Monday, 31 January 2011

Benihana Bashes Bloggers

THE AINU BABE OF OLD HOKKAIDO -- Japanese Citi...Image by Okinawa Soba via FlickrKuwaiti blog TWOFOURTYEIGHTAM (2:48AM to you) is a lively and wide-ranging affair put together by bloggers Mark and Nat. It's respected, popular, well-written, pretty objective and, as both are designers, is clean and easy to read. The B-side to 2:48AM is 2:48PM, which is a community blog and is pretty big as blogs in Kuwait go (and Kuwait has a lively blogging scene).

In the middle of December last year, Mark posted a review on the 'A sides' of Kuwait's newly opened Japanese restaurant Benihana Kuwait. It's linked here for your delectation and delight. Mark wasn't terribly impressed by his experience at the restaurant. Although he pointed out that, "The service wasn’t too bad for a restaurant that’s just been open for a few days and the staff were really friendly." he also went on to say: "The problem with my experience last night though was with the food, it was disappointing to say the least."

Mark  then explains the reasons for his disappointment in detail, concluding, "Would I go back to Benihana? No I wouldn't.'

He also took a video of the 'show' the chefs put on while cooking. The acrobatics at Benihana are apparently something to behold, but this is a very ordinary looking display of, well, cooking.

So there we go - a bad experience at Benihana Kuwait gets a bad review from a customer. And there it ended. Or not quite. Nested in the 74 comments (I said it was a popular blog, didn't I?) are several 'happy customer' astroturf comments that came from, as Mark pointed out, the same IP address. And then there's the comment (linked here for your listening pleasure) from a geezer called Mike Servo, who claimed to be the general manager of the Benihana management of Kuwait and who threatened to sue Mark. A couple of quotes:

"...our rights and name is being used in a wrong way and broadcasting the video without a proper consent from us is really annoying specially Benihana is just opened up its doors to the public. We are seeking and consulting our legal dept. on how we can form a type of law suit against your website to be brought up to the Kuwait authorities."

He goes on to trill: "We want you to give us your information, your name, your number and your address so our lawyer will take it from there and be sure that you in Kuwait were the jury is 100 % clean and fair."

And then for some bizarre reason starts talking about elephants: "We also expect that you might be sending people to Benihana to make a play and that is why we have informed the CID about that, In the past we encountered your add in Subway and it is one of our companies franchise, we really didn’t give it any attention, and it very clear now that Subway is an elephant while other competitors are closing down, however this time we will not let it go and we will follow you legally."

Not terribly nice, in all. He ends the comment by asking Mark if he's Lebanese!

"A comedy classic" says one following commenter.

"I have a feeling that your restaurant will be closing in no time at this pace! I’m planning to try it out to see how bad it really is, and if it is bad I’m going to probably write a worse review" says another.

"I was going to visit Benihana .. but after seeing how you treat customers reviewing your restaurant, I plan on avoiding it at all costs." Is another comment.

This comment neatly sums up the considerable outpouring of anger at the management of Benihana Kuwait - for astroturfing, for its furious reaction and for threatening a lawsuit. "As a representative of such a well known brand it is shocking that you would conduct yourself in such an unprofessional manner. I am sure the franchise policy of Benihanas is not one of engaging those who are not satisfied with its product by posting baseless claims and threatening frivolous lawsuits that serve no other purpose but discredit any legitimate concern or issue you may have."

Mark posted up on Twitter yesterday that he had received the lawsuit. Benihana Kuwait actually went ahead and sued a blogger for writing a bad review of their restaurant. I have the feeling this won't end here...

UPDATE: This is the Benihana Kuwait Facebook Page. A truly stunning read.
(You'll have to click 'Just others' to see the comments)
Update to update: They deleted the comments. Grief.

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18 comments:

Grace @ Sandier Pastures said...

So they want customers to chew bad food and just choke on it? I was always in the understanding that restaurant reviews are harmless and should be seen as "constructive criticism" by the restaurant.

And now, someone is being sued for it!?

