If you are in the Middle East and reasonably active on social media, you are probably aware of the way Benihana’s franchise outlet in Kuwait treated one of its ‘reviewers’ and the repercussions throughout the region. There has been a lot written in the blogosphere, spilling over to ‘traditional’ media, some by people who have more influence and better writing skills.

What I find quite surprising is that Benihana’s PR has done nothing to mitigate the situation. At the end of the day – it’s their brand and their reputation. Surely a brand that has survived since 1964 and claims to be ‘one of the world’s finest and most thriving restaurant organizations’ has a lot more to lose? Or is it another case of ‘the Middle East is such a small market, it doesn’t matter’ syndrome. And there are a few of those.

With power in the hands of the consumer – what happened in Kuwait could put the spotlight on all the other franchises around the region, if not the world. Benihana has very clear policies outlined on its web site on what is expected from the franchisees, its ethics etc. I am sure that there are just as many pages on brand management that they would probably have shared with the franchises.

The Kuwaiti franchise is suing the blogger for KD5001 – when they could have saved a lot more time, effort and money by just re-inviting the blogger and creating a positive customer experience. We tend to forgive small foibles for good customer experiences and focus on what’s good.

So a 47-year old reputation is now in question as is the growth plans in the Middle East because of the bad decision from one franchise outlet.

Was it really worth suing him?

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