Don’t Mess With “The Pig”
Chef & Owner Angela Caputo was review-bombed last spring. She fought back, and she won.
Chef Angela Caputo is the owner of The Breakfast Pig Badass Eatery, a beloved, Feast On certified restaurant in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. More often referred to simply as “The Pig” by locals, it’s considered one of the Sault’s best restaurants and has won multiple awards for its signature epic breakfasts. In short, it’s not the type of establishment that would typically find itself at the epicentre of a politically-driven smear campaign. Caputo herself is a talented chef, driven entrepreneur and respected community ambassador. She is also not someone you’d want to mess with.
In April 2021, prominent anti-vaxxer Chris Saccoccia, also known as Chris Sky, was making his way through the city with his “freedom convoy,” which had toured eastward from BC holding anti-vaccination rallies in cities along the way. “One of his people called the restaurant and asked if we would provide Chris and his team with free food since he is “fighting for our rights on his own dime”,” recalls Caputo. “After declining and stating that I don’t agree with Chris Sky or anything he stands for, I made a Facebook post letting people in our community know that he would be rolling through and that they should be cautious of his dangerous message and it blew up. The story got picked up by a couple of our local news outlets and then shared on Twitter and it exploded from there, being published to 6ixbuzz and BlogTO and some other big accounts. Chris Sky followers began sending me disgusting messages, tearing apart my restaurant, my appearance, threatening my safety and the safety of the restaurant. They also began placing false one-star reviews on Google, making up outlandish stories and posting them to our Facebook page and leaving negative comments on our Facebook and Instagram posts.”
Reviews matter to the restaurants and hospitality business. A lot. Review bombing and personal attacks have the potential to strip away years of work in a few days or weeks and, if unaddressed, can even put operators out of business. For operations that rely on tourist traffic, they can be particularly devastating because visiting guests do not have the benefit of context; they choose their night out based on the stars and comments alone. For Caputo, the only palatable option was to fight back and take back control of her narrative. “I had to be a big girl and stand behind what I had said. I really felt that I was on the right side of this and was ready to stand up for myself and my community.
CBC Radio caught wind of what was going on and they reached out and wanted to speak to me about why I chose to speak out and the repercussions from doing so. I absolutely love CBC Radio, so I agreed and they shared my interview and citizens across Canada began to reach out to me within minutes of the interview airing. Our phone began to ring off the hook and it was people offering their support from coast-to-coast. They sent money to help cover my costs for having to hire security, and actually sent so much that we used the money to make many meals for those experiencing food insecurity in the community. The business actually boomed from the exposure. I think people were seeing that I would not back down and that I wanted to do what’s right for myself and for other restaurants. We had an outpouring of support locally and nationally.
It was tough because those who were against me had the loudest voices because they were hiding behind their keyboards but, when it got to the right audience, I had more support than I ever imagined possible.” While the negative effects of review bombing on a business are evident, the emotional damage inflicted by these scurrilous tactics can be deep and lasting. “Emotionally for me, it was a very taxing time,” Caputo admits. “To be receiving death threats, threats of having my business burned down and personal attacks on my character was trying. My family was worried for my safety and I was worried for my staff.
We began locking the door (it was takeout only at the time) and we would hand the food out the door. Staff were concerned for me as this grew nationally, but I think ultimately this was a great example of standing your ground and being validated. I also had to come to terms with the fact that the reviews were outlandish and that we had earned so many positive reviews that even these hundreds of negatives couldn’t hurt us, especially not with this new-found outpouring of support. We began reporting the reviews and Google actually removed most of them without much hassle. I knew that everyone that mattered was seeing the truth and that The Breakfast Pig was gaining positive national exposure.”
For other restaurateurs and business owners who find themselves in a similar situation, Caputo shares her advice: “Have integrity. You never know what is going to catapult you into the spotlight, so your actions are always important. Choose your words wisely and do things that you can confidently stand behind. The public has a way of finding the truth.”
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