Rupert Neil Bumfrey said...

If only I was in Tunbridge Wells my Lawyer would have been instructed!

A Norwegian Grey fiasco.......

Bilal said...

I cannot comprehend how, in the 21st century, people can still use this sort of language! Seriously?!

By the way, his blog post has been submitted to reddit ;-)

Sangsiv said...

Whether Mike Servo and the rest of his cronies have a legal right or not to sue..it goes to show that the so-called freedom of the internet is still governed by the stricter laws of the country.

Im worried this will set a precedent and will censor the only truly 'free press' in Kuwait...

Jayne said...

Good grief! I was always under the impression that criticism, whether it be good or bad, was a constructive thing. How absolutely petty for this restaurant to try & sue the customer (the blogger was a customer after all) over a bad review.
If I were to do a write up on the atrocious service & crappy food dished up in restaurants in the town where I currently live, I swear I'd be publicly flogged!

Seabee said...

I sincerely hope that the bloggers have been in contact with the franchise HQ. They will surely put a stop to this arrogant nonsense and fire the franchisee for bringing the brand into disrepute.

This story needs the widest possible publicity to expose Servo to the world. I'll repeat it on my blog Alex, I hope others do the same.

MaliZOMG said...

They just deleted all my comments and posts on the Benihana Kuwait page and have banned me from posting.

All I was doing was stating my opinion.

http://www.facebook.com/BenihanaKuwait

Sarah Walton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sarah Walton said...

I'm going to prosecute them for murder of the English language...

What exactly are they suing him for? For libel, they will have to prove the statement was false, then that the statement caused harm, and thirdly that the statement was mad without appropriate research. Dong, dong, dong. They cannot prove the statement was false, because the meal in question has been digested. They cannot prove the statement did harm - their own terrible food is far more likely to have done the harm. The appropriate research is evident, because he dined at the restaurant, ate the foul givings and has video to prove it. They will lose.

Sorry had to remove last post because iPad spell check didn't like what I wrote and kept on changing my words.

Bodie Brodaus said...

I don't think they're suing him so he'd redact his statement. I think Beniana Kuwait is doing this to Mark as a SLAPP suit, which is not at all uncommon. The NY Times wrote about this way back in 2009.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/01/us/01slapp.html?_r=1&th=&emc=th&pagewanted=all

Gerry said...

just reposted on facebook. excellent.

Dana said...

On the bright side, this makes an excellent case study on what not to do in response to negative criticism from a PR perspective.

Putting blatantly fake comments then verbally attacking and suing the blogger, where they could have just as easily invited him back for a second chance review. #epic #fail

Fahed Bizzari said...

What a shame. I ate at Benihana the other night with my wife and sis and it was a very enjoyable experience for the three of us. (Benihana in Dubai Bustan Rotana.)

I've been going to Benihana's since I was a small kid and, although the quality of their food did take a small hit about 10 years ago, I've enjoyed Benihana in all of their London restaurants and here too.

If Benihana is a franchise, then its that franchise who really is to blame (IMHO).

p.s. I don't work for Benihana... Alex and other commentors will know me from Twitter.

Mockingbird said...

I have to admit to being completely befuddled by this entire affair. It all seems so irrational! Disproportionate! One becomes almost curious as to how they would respond to a really bad review with pictures? Weird, it's a restaurant, and people are entitled to their opinions. This response is almost indicative of a company that has something else to hide.

jessyz said...

Even if they win such a lawsuit they have lost lots of potential customers. 2:48am is really popular in Kuwait, they should have called him and invited him for a free dinner or something instead of all of this

Wow said...

wow! even Wikipedia has updated this;

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benihana

Abdulghaphor Hajjieh said...

It's quite sad.

I hope mark recovers from such abuses.

As they say, some people "use" the law to gain advantages.

SarahS said...

i havent been to Benihana and not planning to after reading about all the disrespectful act they have took. Not only did they lose their reputation, but they have also lost MANY of their customers that are planning to go. If Benihana kept quite, they would not have wasted their reputation