Monday, January 31, 2011

Mark at 2:48AM Blog gets sued by Benihana Kuwait et al

Ooooops, what NOT to do.....  Can anybody say.... DAMAGE CONTROL?

Kuwait restaurant sues blogger for bad review

Last Updated: Feb 1, 2011
KUWAIT CITY // A Kuwaiti blogger said yesterday that the owner of a newly opened Benihana restaurant in Kuwait is suing him for posting an unfavourable review of a meal on his blog.
"I thought it was a bluff, but yesterday a court order was served," said Mark Makhoul, a Lebanese living in Kuwait who runs the popular blog "They're asking for financial compensation, and asking for my blog to be shut down," he said.
The controversy started in December, after Mr Makhoul had visited the Japanese-style restaurant in the Avenues Mall. He said in a post that service "wasn't too bad for a restaurant that's been open for a few days and the staff were really friendly". He then gave an unfavourable assessment of his meal, and summarised: "Would I go back to Benihana? No, I wouldn't.
"There are two other Japanese restaurants at the Avenues: Wasabi and Maki, and I would prefer either one of those to Benihana."
He posted two videos of the chef cooking and juggling with utensils on a hotplate, something for which the restaurant is known.
The company's general manager in Kuwait, Mike Servo, in a comment posted on Mr Makhou's post, claimed that Benihana's name has been "destroyed and abused" by the blog. He said the blog advised customers to go to other restaurants instead of Benihana "and we believe this is against the law of Kuwait".
Mr Servo said Kuwait's criminal investigation department has been informed of the case, adding on the blog: "BTW [by the way], are you Lebanese?"

"Whatever we said on the blog, we don't want to discuss it any further," he said, adding that any decision to stop legal proceedings would be made by the upper management.
A copy of the court order that was downloaded from Mr Makhoul's blog said the article suspected the quality and safety of the servings. It said the blogger, who works for an advertising agency, had "hidden intents".
"They think it's a conspiracy. It's a very far-fetched argument. I don't think they have a case," Mr Makhoul said.
The restaurant's owner, Abdul Rahman al Mutairi *, said yesterday that the law in Kuwait required both parties to refrain from speaking about the case until a verdict is reached.
Internet users from across the region have sent hundreds of messages of support to Mr Makhoul on Twitter and scores have vented their disgust with the US-headquartered franchise on its Kuwaiti Facebook page.
"Benihana, I think your management just ruined your reputation by suing the most popular blogger in Kuwait," said Osama Shaheen. "You should employ more professional people that understand constructive criticism. I have not tried your service and will never do so, not in Kuwait, not anywhere else."
"Wow," said another commentator, Salman Ager. "You guys need to hire a good agency. Your Kuwait brand is in crisis. What you have started is going to create a firestorm of negative publicity."
"Haven't you seen what's going on in Tunisia and Egypt?" he asked, "You have basically set up the same scenario online. And the odds are in favour of the public."
Mr Makhoul, who is waiting for the trial to begin on March 8, was feeling resilient yesterday. He said: "If they want to go ahead, I'm not going to chicken out. It doesn't just affect me; that's why I want everyone to get involved. If I lose this case it could affect all the bloggers in Kuwait."
He said he hopes the pressure will force the Benihana corporation to demand the Kuwaiti franchise owners drop the case.

* Las Palmas Company  owns a number of international food franchises across Kuwait such as Subway, Charlie’s Grill Subs, Jump Asian Fast Food, Benihana....


Anonymous said...

This will potentially become a case study taught in MBA and Law Schools
libel/slander laws in some countries (like Kuwait) have a low threshold - how many times have you read in the Arab Times of a Police officer or other official 'insulted'?,
very poor legal advice given to both the blogger and the restaurant,
the power of the the internet in the business world, and
crisis management/public relations opportunities that were arguably missed.
Mr/Mrs/Miss aspiring MBA or lawyer, how would you have acted differently?
Knowing Kuwaiti law, the judge will no doubt rule in favor of the restaurant.
The blogger may think he's winning on principle, but principle is not always codified into law (especially here in Kuwait).

Anonymous said...

To add insult to the injury,the blogger is even using his influence on the blogosphere in supporting him with his case. My question to the blogger is like this: If you were the owner of this restaurant, of which you invested alot of time,money & sweat, would it be ok with you if a very influential blogger gave a bad review of your restaurant? You may say YES, because that's what you did to them. But if I were on the same shoes of the restaurant, I will do the same to protect my property. I wouldn't mind others giving reviews if it won't affect the business. But c'mon, you're one of the most influential bloggers in that country and your reviews are being taken seriously by your followers.

Crazy in Kuwait said...

When I was in Kuwait I looked forward to the opening of Benihana, I love their food and entertainment but it didn't open until recently and I'm in the states so I told my mom to go. She took her husband and had dinner there and wasn't impressed with the food or the Indian guy flipping the food.

When you're used to Japanese chefs fixing the food it just isn't the same with the Indian guy. In California the chef would crack eggs and flip the shells up and they would land on his hat. My mom asked the Indian guy to do that, needless to say he tried it with a whole egg Duh!

Overall my mom wasn't blown away with it. It's sad that people can't take criticism and go running to the court. There is no freedom of speech in Kuwait.

Anonymous said...

The Mark vs Benihana article states that Mark is Lebanese. Mark's a Canadian!

Desert Girl said...

Anonymous 2:54.

I disagree. I write reviews on this blog that are truthful ALL the time; good or bad. Why should I - or Mark, or anyone else - be biassed in our personal perspectives? If something isn't good, it isn't good. So what? Improve on it and move on.

This is a case of freedom of speech (or lack thereof). Why should anyone (including magazines, newspapers, TV) be afraid to make negative, truthful comments because they might be sued or land in jail.

If I were the owner, I would exercise much better PR.

Anonymous said...

if they force u to shut the blog down and there is no other choice, u may continue it on a new website.

Anonymous said...

"There are two other Japanese restaurants at the Avenues: Wasabi and Maki, and I would prefer either one of those to Benihana."

That statement wouldn't force me to stay away from the Benihana here in Kuwait. But the owners reaction to sue someone for saying that does.
The owner just created negative publicity ten times worse. Simply amazing.

Desert Girl said...

Anonymous 2:31. You're right. I'm not publishing your post. You're not a nice person and I strongly recommend that you should stop reading my blog - and Mark's - and whoever else's - if you don't like them. Hey - start your own blog.

Anybody who starts his comment with, "Good...Mark deserves what if he is Canadian on paper, he's originally lebanese..." rates right up there on my list of what not to post. I don't take well to racism.

S s s seeeeeeeeeeeya!

Anonymous said...

It's not racism, it's his heritage...are you insulting his heritage? Do you know the meaning of racism? Is the fact that he is Lebanese before being a Canadian racist? Which planet are you from? Clearly the tool mark has brainwashed you and his other minions...and at 29 years old should at least understand the definition of racism...I knew you wouldn't post my comment not because of the 'racist' comments but because I insulted your leader of 'free speech' I said, freedom of speech goes both ways if you truly follow then my reply would have been posted, but no one in this world truly does follow the chiggity check yo self before you wreck yo self...unless i'm being racist now...

And I would love to start my own racist blog can you tell me how I may go about being racist?