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Kuwait blogger sued for posting dinner experience

Restaurant took legal action against blogger for his 'negative' attitudes and for filming the videos without permission

  • By Habib Toumi, Bureau Chief
  • Published: 20:08 January 31, 2011

Manama: A Kuwait blogger is being sued by a restaurant after he posted his view on a dinner experience there.

"A few days back I posted about Benihana opening up at the Avenues and last night I decided to pass by with Nat and try it out," Mark wrote on his blog.

"The service wasn’t too bad for a restaurant that’s just been open for a few days and the staff were really friendly...The problem with my experience last night though was with the food, it was disappointing to say the least," he blogged under "My Benihana Experience".

Mark then explained in rich details the experience, ranging from the "good" negimaki to the "ordinary" Orange Blossom to the "bad" Hibachi chicken.

"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. I tried to dip it into the sauces that came with the chicken but it was hard to figure out if they were actually making things worse or not,' he wrote. "Even the rice and the veggies that came with it tasted bad AND were under cooked."

Mark reported that he shot two videos of the chef preparing the meal, saying that Benihana are known for the live shows they perform when preparing dishes.

He then concluded: "Would I go back to Benihana? No I wouldn’t. Their sashimi and makis 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."

However, Las Palmas, the company that owns Benihana in Kuwait, took legal action against Mark for his "negative" attitudes towards the restaurant and for filming the videos without permission.

The company alleged that Mark worked for an advertising company and might have personal motives that could be linked to his work to denigrate Benihana and praise its competitors located in the same area.

The blogger might also have sought to achieve personal fame and attract more readers to his blog by attacking a well-known restaurant, according to the court order that followed the company's complaint and posted by Mark.
The company said that Mark should in a first measure pay the company KD 5,001 ($17,875) and shut down his site before further legal action is taken against him.

The trial is set for March 8, according to the document.
However, Mark maintained his innocence.

"Benihana have the right to sue me, but I don’t believe I said or did anything wrong and I stand behind everything I said and wrote in that post," he said.

"I’ve personally been threatened with lawsuits a number of times before, I know another popular blog recently got threatened with a lawsuit from a restaurant as well and I am sure there must be other bloggers who at one point in time have also been threatened. 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? I’m hopefully not going to lose this case and will try my best to win it and set an example so that other companies understand that if they don’t like something they read on a blog they can’t just sue the blogger."

Mark said that he has been receiving "overwhelming amount of support on twitter."

"Honestly as much as I am a geek, I never really understood or realized how powerful twitter can be until now. I literally have over 50 pages filled with tweets from people all over the region offering support. It’s really unbelievable and a lot and I mean A LOT of people from Dubai have also been rallying behind me on this and according to one twitterer (is that the right word?) the Benihana topic is currently trending in Dubai at #8.," he said. "So thank you everyone for your support, I will try my best to keep everyone posted along the way on everything that takes place regarding this case."
Grace, an expatriate mother to a seven-year-old daughter living in Dubai, called for spreading the word about what happened.

"I appeal to everyone to make Benihana come to their senses and drop the stupid lawsuit. Blog about it, tweet it! Victory for Benihana means a Middle East blogger needs to have a lawyer on his/her side in case they write that sushi was bad," she blogged.

 

Should bloggers have the right to criticise others based on personal experience? Or is it considered defamation? Tell us what you think below.

Comments (10)

  1. Added 19:25 February 1, 2011

    this is as absurd as saying - the individual doesn't have a right to an opinion. infact, with the theory - bad publicity is still publicity, nonetheless... mark should sue the restaurant for cashing in on cheap publicity... at his expense! how ridiculous! and it will be more ridiculous if the restaurant wins the lawsuit, it will also show that the legal system is failing to recognize the rights of the individual over the corporate rights. to close... may justice prevail. amen!!!

    mehdiraza, dubai, United Arab Emirates

  2. Added 16:55 February 1, 2011

    One simple response to this affair--never eat at Benihana! I love Japanese food and wouldn't have even been put off on Benihani for the blogger's review. After all, he stated clearly that it was a new restaurant, only a few days or so in operation, so one would expect some issues. Benihana's response on the other hand is outrageous, and if the parent company doesn't rein in this Kuwaiti branch then I'll never set foot in a Benihana anywhere in the world. If they can't take the heat of a blogger's comments why do they put their kitchens right at the customers' tables? The response they should get now are picket signs outside their newly opened doors. They'll never win this case anyway. And I suspect their action has permanently tarnished their reputation.

    Bruce Dauphin, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  3. Added 16:41 February 1, 2011

    Looking at it from the aspect of advertising via 'word-of-mouth', I think the blogger is well within his rigths to tell of his experience. The restaurant has to take the good with the bad. I'm pretty sure that I would have done the same if I also had a bad experience. It's a sad day when we are criticised for our opnions instead of being simply asked "what can we do to make it better and change your mind?".

    Zisile, Tobago, Trinidad And Tobago

  4. Added 16:14 February 1, 2011

    Please understand customer is the king..and everyone have the right to express his opinion..Restaurant instead of suing have to make their products good.

    Binu Thomas, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  5. Added 15:34 February 1, 2011

    The company arguably has the right to sue the individual, however surely the reason for doing so is the negative press they would receive from the blog. Ironically I believe that the company have brought themselves more negative press through suing this individual than his personal blog would have ever brought about; more people will be interested in the post which caused the lawsuit and I think that in cases like this where companies attempt to sue an individual the company looses far more than the individual. Surely the restaurant would have gained more from inviting the individual back to the restaurant impressing him and allowing him to thus blog about his second improved visit.

    Sophie , Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  6. Added 14:13 February 1, 2011

    A restaurant is a public institution, licensed to serve public, I don't think their is a law forbid comments like that, if the person's comments are good do they also sue that person ?

    Sinan Al Alawy, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  7. Added 14:01 February 1, 2011

    the company has complete authority to sue him for taking a video inside the restaurant premises without permission from the management and then blogging about it.

    Mikhail , sharjah, United Arab Emirates

  8. Added 13:42 February 1, 2011

    Benihana should hire a very good PR agency to counter claims from customers who are not happy and deal with it personally with the company. Suing a customer for his experience [is wrong] and writing about it in his personal blog is his freedom.

    Ian Medalle, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  9. Added 12:35 February 1, 2011

    Utterly shortsighted of Benihana. Think of the potential business they will never get from this. And other hand they will get lots of business from people who want to see what the fuss is about. However, from a restuarantuer's perspective, if you have skeletons in the closet or your quality is truly not up to snuff, you are done for and might as well close now. You've shot the magic social media bullet Benihana, are you ready to live up to the mess that you started?

    Paz, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  10. Added 11:42 February 1, 2011

    This lawsuit is insane and Mark had a right to his opinion. Benihana has gone too far - they need to understand the basics of marketing and how to properly deal with a dissatisfied customer. Would a food critic in a newspaper be sued if they didn't like the food?

    Jad Aoun, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

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