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It’s a good thing Yelp isn’t popular in Kuwait. Because that would mean a lot of lawsuits would be coming up. Yes, Mark Makhou, a blogger in Kuwait, has been sued for $18,000 for writing a negative review of chain restaurant Benihana on his blog 248am.com.
Makhou’s full review said the following:
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).
Sure, not a great review, but hardly scathing. Yet shortly after Makhou wrote the review, Mike Servo, Benihana’s manager, threatened to sue Makhou. According to Fast Company, non-citizen residents of Kuwait, including Makhou, who is Lebanese, have limited legal rights and Kuwaiti law is extremely favorable to businesses.
Benihana was founded in 1964 in New York City by wrestler Rocky Aoki, although the company headquarters are now based in Miami. However, it acts as a franchise corporation, with dozens of locations worldwide. In the Mideast, for example, it currently operates restaurants in Beirut, Amman, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Kuwait.
What is interesting about this suit, however, is the distance that Benihana is attempting to draw between the American brand and its international franchisees. On its website, it notes the Benihana brand is co-owned by two separate and distinct corporate entities — Benihana Inc. and Benihana of Tokyo, Inc. Per a release:
While both entities have a shared interest in the BENIHANA brand, Benihana Inc. has no control or authority over the business and legal decisions of Benihana of Tokyo, Inc. Consequently, we cannot comment or opine on the alleged lawsuit filed in Kuwait by Benihana of Tokyo, Inc. and/or its franchisee. However, we are never pleased to hear of any customer’s negative experience and seriously consider all feedback an opportunity for improving operations. We encourage you to share your opinions and comments directly with Benihana of Tokyo, Inc. The company’s contact information is available on www.BenihanaGroup.com.
Which is basically a nice way of saying sorry but this isn’t our problem. Basically you’re fucked if you live in a country where freedom of the press isn’t guaranteed. Makhou’s court date is set for March.