Storytelling Weekly – #004 Botto Bistro

It was 2014, before my marketing years.

I was working in San Francisco as an M.E. consultant and living next to the marina of Richmond City.

Once a week, I would swing by the nearest food court to visit a small Italian restaurant called Botto Bistro.

The food was terrific…

…but their story was even better!

One quick note:

According to their website, the owners sold their restaurant at a profit in 2020 – at the beginning of the global pandemic.

Therefore, I was hesitant to include the restaurant in this series.

However, their story is too interesting not to share. So enjoy! 😉

BTW – The owner runs an online cooking business (The One Star Chef). If you find their story interesting, feel free to check it out.

Recap of Storytelling Weekly

Before diving in, here’s a quick recap for newcomers just tuning in to my One Story A Week Series. 

  • Once a week, I’ll find an interesting brand to study.
  • I’ll break down what I like about their storytelling techniques.
  • Then, I’ll show you how to utilize these stories in email campaigns.
Full Disclaimer

I don’t have any insider info or access to their account. So, I’m writing based on studying their website, interviews, and emails. However, I don’t have proof of earning claims or results of specific campaigns.

Now, there won’t be any “hard selling” in this series, but – 

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Brand Introduction

Ecommerce Email Marketing - Botto Bistro Logo

Botto Bistro was founded in 2010 by partners Davide Cerretini and Michele Massimo. And just like their names…

The restaurant carried a solid Italian attitude.

Because when you entered the space, the first thing you noticed was a chalkboard saying:

“OMG! We have no butter, no ice, no lemon, no ranch. We charge for bread. We charge for everything. We don’t change TV channel. We should be out of business. What can you do? Hate us on Yelp and get 25% off any pizza for your one star review.”

(I told you they were interesting)

Storytelling Tactics

“People will do anything for those who encourage their dreams, justify their failures, allay their fears, confirm their suspicions, and help them throw rocks at their enemies.”

– Blair Warren, The One Sentence Persuasion Course

Throwing rocks at your enemies is one of the most effective ways to cultivate raving fans. Because deep down, you’re screaming, “This is what WE believe!”

(in a very controversial way)

If we’re to find one textbook example of throwing rocks at your enemies…

It had to be Botto Bistro.

In 2014, they started the Hate Us On Yelp campaign…

Inviting customers to leave a one-star review on their Yelp page in exchange for a discount. This brought countless media attention plus thousands of raving fans.

I remember my neighbor (who first introduced me to Botto) raved about the campaign during one of our movie nights.

Now, I don’t believe a billion-dollar company like Yelp was “financially hurt” during the campaign…

But Botto successfully forced the website to “manually” remove most of their 1-star reviews and forged a faked 3-star outcome.

A pretty cool David vs. Goliath story.

During this time, I remember the owners sending a weekly email newsletter that continued building on their positioning.

Ecommerce Email Marketing - Botto Bistro Email

Now, in most cases, I’m not too fond of design-heavy emails…

But Botto’s newsletter was always fun to read.

From the pre-header:


To the opening headline:

Worsted rated business on Yelp

Starts today June 1st

To the content:


Well, if you are a Yelp supporter this is certainly not the place for you. We will raise the prices of each item and we will make sure to give you a reason to give us one star or less. All our customers, fans and friends can rest assure. Botto is a Yelp free environment. No whining.

They undoubtedly took “throwing rocks at your enemies” to the next level.

Email Tip of The Week

Now, let’s look at your business.

How can you throw rocks at your enemies?

First, you need to identify an enemy.

– It can be a titan in the market (like Yelp in the restaurant business)

– It can be an unethical guru (like my newsletter on Troy)

– It can be the mass production practices in the industry (like Garagiste or Perennial Pastures Ranch)

– It can be a long-standing belief (like “Granny doesn’t make the best cookie” at Last Crumb)

– It can be the annoyance of a “traditional way” (like my dislike for design-heavy emails)

– Or it can even be the “lack of solution” in the market (like Hug Sleep)

As you can see, there are infinite ways to position yourself against a common enemy.

(No, you don’t have to be a psychopath, attacking every competitor in the market. Sometimes, the market IS the enemy.)

When you’ve identified a clear enemy…

Put yourself on a quest to fight for an opposite belief.

Make a stand. Stick to it.

You can’t cultivate a following of raving fans if you are blowing hot and cold.

A Word of Warning

Now, it’s important to understand the caveat behind this strategy…

Throwing rocks at your enemies means making the claim that –

“We are different!”

“People like use believe in things like these.”

In most cases, it means taking a stand and following higher standards.

But higher standards come with a cost.

(especially if you want to be exceptional)

To give you a few examples – 

Perennial Pastures Ranch took the stand for the regenerative agriculture movement. This means it will always be more expensive for PPR to raise 1 lb of beef… compared to Tyson Foods.

Last Crumb claims to offer Michelin-level cookies. Then, Last Crumb must use the best ingredients possible.

Botto Bistro was always making fun of the “whiners” on Yelp. Well, they got to excel in their food… or else the joke is on them.

(their food was delicious… or I wouldn’t go there every week)

You get my point.

But higher risk, higher reward.

Throwing rocks at your enemies helps you stand out from the crowd.

So, go make some enemies today! 😆