There is now an influx of bloggers in this region (and globally). Needless to say this further invites *even* more backlash on those same bloggers for their “partial, false or paid reviews” and we (atleast most of us) are now deemed as fake, sell-outs, hoarders and more. I, as a dominantly food-but-turned-lifestyle blogger want to shine light into this issue from my side, and every other blogger out there, especially in Dubai. As this industry is progressing into a sphere of transparency and organic content, I find it crucial to speak about this for me, and all the other bloggers out there.
Let’s settle one thing before you proceed with reading this article. There definitely are bloggers out there who are fake, lie, or are partial. But there are many more who are the exact opposite. The below article is for bloggers who fall in the latter category.
Why do food bloggers in UAE lie about their experience? (this can be in any country but the below is country-specific)
There are plenty of articles on how you can become a blogger, but have you guys wondered if there are any repercussions if a blogger doesn’t play by the rules?!
- The UAE Federal Law No. 3 of 1987 – Libel Penal Code is the main reason bloggers can’t always speak the truth. Libel (written defamation) or slander (spoken defamation) in the UAE are taken very seriously and can land you in jail and/or a massive fine for damages caused to the reputation of a person. An accusation is not defamation but, if we make a statement in public via our blog, a comment or tweet, that damages the reputation of a person/company, even if we have proof of the accusation, we will still be liable. We cannot use the proof to defend ourselves since the reputation has been blemished and compensation has to be made. Richard Bell, the legal director at the law firm Clyde & Company mentioned, “The focus of the law is protecting the honor of families and it is a cultural clash,” whilst discussing a recent case he was handling in UAE.
I felt this article was essential as several micro-influencers and bloggers who were just starting off with the objective of making an impartial blog, were in turn getting SUED by restaurants. Every single person has a different palate. A restaurant wouldn’t have opened or a chef wouldn’t be hired if he didn’t make good food. According to them, we have no right to speak badly about them.
The question remains about apps like Zomato, TripAdvisor, etc… These platforms are dedicated to voice your opinion, based on your rating in terms of food, ambiance, and service. As long as you follow the guidelines these websites have posted and not mention anything personal you are good to go (it’s a bit confusing, I don’t get the concept entirely either. But I have noticed not too many reviewers get threats on Zomato, unless they get personal).
The other issue is, I have been to several tastings where the manager or chef brings the food out on a different plate with creative plating, and I only come to know later by my followers, that it’s NOT how they usually serve the food. Guys, if we get invited for a tasting or a media review, at a NEW restaurant, they make the food even better or serve it in a better way. BUT the food might not be of the exact same quality on a regular basis. Food bloggers seriously can’t be accused for something like this.
A few food bloggers/brands like Foodiva, since its inception over 7 years ago, her restaurant reviews abide by just one rule: no freebies in return for reviews. The guest reviewers are all anonymous. Followed by her review going up on her website, most of her readers commend her honesty but the owners, of course, either give backlash or ban her from their restaurant.
What some renowned food bloggers in Dubai have to say?
Sally Prosser from @MyCustardPie
What happens when a brand (or agency) offers a gift or pays for some other form of work, which is then supported by social posts? Again, there’s a simple way to look at this and it’s all about control. If the brand (or agency) is wielding any form of control over your content in return for a reward (financial or otherwise) then the content has been sponsored/paid for and has to be declared as such. So, if a brand asks you to post an Instagram shot in return for a pair of trainers, that’s sponsored content.
If they invite and pay you to spend the night in a hotel, in return for a tweet or two, that’s sponsored content. If they ask you to use a certain word, phrase, or hashtag if you do find it in your heart to post about them, that’s sponsored content.” Sponsored content is very different from a ‘review’.If the main topic of your content is “I went out and had a (free) meal and everything was amazing” then it becomes deadly dull. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to read that for long as well.
The topic of being sued is a serious one and I can understand why people are nervous. However, if your opinion is based on fact e.g. “we asked the waiter for a glass of water three times before it was brought” then there can be no issue.
