Giving a restaurant a negative review might cost a food blogger here in the United States a few readers. But in Kuwait, that same bad review could cost her or him upwards of $18,000.
A newly opened branch of the Japanese-style chain Benihana in Kuwait is suing a Kuwaiti blogger for saying he didn't like the food and is seeking $18,000 in damages.
Just wait until you see the review at the center of all the controversy:
Here's the $18,000 review (written by blogger Mark Makhou):
We ordered beef negimayaki for starters followed by an Orange Blossom maki and a Hibachi Chicken. The negimaki arrived looking good and was probably the best thing we had there even though I prefer Maki’s negimaki which has a richer teriyaki sauce. The Orange Blossom was very ordinary, wouldn’t order it again. Now the Hibachi chicken which is basically grilled chicken, that was the worst. The chicken was very chewy (I could swear it was undercooked if not raw) and tasted terrible. Even after I had the chef add some more teriyaki sauce in hopes of improving the taste it didn’t work. [...] Would I go back to Benihana? No I wouldn’t. Their sashimi and maki’s are pretty cheap (KD1.5 for 5 pieces of Salmon sashimi for example) but there are two other Japanese restaurants at the Avenues, Wasabi and Maki, and I would prefer either one of those to Benihana.
Seriously? Benihana thinks that is a bad review? I'm pretty sure my own grandmother has written much worse things on Yelp.
Yet, Benihana's general manager found the review so offensive that he accused Makhou of misrepresenting his experience for publicity purposes and slapped him with the lawsuit.
Now before outraged Benihana regulars organize a boycott -- and believe me, that plan is in the works -- it is important to note that the Benihana brand is co-owned by two separate and distinct corporate entities: Benihana and Benihana of Tokyo. Allegedly, Benihana of Tokyo is behind the suit.
Makhou's court date is March 8. In the meantime, he's raising an interesting question about the lack of protection for bloggers in Kuwait.
If blogs were recognized like newspapers or magazines we would all be protected from lawsuits like this but at the moment we aren't. I find this unfair and if I end up losing this case what will it mean to all the other bloggers? Should bloggers be afraid to say anything negative about a company? Should all our posts just be happy happy joy joy?
And to think, Benihana Kuwait could have made this all just gone away with a few coupons or free drinks.
Do you think Makhou should pay Benihana for his "bad" review?
Image via Loren Javier/Flickr