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Blogger Sued By Restaurant For Bad Review 166

Posted by samzenpus
from the no-steak-for-you dept.
Voulnet writes "A recently opened Benihana branch in Kuwait sued 248am.com, a well known Kuwaiti blog, for posting a bad restaurant review about its food, asking for the blog to be shut and more than $17,500 in damages (5000 KD). Kuwaiti bloggers everywhere have announced their support for the reviewing blogger; even though it is highly unlikely the restaurant will get anything from the court, since journalists are almost always favored in libel cases in Kuwaiti courts. It seems Benihana hasn't heard of Cooks source magazine."
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Blogger Sued By Restaurant For Bad Review

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  • by Even on Slashdot FOE (1870208) on Tuesday February 01, 2011 @05:59PM (#35073294)

    Oh wait, I'm fairly certain it has already started. Too bad I'm not going to Kuwait so I can snub these people. Still, they have all the bad publicity they could ever wish to avoid.

    • BIG-TIME Streisand Effect! This is like the third or fourth place I've seen this posted today!!
      • I'm a US citizen living In Brazil. There are similar lawsuits. I run a cybercafe here, am being sued for the emails a client sent. Can't locate the client, so I respond for defamation. USD$35,000 asked in damages. Heck selling the whole store and all my personal funds wouldn't pay that. Bloggers here are routinely sued for the comments people leave on their websites. The law is applied case-by-case. Phone companies, car manufacturers, and gun manufacturers, for some strange reason, aren't responsible for
    • by reub2000 (705806) on Tuesday February 01, 2011 @06:14PM (#35073480)

      Slashdot effect in 3...2...1...

      Oh wait, I'm fairly certain it has already started.

    • Whatever...

      I somewhat doubt that they worry about what you or me think about them, their only trouble is the Streissand effect in Kuwait.

    • by BluBrick (1924)
      I'm going to snub these people whether I go to Kuwait or not. No way these folks are getting any of my hard earned (dinars? riyals?). Nuh-uhh!
    • That's what they want. Front page global advertisement.
    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      They have Benihana restaurants here in the states, too. And in other places. Why not just avoid them?

      Your posting style looks familiar. I wonder who this is a later account for?

      • by mcvos (645701)

        They have Benihana restaurants here in the states, too. And in other places. Why not just avoid them?

        The other Benihana restaurants might not agree with the lawsuit, and they can't stop it either. The Benihana franchise might kick the Kuwait restaurant out of the franchise for damaging their name, though. Boingboing had a short interview with them where they suggested that this might happen.

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          Pretty sure it WILL happen if enough people boycott them. Tricky to make it happen though.

    • by arisvega (1414195)
      Balls to them!
  • by TommydCat (791543) on Tuesday February 01, 2011 @05:59PM (#35073300) Homepage
    but... those dudes have really large knives!
  • by jandrese (485) <kensama@vt.edu> on Tuesday February 01, 2011 @06:04PM (#35073348) Homepage Journal
    Benihana isn't bad, but it is badly overpriced for what it is. Unless you're lucky to get the chef who really knows how to put on a show it's simply not worth the premium over all of the other Japanese steakhouse options. The food is alright, but unexceptional--you're paying mostly for the show. If the show isn't outstanding, the whole thing tends to be a waste of time.

    This also means reviews for those Steakhouses can vary quite a lot, depending on who the reviewer got that evening.
    • by Dunbal (464142) * on Tuesday February 01, 2011 @06:18PM (#35073530)
      You're missing the point - it's not about the food, it's about them thinking they can silence any criticism by suing. Whether or not you like Benihana, taste is subjective and opinions are usually protected speech in countries that still believe in free speech. He doesn't have to like Benihana, and he sure is allowed to tell the whole world that he doesn't like it - whether Benihana likes it or not. One would expect a chain with a halfway decent customer service/PR department to try and address the issues, not launch lawsuits. IN MY OPINION Benihana behaved foolishly, and I certainly will never eat there because of this. There are plenty of other, less pretentious restaurants. I'm sure this will cost them far, far more than $15,000 worldwide.
      • by mattack2 (1165421)

        Are Benihana restaurants company owned or franchises? *Especially* if they're franchises, it seems unwise to punish the entire chain (including other franchises, if that is indeed what they are), for the actions of one particular store.