Kimberly DSouza and Denver Britto from @WhereMyFoodAt
We’re always in a tough spot when it comes to whether or not we should express an unpleasant experience to our followers. On one hand we feel we owe it to them, to be honest, and transparent when it comes to our reviews, but on the other hand, most eateries and brands – especially the newly launched, homegrown ones rely on bloggers like us to raise awareness about their concepts and positively promote them. When we’re put in such a situation, we personally contact the management and give them our genuine feedback, with the hope that they take it into consideration and make relevant changes.
As for our audience, we try to be more optimistic and point out what we liked or loved about our experience as well as what we didn’t (but the latter is sugar-coated so as to not defame the brand). As much as we do appreciate reviews that are cut-throat and brutally honest, we do believe that there’s a fine line between constructive criticism and defamation and it’s important as a UAE blogger to know the difference.
Nancy and Namrata from @SheSaidSheSaid
If we are invited to a restaurant and do not like something, we give our feedback directly to the chef or the Manager or the restaurant PR, instead of writing about it online. We are not food critics and food itself is so subjective – two people can view the same experience differently. We would rather use our platforms to talk about positive experiences, and highlight chefs that are doing great work and restaurants that we would like to go back to.
Charu from @FoodSisters
There’s a new restaurant in Dubai almost every week and not all can be good or exceptional. The problem we face as food reviewers is honestly being able to express our opinion without directly bashing a brand.
Whenever I’ve had a bad experience at a restaurant – I’ve directly communicated it with the management. If it’s a service issue or a misstep in a cooking process, I’ve given the chef a chance to fix it – as any customer would.
However, if the issue is still not resolved then I’ve taken to not posting about the place / dish to avoid speaking ill of a place unless the experience was extremely pathetic. I prefer not talking about the place or posting anything about my visit for 2 reasons – one, it’s better than blatantly lying that I had a good experience when I didn’t and two, it’s not necessary that my followers have the same taste as me and to discourage their visit based on my taste isn’t why I run the blog. I do it to recommend good places to eat, not to discourage them from the bad ones. If someone is looking for a good spot to eat out – check the feed. If it’s not on my feed – I haven’t been or I haven’t liked it. Simple.
I have stopped food blogging for the very reason that every second person is one. There are definitely a handfull who are unique but I don’t think it’s my place anymore to review a restaurant since I’m not a food critic. Additionally, I love cooking myself and have a small business, I have been on the other side of the fence, and when someone insults what you make, it’s definitely not a good feeling. I would much rather travel and visit cafés, that’s my thing.
I would like to say one thing though, since I love coffee shops, I went to one and paid a whopping AED30 just for coffee. I loved the flavour profile but was astonished at the price, and that’s what I wrote in my Instagram post too. The café then messaged me threatening to sue if I did not untag and remove their name. I did just that as I didn’t want to get into legal issues. I personally feel this country should standardise some costs such as the cost of water or a basic thing like coffee. Increasing the cost of something as basic to over AED30-40 is ridiculous.
EVERY restaurant or brand out there has SOMETHING good about it. If you find nothing, ask the manager. Majority of the fabulous restaurants or hotels in Dubai have a story within their interiors, paintings, furnishing, exteriors, or even crockery sets. There’s a lot of thought-process, patience, love, money, sweat, tears, and effort that goes into creating a brand.
So when you write a review, always start with something good and THEN speak of the ‘better ifs’ in a subtle diplomatic way, without hurting the sentiments of any organization or individual whilst conveying the message with honesty. This will save you time, energy and respect, from the owners, and your readers.
If the restaurant was horrible in my opinion with nothing good to say, from the hospitality to the hygiene and quality of food, I first express my concerns to the manager or PR agency that invited me. I go ahead and post the content only if they’re okay with me posting about it (since they’ll get a mention on my page). If there’s something alarming about the restaurant or a dish, I will post it regardless (this happens rarely).
Do you want to add anything to the above? Comment below.