How To Demolish Your Brand: Benihana And The Art of Suing Bloggers

Copyright Benihana Steakhouse

The Incident

Just in case you haven’t already heard, bloggers in Arabia unite today to show solidarity to a fellow blogger — Mark Makhoul — and his plight in an epic turn of events in response to a not-so-flattering review of his experience at Kuwait’s newly opened Benihana restaurants. The franchise holder of the restaurant posted a delusional response and promptly issued a lawsuit against Mark and deleted all comments shortly after coming under fire by bystanders.

The Original Post by Blogger Mark Makhoul

A few days back I posted about Benihana opening up at the Avenues and yesterday night I decided to pass by with Nat and try it out. 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 restaurant itself is made up of islands and bars with a grill in the middle of each one. You sit around the grill and the chef will come to your table and prepare the food right in front of you which makes things entertaining. It’s actually why I prefer sitting at the bar in Japanese restaurants in general, since you can talk to the chef and watch them put your dish together. The problem with my experience last night though was with the food, it was disappointing to say the least.

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. 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. Nat only ate one piece of chicken and left the rest while I needed my protein since I’m on a strict diet and forced myself to eat my whole plate (I can do that) but the after taste was really bad. Even the rice and the veggies that came with it tasted bad AND were under cooked. Once we left I considered picking up a frozen yogurt from Pinkberry even though I hate frozen yogurts but I just needed something to get rid of the aftertaste. A few moments later we ended up at Chocolate Bar ordering the gooey chocolate cake (bye bye diet).

I shot the two videos above of the chef preparing our meal. Benihana are known for the live shows they perform when preparing your dish so I was expecting to see [This] but ended up with the above . 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.

–End of Mark’s post

The General Manager’s Response

Dear Mr. Mark,

We are from Benihana management of Kuwait; my name is Mike Servo the GM of the Company .

Thank You for visiting us in our restaurant and dining in with your wife .I had found your comments and in your web site on Benihana. I also found it out that 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.

We respect opinion, but we see it in a way that Benihana name have been destroyed and abused on your website. We are eager to know your name and meet you personally if you don’t have anything to hide.

You mentioned clearly on a detour way on not to go to Benihana and go to Maki or Wasabi or Chocolate Bar and we believe that this is against the law of Kuwait, We respect our rights on not to advertise in your website and if we don’t, this will not mean that we will be hurt by your side and if this done, the court in Kuwait will be in our side to give us our rights. to make this conversation short . 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.

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.

This is the last comment from my side and LPRC side; we wish that you will be free to give us your info. BTW are you Lebanese? Thank for your concern and we have that you are brave to give us your info and we will meet in court soon.

Salute, Mike Servo

–End of comment

In short, this is free advice for brands out there looking at raising their game on the social front. Technology might have changed, but customer service ideals are still rooted in 300 year old businesses even today.

If you are a blogger and would like to show support, ost the same restaurant review on your blog and spread the word.

Links with more details about this story:

248am.com - My Benihana Experience
248am.com - I’m being sued by Benihana
248am.com - Media coverage on Benihana lawsuit
The National - Kuwait restaurant sues blogger for bad review
Boing Boing - Benihana Kuwait sues blogger for $18,000 over bad review
Fastcompany.com - Chop Sue-y: Benihana Takes Blogger to Court Over Poor Review

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