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  • 02.03.11

Chop Sue-y: Benihana Takes Blogger to Court Over Poor Review

One good reason for food bloggers not to move to Kuwait: The Benihana restaurant chain is seeking $18,000 in damages for a poor blog review.

Benihana Kuwait

Mark Makhou, a Lebanese national
working in Kuwait, operates the extremely popular local blog
Twofortyeightam.
In a recent blog post, Makhou posted a frankly innocuous poor
review
of a Kuwaiti branch of Benihana:

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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. […] 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.

Shortly after Makhou posted his review,
Benihana’s general manager in Kuwait, Mike Servo, posted a long and
angry reply on Makhou’s blog that threatened legal action.

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 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?

Servo’s reply alludes to the fact that
Makhou is Lebanese. Non-citizen residents of Kuwait, including
Makhou, have extremely circumscribed legal rights. Kuwaiti law is
extremely favorable to businesses and non-citizens
face significant barriers
.

Shortly after Servo made that blog post
reply, Makhou was served
with legal papers
seeking approximately $18,000 in damages. In
the legal papers, Servo asserts that Makhou faked his review for
publicity purposes. Makhou is
scheduled for a March 8 court date.

In the
meantime, the poor review lawsuit has turned into a PR fiasco for
Benihana.

According
to Abu Dhabi’s The National
newspaper, angry patrons have flooded
the chain
‘s Kuwaiti Facebook page with threats and complaints.
However, an examination of the chain’s Facebook page on Feburary 2,
2011 showed that Benihana has been deleting
negative Facebook wall posts
en masse. One user, however, did
enter into a humorous Q&A with the restaurant’s Facebookwall
where he asked if he could get sued for a negative review as well.

A new
Facebook page, “Boycott Benihana Kuwait,” already
has over 100 members
. Attempts to reach the Benihana chain by
press time were unsuccessful.

Follow the author of this article,
Neal Ungerleider, on
Twitter
.

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