All Kuwait-based food blogger Mark Makhoul wanted was some good grilled chicken. Now he says he's been served a lawsuit instead.
Makhoul alleges that the owner of a newly opened Benihana restaurant in Kuwait is suing him for bashing the food at the Japanese-style chain. When he visited the restaurant--famous for its chefs who toss food and light banter at you from behind a teppanyaki table--Makhoul found the staff friendly enough and the beef negimayaki bearable. But then he bit into the 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.
OK, so Makhoul wasn't exactly thrilled about the chicken--we see reviews like this on sites like Yelp every day. Why the lawsuit?
According to Fast Company, Benihana is charging Makhoul with misrepresenting his experience at the restaurant to generate publicity and seeking around $18,000 in damages. For all you Arabic speakers out there, Makhoul has posted what he claims is the original court order, along with a reader's English translation.
In a press release, Miami-based Benihana stressed that the Benihana brand is co-owned by "two separate and distinct corporate entities"--Benihana and Benihana of Tokyo--and that it's Benihana of Tokyo or its franchisee that has brought the alleged lawsuit. The chief operating officer of Benihana of Tokyo told BoingBoing that he hadn't yet seen the suit and that "a lawsuit over a bad review was 'unprecedented' in the firm's history."
Makhoul argues that the case is about more than Benihana or bad chicken:
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?
In an interview with The National in Abu Dhabi, the owner of the Benihana in Kuwait said that both parties can't speak about the case until a verdict is reached, according to Kuwaiti law.
Benihana Kuwait responds, "Rest assured that it is not and we repeat notttt for a negative review, we understand the concept behind blogs, the reason will be revealed in a later stage after the hearings, so stay tuned."