        • It's plenty fair to punish the whole chain. If the corporate HQ allows a franchise to act like this without having their franchise license revoked, then you boycott the whole chain. It's like boycotting Activision. You don't just boycott Activision's own stuff, you boycott any devs who sign up with them for publishing too. You choose to do business with an entity of questionable ethics, you suffer the consequences. In this case that would be any franchisees as well as wholly owned locations.
          • by hurfy (735314)

            There are apparently 2 "chains"

            US, Central and South America are a diferent chain, and didnt seem too impressed.

            The other HQ had no comment yet. Benihana of Tokyo (in New York!) The name alone is.....well nm

            pretty entertaining comment section...i hope their lawyer eats A LOT of food....doesn't sound like many others there plan to :O

        • by Firehed (942385)

          Yes, they are.

          Which I only know after searching Wikipedia to figure out what the hell everyone was talking out, the uncultured slob that I am.

          • by mattack2 (1165421)

            I asked an either/or question, and you answered "Yes".

            (According to Wikipedia, the parent company does franchise, as well as own some stores.)

        • by Belial6 (794905)
          The point of a franchise is to associate your business with all the other businesses with the same name. Of course they have to take the good with the bad.
        • by Dunbal (464142) *
          Ahh, so you want all of the benefits of being associated with a brand name, and none of the problems. Where was this fantasy world again?
      • by jandrese (485) <kensama@vt.edu> on Tuesday February 01, 2011 @07:07PM (#35074126) Homepage Journal
        Does Kuwait even have protected free speech? I know it's pretty liberal by Middle Eastern standards, but that's not saying much.
      • Problem is, we're just on the turning point where stifling lawsuits work.

        Your Country May Vary, but it only takes about 3 more dumb laws to make it game over.

      • by zonky (1153039)
        He implied that the chicken was tasteless- fine. He said it was becuase it was undercooked raw, which now means he's accused Benihana of trying to poison/kill people. Which is certainly not so fine.
        • by arivanov (12034)

          It does not matter how much you cook a spoiled chicken you will still be sick. You get sick from the toxins which are already in the meat at that point. Most bacterial toxins are not destroyed by normal cooking (and especially japanese style cooking which is quite "gentle"). Cooking is there to kill parasites - various flatworms, etc, not bacterial toxins.
          Similarly, you can eat as much as you like half-raw chicken. If the meat is fresh from a poultry which runs proper hygiene and a farm which runs a proper

      • One would expect a chain with a halfway decent customer service/PR department to try and address the issues, not launch lawsuits.

        Agreed. And... it's a restaurant chain. That shifts matters considerably, in my opinion. I can understand how a single small restaurant can feel itself exceedingly vulnerable to criticism. Fair criticism and fair praise are how a restaurant becomes known, so any decent restaurant will welcome both, but unfair or malicious treatment is another matter. It can really hurt r
    • by Fallen Kell (165468) on Tuesday February 01, 2011 @06:33PM (#35073716)
      That said, I don't think the show had changed since it the places have opened. You get the shrimp tail flip to the chef's shirt pocket or hat, the onion "volcano" from oil/water, the "egg roll" joke (at least in English speaking ones), the beating fried rice heart (assuming you ordered the fried rice, same with the egg roll since it is normally when they are cooking the fried rice), and then you get some salt/pepper shaker tapping/flipping, and maybe some skilled knife-work....
      • by Moryath (553296) on Tuesday February 01, 2011 @06:43PM (#35073862)

        They used to do a lot more.

        I remember when they'd do the flame-flash with the meat. (Cam'ron, Can't Hurt My Style, "Flame it like Benihana's...")

        The juggling with various ingredients to make the fried rice.

        A lot of it is skilled knife-work, no question. Then again, ever time I've gone with friends to Benihana, the food's been wonderful.

        YMMV by location and by chef, of course. And that pretty much holds for any Teppanyaki place.

