Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Benihana Kuwait. What you can do.

I'm sorry, I know I'm going on about this but I believe strongly that it is wrong and should be addressed by the very public that Benihana Kuwait has shown such contempt for in its actions.

I sent this message to Benihana Tokyo, the company responsible for the international Benihana franchise,  tonight. You can do the same - cut and paste mine, write your own, whatever. Just use the contact form linked right here.


I'm contacting you to let you know that I, and very many others across the Middle East, am angry and concerned that one of your franchisees has seen fit to issue suit against a blogger who posted a negative review of a poor experience in Kuwait's Benihana franchise.

The resulting online outcry will not go away, more and more mainstream media are picking up the story and it is highly likely to be covered by international media. It's a landmark suit - not only against Kuwait's most popular blog, not only unfair but also the first time that a company in the Middle East - a region with its own issues with censorship and repression - has sued a blogger.

Benihana Kuwait's maladroit handling of this issue has already created a social media case study that will run and run. It's time to stop this.

I urge you to pressure your franchisee into dropping this unwise suit. It has already caused untold damage to the Benihana brand in this region - you can act before it does so internationally.

The guys at 2:48AM shouldn't have to defend an expensive, scary and vicious - let alone frivolous - suit from a corporate company in this way for expressing their opinion as consumers. It's got to stop.


PS: A chronology of this goof-up is now up over at the UAE Community Blog.


Bilal said...

I'm on it!!

Mich said...

On it too! :-)

mir said...


Anonymous said...

Me four (with embellishments).

Ant said...


Grace @ Sandier Pastures said...

Just before I opened Twitter and clicked this post's link,my husband started writing a letter addressed to Benihana Tokyo Group. He's it written in Japanese (my husband is Japanese) so let's hope somehow Benihana would get full understanding of what's going on and take action.

Fingers crossed. For Mark and all of us bloggers!

Andrew said...

done it, but had to change as I am in London and this is going to beinternational very quickly I am sure.

Dejoe John said...

On it. Will do it tomorrow itself.!

Arpitha said...

Am not too much into blogs and have never before read Marks blog. When I read in your blog about a blogger being sued for his negative review in his blog, I read the blog. I read all related blog, tweets, Benihana facebook page… and now you have one more person supporting Mark and swearing never to visit Benihana.
There would be thousands like me. Then, people have different tastes, all may not avoid Benihana just based on Marks review.. So what turns out is, Benihana’s reputation was not as much damaged by Mark’s review as by the childish comment and action taken by Mike Servo.

Actually when I read the comment by Mike Servo I could not believe that he was actually the GM of Benihana but sounded like someone wanting to degrade Benihana’s image. But the lawsuit served to Mark proves that he is actually what he claimed to be. Then what went through my mind was, how could such immature person with zero customer service knowledge be appointed as GM of a franchise of such a big brand. But now am not surprised or rather shocked. Even after so much has happened over the issue no one from Benihana has even commented or come forward with an apology. So there it is. All are in the same boat. The GM is no different from the whole Benihana group.

Benihana having a facebook account shows they know something about the social network but they are yet to know the power of social network. Which now they would come to know in the worst way ever.

Am sure this whole incident will become a case study for MBA and other such Business Management studies. How the failure to accept a negative review brought down a big restaurant group. The same negative feedback if wisely used and reacted could have proved to be their way to success

PS:Have posted at Benihana Tokyo as well..

Sangsiv said...

I decided to write a different letter as I thought it would be more authentic. Heres what I wrote - Sorry this is a bit long and has plenty of mistakes :)

Dear Benihana,

I'm writing you this letter regarding the impending case brought by Benihana Kuwait Management - Las Palmas Company, against Mark the Blogger who runs the popular Kuwait Blog 248am.com.

Mark posted a review among many others that he posts about his experiences in dining, here in Kuwait. I read the review and was to be quite honest, not very surprised even though it was about Benihana. Now I have experienced Benihana in London, which I thought was pretty cool. I like the concept of Benihana, the community feel and the authenticity of the Japanese dining experience.

However let me tell you why I was not very surprised...in Kuwait whether you are a five star hotel or a regular fast food chain, in general, there is always a gap between brand promise and the reality of what you experience of that brand here. Often franchises hire local talent that are not fully qualified for the job. I say this humbly as a person who has worked in an international five star chain here, for over 5 years.

