Why This Influencer Is Being Accused Of Threatening A Renowned Restaurant

It's no secret that influencers often get special privileges from restaurants in exchange for exposure. However, having a big following doesn't automatically mean you'll get the royal treatment. You may recall the 2019 story about one blogger who was met with backlash after writing a one-star Yelp review for an Italian restaurant that refused to give her a discount (via Daily Mail). The moral of the story? There's a fine line between negotiating with a business and straight-up weaponizing one's status to get free stuff, and the latter is one of the fastest ways to get yourself blacklisted by restaurant owners. 

Los Angeles food reviewer Antonio Malik (AKA @antonio_eats_LA ) learned that lesson the hard way this week. As St. Louis Today reports, it all began when Malik decided to reach out to acclaimed Chinese restaurant and boba shop Corner 17 for a proposed collaboration. Per screenshots of the conversation shared on the restaurant's Instagram, Malik offered a video post of the food on his page in exchange for $100 of food credit. The restaurant politely declined the collab, saying it wasn't a good fit.

Well, Malik decided to dine at Corner 17 anyway. One would think the story ends there. But instead, the influencer tagged the restaurant in a public Instagram story with disparaging comments about the food he was served during his visit. "Worst dumpling ever!" he wrote alongside a vomit emoji.

Let's just say Corner 17 didn't take the critique lightly.

The restaurant believes the influencer gave them a negative review because he didn't receive a discount

Although Malik maintains that his review was simply his "honest" opinion, Corner 17 owner Xin Wei believes ulterior motives were involved. Speaking to St. Louis Today, he remarked, "...this is more like (an) attack because ... we did not give him, like, $100 off."

Wei backed up this assertion by publicizing the screenshots of Malik's stories alongside the conversation they had days prior. "I want to step up because we felt threatened by this media influencer," the restaurant owner said in the caption. "I want to give a voice to my Asian community that is ok to say no and turn down any promotional offers, no fear to stand up and defend yourself."

So far, the post has received over 34,000 likes, with thousands of commenters commending Corner 17 for taking a stance against unethical and unprofessional influencer practices. "Good on you for setting boundaries and doing what feels right for you and your business," remarked one user. "Imagine how many times he has done this to other small businesses... good for you for exposing him!!" another added. A third called Malik an example of what people in marketing should never do. "A real influencer should be supporting small businesses, especially POC ones, not bashing them like this when they can't take no for an answer," they said. "Love you guys @corner17!!! And for the record—those nasty taro "dumplings"? They're my favorite!!!"