        • by mrmeval (662166)

          They are on the low side here. We have several great teppanyaki places here. The only thing keeping benihaha from obscurity is their past reputation, their name, that they had deep pockets when they picked their location and yuppies who have no taste.
          There two locally owned teppanyaki places local to me and one fantastic sushi place. I love locally owned businesses as they pay taxes to local government and are a part of the community. In all three of those restaurants I am greeted by name if the server know

          • by PachmanP (881352)

            hey are on the low side here. We have several great teppanyaki places here. The only thing keeping benihaha from obscurity is their past reputation, their name, that they had deep pockets when they picked their location and yuppies who have no taste. There two locally owned teppanyaki places local to me and one fantastic sushi place. I love locally owned businesses as they pay taxes to local government and are a part of the community. In all three of those restaurants I am greeted by name if the server knows me and I've never gotten a bad meal.

            You have to go look for them rather than stop in the mall's choke and puke outlot area or the faux trendy areas with 'upscale' chains that slop mystery sauce and near dehydrated veggies in a wok and serve it too you without having too much of the cooks sweat as an added awesome sauch.

            Gah! Pretentious much?

      • How we all feel, via PvP Online [pvponline.com].
    • it's simply not worth the premium over all of the other Japanese steakhouse options.

      Or even options that serve real Japanese food.

  • ...Benihana really doesn't have any room to complain. On the other hand, if the blogger was pulling a Deadspin vs. ESPN move, they *should* go after him.

  • If "we" wanted to get nasty about this we could just go ahead and 1 write actual letters to the corporate office in protest 2 boycott the place 3 do both

    Now what should have been done is the operator should have contacted the blogger and then sorted it out privately
    (hint comp a meal and figure out if its a product/training issue).

    • by gknoy (899301)

      You could DOS them with physical mail (but probably shouldn't), but very few of us live in Kuwait so a boycott might be less effective.

      • by Dogtanian (588974)

        You could DOS them with physical mail (but probably shouldn't), but very few of us live in Kuwait so a boycott might be less effective.

        If you were really serious, you'd move to Kuwait and *then* boycott them. ;-)

      • by shawb (16347)
        Benihana is a chain. There's a good chance you can boycott locally.
  • Here. [googleusercontent.com]
    • by bwintx (813768)
      Sorry to reply to my own post, but thought I'd also post a link to the Google cache of the review that got the whole 'storm started: Cache of review [googleusercontent.com].
      • by sconeu (64226)

        No way in hell is that libel. That's an ordinary restaurant review.

        • by reilwin (1303589)
          The linked videos of his visit are hosted on youtube and in one you can see the poor chef throwing his implements into the air and missing the catch several times.
        • by Progman3K (515744)

          Yup, I think the problem is with the clearly-inexperienced chef he was assigned. You can see the guy is new at it.
          What do you expect though, newly-opened restaurant and all.
          The chefs at that place should watch the video referenced by the article of a super-chef at work, it would show them what to aim for.

          • by hairyfeet (841228)

            Not only that but they don't have a leg to stand on as it is laid out as a standard critique. He points out when it is his own tastes (preferring a stronger sauce for instance) vs when it is just badly prepared (chicken was chewy) or bad ingredients (vegetables left bad aftertaste) .

            So frankly unless reviews aren't allowed in Kuwait they don't have a prayer. The review was polite, pointed out where they had done well as well as where they failed, it was about as professional a restaurant review as one wou

            • by TheLink (130905)
              If that's the review, then the restaurant has done far more damage to themselves by suing.

              Nowadays people blog about food all the time. Some are clueless (e.g. blogger doesn't seem to know that the dish is SUPPOSED to be like that :) ). But if you go around suing people who blog normal/stupid stuff you're going to go out of business.

              If they falsely accused the restaurant of trying to do something _malicious_ or terribly disgusting that's easily proven false in court AND are getting a fair amount of publicit
              • by hairyfeet (841228)

                I was frankly surprised when I read it that they decided to sue THIS particular review, as I was expecting the usual blogger crap (this sux ass LOL!) but instead it is frankly a very well written review. You can tell by reading it the guy has plenty of experience with this type of cuisine, doesn't make a big deal like others here over the chef's lack of presentation skills, and instead simply runs down the quality of the meal from dish to dish in a VERY professional and polite manner. So from the looks of i

    • And the cached review [googleusercontent.com] here.
  • Boycott? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Locke2005 (849178) on Tuesday February 01, 2011 @06:24PM (#35073602)
    I'd say I was boycotting them in retaliation for this, but the truth is there was no way I was going to pay for their ridiculously overpriced menu in the first place! If I want expensive entertainment, I'll hire a stripper.
  • by Skarecrow77 (1714214) on Tuesday February 01, 2011 @06:24PM (#35073610)

    Just curious. Everybody assumes it's big bad evil corporation vs little guy. Maybe it really is libel? People can get pretty vicious in their blogs, because they think they are invincible internet supermen.

