One of the best German inventions of all time – up there with lager, the printing press and the BMW E30 M3 – is Schadenfreude.
A complex emotion that has no direct English translation, Schadenfreude is defined by Merriam-Webster as ‘enjoyment obtained from the troubles of others’. It’s like gloating, but more often motivated by a sense of justice or comeuppance.
And that’s exactly what many are feeling after seeing this showdown between a Noosa restaurant and an impertinent Instagram influencer get taken to savage levels.
Food critic John Lethlean shared the exchange between the proprietor of popular Noosa Heads joint Rock Salt and the influencer, who in typical Instagram food influencer style was trying to squeeze a free meal out of the venue – sorry, “it’s not a free meal, it’s a collaboration,” as they put it.
Rock Salt responded in searing fashion… “we can always offer you a night of washing dishes in exchange for your meals”.
But the reason Lethlean decided to put this influencer on blast was because they threatened to review Rock Salt poorly online, despite having never dined there. It’s a practice that’s unfortunately common in the Australian hospitality industry, and as one commenter put it, calling this bad behaviour out is “giving power back into a space [where] restaurants once felt powerless.”
Lethlean’s post even drew the attention of the team behind popular food review app Foodporn, who also shared the exchange as well as banned the influencer in question from their platform.
“We’re not usually one to name and shame, but this one pushed us over the edge,” they explained.
“The fact that [the influencer] said she would leave a negative google review because she didn’t get her free meal from Rock Salt is just too much… The hospitality industry is truly struggling at the moment and this type of behaviour needs to stop immediately.”
It’s yet another example of the questionable ‘couscous for comment’ culture that afflicts the hospitality industry where bloggers, wannabe critics and social media influencers approach venues looking for free meals or drinks in return for positive coverage. It’s a phenomenon the hotel industry and other businesses have also encountered, too.
Not only is it exploitative, but it’s fundamentally dishonest – how can a reviewer be objective if they’re getting the meal for free? A good point of contrast is the influential Michelin Guide. Michelin reviewers visit restaurants incognito, unannounced and will pay for their meal like any other customer. That way, they get an authentic experience, and that’s one of the reasons why the Guide is so well-respected.
One commenter suggested an alternative model for the influencer:
“Pay the bill for your meal (let’s assume $150). Apparently you have 5,000 followers. I will pay you $10 for everyone of your followers that eats at my restaurant based on your post, so there is a hell of a lot of upside for everybody if 1% of your followers convert. Have skin in the game and support rather than being a leech.”
Food for thought indeed.