Grassa’s fan base, the resulting post in the Star Tribune with the 100+ comments and counting? That’s social media.