    • by takowl (905807) on Tuesday February 01, 2011 @06:39PM (#35073816)
      I read it before it was /.ed. It wasn't obviously libel: he more or less approved of the atmosphere, said two dishes were alright, nothing great, then laid into them on the quality of a couple more dishes. Of course, I have no way of knowing if he was telling the truth, or being paid by a competitor, but it read like a negative review, not a hate-filled diatribe.
      • And he posted a video of a very lame chef "performance".
        Then, I assume someone from Benihana started posting very favorable reviews one after the other using different names but the exact same writing style (including full-capitalization of key terms). Then the blogger commented of how it is weird that all those posts have the same IP. Then this Benihana GM guy posts and says his company won't allow this libel, so they are trying to find out how to sue the blogger and tells the blogger to be brave and give

    • Return question, why would he? What does he have to gain from slandering a restaurant chain?

      Also note that this is his OPINION. Like all reviews. I might now follow this log because his taste in food matches mine, but what it eventually comes down to is that he states his opinion about the restaurant. Which is, at least in my country, his right to do. If I think your corned beef tastes like corned crap and I write that in my blog, I may well do so. I didn't like it and my opinion is that your food is no goo

      • Maybe it really is libel? People can get pretty vicious in their blogs, because they think they are invincible internet supermen.

        Return question, why would he? What does he have to gain from slandering a restaurant chain?

        You must be new to the interent - around here people are vicious, vindictive, etc... etc.. quite routinely whether they stand to gain in return or not.

    • Here is Benihana's General Manager's (Mike Servo) stated case against the blogger:

      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.

  • by JumperCable (673155) on Tuesday February 01, 2011 @06:38PM (#35073798)

    Bloggers article on being sued:
    http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:DeHc7_jwEEQJ:www.248am.com/mark/kuwait/im-being-sued-by-benihana/+http://www.248am.com/mark/kuwait/im-being-sued-by-benihana/&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us&client=firefox-a&source=www.google.com [googleusercontent.com]

    Blogger's original review:
    http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:Q4qRyLrkfa4J:www.248am.com/mark/kuwait/my-benihana-experience/+http://www.248am.com/mark/kuwait/im-being-sued-by-benihana/&cd=2&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us&client=firefox-a&source=www.google.com [googleusercontent.com]

    My Benihana Experience

    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.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wllrtj-3rV4 [youtube.com]

    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).

    \
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iAyPBFxNQlw [youtube.com]

    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.

    —————————————

    • He called one dish ordinary and did not like the chicken? That's all?

      I had assumed he claimed the Benihana chef had sodomized a goat at the table or something. Is this just a franchise suing or an international corporation? I have a hard time believing this action was authorized by anyone far up the food chain at a large corporation.

      • by JustNilt (984644)

        According to the complaint, it's basically the franchisee for Kuwait that's suing, not the Benihana Corporation.

        Here's a somewhat prro English translation of what amounts to the complaint in Kuwaiti courts.

        http://www.248am.com/files/courtorderenglish.pdf [248am.com]

        Apparently bloggers aren't considered journalists in Kuwait, which is how the company is getting away with this. The shortsightedness of this is appalling from a business standpoint. For those who are unaware, Kuwait overall is about the size of New Jersey

    • by jandrese (485)
      Benihana was the cheap option? I have to wonder where this guy normally goes.
    • They're doing the equivalent of what you do in the US: claiming copyright/DMCA takedown, effectively because he took the videos inside the Benihana's and then published them.

      I honestly think Benihana have done a wrong move here (streissand effect and all), but they may actually have a case against this blogger if he took and published video and that was against the restaurant policies and/or local law.

  • God Dammit. I love going to Benihana, and now I can't go there anymore.

    • by Ogive17 (691899)
      Just going to take a wild guess and assume you probably would never be near the one in Kuwait. Just because the GM of the Kuwaiti Benihana is a jackass doesn't mean they all are around the world.