Now I'll not pretend to know the details of your agreement with the local company but the fact is that THEY definitely do not know how to handle your customers right.

Some local restaurants here actually get it right and often they are not big conglomerates or famous restauranteurs such as yourself. However in all cases successful companies here take ALL feedback as positive and feed-it-back into the training and development cycle.

I understand why the local company would be upset but honestly aren't they/you in the service industry? Is this really the best way to deal with a CUSTOMER? I always thought it was a blessing when a customer complains that he has received poor service because it is an amazing opportunity to rectify our mistakes.

I'm sure you are aware that all your customers are not having great experiences, there any many customers unlike Mark, who will not bother to give you a complete breakdown of what went wrong and indeed what went right in his experience here. They will simply go the the competition. Kuwait is soooo small and there's already over 9 japanese restaurant brands..not to mention the outlets, stand alones, fusion-concept and what not.

This is an opportunity for you to fully understand how people are experiencing your brand in Kuwait. Its a lot better than all your customer feedback questionnaires and mystery diners and it costs nothing.

We are now in a social media world...the conversations about your brand are happening out there in cyberspace whether they/you listen or not. To paraphrase Mr. Mike Servo - Social Media is an elephant...I think the appropriate word to use would be multiverse. It is obvious that the local company at least, does not have an appropriate 'Social Media Strategy' on how to deal with bloggers, facebookers, tweeps and the like. Bloggers spread their word out on a network...a network of thousands even millions of users. This is not the mainstream media where you issue a decree and thats it. Do they seriously think, I mean are they that naive to believe that because they sue one blogger and try to shut him up or close down the blog that this will never happen again? You cannot sue them all!

The backlash of this minor incident has brought major, some would argue irreparable, damage to your brand and image.

I strongly urge you to consult with the local company here in Kuwait and advise them on how best to deal with this escalating PR crisis.

As I said I am a Benihana fan, please don't disappoint me as you have done Mark.

Nagham said...

done! I hope they at least come back with a response and not completely ignore us.

alexander... said...

Sangsiv, I thought you put it wonderfully! :)

Dana said...

Done! Hope they wake up and take action.

Anonymous said...

It is absolutely unbelievable that a corporate would do such a thing. I myself write reviews of restaurants in Bahrain.
Mark has my complete support and I wish that everything changes in his favour.

Gnomad said...

added my two pennyworth too

Mazen said...

Done and Done. Anything else we can do? ...mass blogging for example? :)

Jessy said...

Done, done, andddd done!!

Things like this make my blood boil.. grrrrr.

rosh said...


I also called their 212 number displayed on the contact webpage, here in NYC. I asked for the PR department. The receptionist put me through to a lady, who said, there isn't a PR department(?) And get this, apparently, she KNEW why I was calling. She just went on to say, they are reviewing the Kuwait matter, and do not have a comment at this time. I expressed disappointment and a bit of outrage at Mike Servo's "threat" and subsequent actions.

So yeah, Mike, the word IS going to spread!

Greg said...

awaiting reply.

Sara said...


Agree that this is an issue that needs to be talked about and I'm glad that it hasn't been let go.

Also happy to see bloggers sticking together :)

Thanks Alex.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link. I just let them know what I think about their lack of skill in the area of customer relationship management and apparently, their lack of knowledge about the power of "word-of-mouth" advertising. The actions of this company wreak of desperation to me. Clearly, any blogger misleading people, contriving things, trying to blackmail, and such ilk, would not be very popular for very long and would quickly lose viewers. It does not seem as if 248AM is experiencing those kinds of problems. The Benihana Chain and Las Palmas Company has lost my respect. My word of mouth advertising will be loud and costly to them. I am in USA. Do think they will sue me?

Sally - My Custard Pie said...

Done. And circulated to the UAE food blogging community too.

Manodrama said...

Looks like their Facebook page has been taken down the Benihana Kuwait one- unless I am mistaken!

Anonymous said...

just posted the comment on Benihana Japan website. Hope they see common sense. I think they should fire the general manager of Benihana Kuwait for mishandling this case and generating bad publicity for the entire brand.

I for one will never ever visit Benihana because of this incident.



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