      Don't feel bad if you like the local one.
  • by JumperCable (673155) on Tuesday February 01, 2011 @06:50PM (#35073950)

    Contact information for Benihana in case you want to call and complain:

    http://www.benihana.com/about/franchise/contact [benihana.com]

    Phone: (305) 593-0770

    Corporate Youtube account:
    http://www.youtube.com/benihana [youtube.com]

    Corporate Facebook account
    http://www.facebook.com/Benihana.Official.Page [facebook.com]

    Corporate Twitter account
    http://twitter.com/Benihana__ [twitter.com]

    Website contact page
    http://www.benihana.com/contact-us [benihana.com]

  • by grapeape (137008) <`moc.rr.ck' `ta' `7epopm'> on Tuesday February 01, 2011 @06:59PM (#35074046) Homepage

    Wow, nothing screams "the reviewer must be right" like suing the reviewer. Its probably more likely the place was already having problems and the owner got the bright idea that suing someone would be an opportunity to recoup losses.

    • I think the astro-turfing attempts by multiple posters making similar posts at nearly exactly the same time intervals from the same IP does a pretty good job of that as well. Check out the comments on his blog.
  • If I were the manager I would have written him an email saying his experience was not typical and that he should come back and have a free meal on the house. Suing him seems much less likely to have a favorable result, given the nature of the complaint.

    Also, if the chicken was undercooked, why didn't he just ask the chef to cook it longer? He's right there.

  • I wonder exactly what entity is suing this guy: the Benihana corporation, or just the local franchise owner? At least the stupidity can be contained if it's the latter. If it really is the former, perhaps a global boycott of Benihana everywhere is in order?

  • I cannot imagine that the parent company cannot contractually discipline a franchise should they bring the brand into disrepute.

    Unless the brand owner takes action to disassociate itself from this action and withdraw support from this franchise, I will not set foot in any branch or franchise of this company world-wide because I need to know that I can exercise my rights to share my fair opinions without threat of legal action should I get bad service.

  • by RobertinXinyang (1001181) on Tuesday February 01, 2011 @08:53PM (#35075048)

    As a teacher I reviewed a book that I tried for one semester in one of my classes. The review was quite mixed. It wasn't terrible; but I definitely had no intention of using the book again. You notice that I am not naming the book here. That was part of the final agreement.

    This has definitely put a damper on my willingness to provide honest comments about the books used in my classes. It has also impacted my willingness to experiment with different materials. I pick a safe book used by other teachers and I never recommend experimentation. In a litigious society, the safe way really is the best way.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jelizondo (183861)

      Sorry to tell you, that is the wrong way to go.

      I was expelled from school for stating my opinions frankly and I got booted from my last job for the same reason. Between one incident and the other, more than 30 years passed, I will NOT learn to shut up

      If you shut up before stronger opponents when you are right, then you have harmed the community where you live.

      I always tell my daughters, "Better to live one minute standing up than a century on your knees"

      May you live long and learn to stand up. It's not easy

      • I wish I could mod you up.

        I personally live my life by similar rules and I've had to take flak every now and then for being honest, but it has also forced a few entities to straighten up their ways and that is a good thing for all. But then again, here in Finland you quite can't get sued for such small things. If you were trying to sue someone for a slightly negative review you'd just be laughed out of the court room. So with that in mind I understand why the OP feels like he does and there really is no rea

    • by syousef (465911)

      As a teacher I reviewed a book that I tried for one semester in one of my classes. The review was quite mixed. It wasn't terrible; but I definitely had no intention of using the book again. You notice that I am not naming the book here. That was part of the final agreement.

      This has definitely put a damper on my willingness to provide honest comments about the books used in my classes. It has also impacted my willingness to experiment with different materials. I pick a safe book used by other teachers and I never recommend experimentation. In a litigious society, the safe way really is the best way.

      You know who suffers when you lay down like this? You and your students.

      Best thing you could have done is just worked out how to word the reviews so that it's harder to sue.

  • by Lord_of_the_nerf (895604) on Wednesday February 02, 2011 @12:50AM (#35076744)

    It's like I was a poor student and decided to boycott BMW and conflict diamonds.

    Yah. That'll learn 'em.

  • Calling for a boycott is damn stupid. Each restaurant is separately owned. If you boycott your local franchise, you are only hurting someone who has absolutely no control or say over what happened.

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