MALAYSIA— “Special customers receive special ingredients.” A restaurant in Petaling Jaya made this statement publicly, which has now become a subject of controversy and drawing the attention of the Malaysian Health Ministry.
The restaurant, Garden Western Grill, threatened to include a “special ingredient” in the meals of customers who posted negative reviews on social media, intending to teach them a lesson.
However, in a latest post, the restaurant explained that it’s all about marketing strategy and told the customers not to worry as their meals are safe to consume.
On Tuesday (16 May), Garden Western Grill made a post stating, “When will this influencer visit our restaurant? One has already been checkmated with a special ingredient in their food.” The influencer mentioned in the post is Jason, a TikToker known for his food reviews.
In a threatening tone, the post further stated, “Only hotel staff know the true meaning behind our ‘special ingredient’.”
Netizen sought clarification from the restaurant regarding the meaning of “special ingredients”
This post has raised concerns among certain netizens as it involves food hygiene and safety issues. One netizen, Nabihah, sought clarification from the post admin regarding whether it is acceptable to conduct business with such an attitude and urged to further the owner to explain the meaning of “special ingredients” in the post.
In response, the admin questioned whether there was a need to be offended and said, “If you interpret this post positively, it means your thinking is positive… If you often assume negative thoughts, it means you are the type of person who likes to think negatively.”
Nabihah then commented that as a customer who wants to try the food, they have the rights to to know what makes it special.
“If it’s something good, you could have simply replied in a relaxed manner. Are you the one being negative? ”
In another comment, Nabihah stated, “We understand more than just the word ‘special.’ However, when it’s twisted to have a double meaning, that’s when we need clearer explanations. Referring to ‘Only hotel staff know’ is a joke.
” I’ve worked part-time in a hotel and café, and it’s not appropriate to use such phrases with clients or customers. That’s something negative.”
Another netizen asked if there are hotel staff who can clarify what ‘special ingredients’ means, and other responded that’s probably means spit or phlegm.
TikToker made negative review about the restaurant
The restaurant’s sarcastic remark was likely a response to a TikToker, syafiqrx90, who posted a food review video expressing his disappointment with the meal at the establishment.
The TikToker clarified that although the staff at the Garden Western Grill recognized them and provided them with special treatment, they still paid the total bill of RM141 in order to be treated like any other customer.
However, the TikToker did not give the restaurant a high rating in his review. For example, he mentioned that the fish and chips “resembled char koi” and were only crispy in certain parts.
He also commented that the lamb chop was not chewy and had a bland, unseasoned taste. He felt that the meal might be overpriced and noted that it seemed more boiled than grilled.
Garden Western Grill in Petaling Jaya, Selangor – A case of quantity over quality #makanlokal #gardenwesterngrill
♬ Cupid – Twin Ver. (FIFTY FIFTY) – Sped Up Version – sped up 8282
Malaysian MOH notified of restaurant’s remark
Another netizen shared a screenshot of the restaurant’s post, which quickly gained attention from the Malaysian Health Ministry.
“The Ministry of Health takes note and will follow up accordingly,” the statement read, leading netizens to speculate that the health enforcement team may launch an investigation into the matter.
KKM mengambil maklum dan akan menyusul dengan sewajarnya. https://t.co/vT9IUaEYuc
— KKMalaysia🇲🇾😷 (@KKMPutrajaya) May 18, 2023
Restaurant claims whole saga was “marketing tactic”
In a later post on Thursday (May 18), the restaurant provided an update, stating that the entire “special ingredient” ordeal was, in fact, a calculated marketing strategy that the owner knew would gain viral attention.
The admin of the restaurant’s page mentioned that Jason, another TikTok influencer who also does food reviews, had visited the restaurant and assured everyone that the food was safe to consume.
“Actually, we don’t mind whether you give our food a good or bad review because we have been in business for a long time, and we already have regular customers.”
“So even if there are negative reviews, it doesn’t significantly impact us as our sales remain constant.”
“To Shafiq, congratulations on the success of your content. I hope Jason’s content for my restaurant also goes viral. Rest assured, all of our food is safe to eat. It was all just a prank.”
Netizens disagreed, expressing that the remark was inappropriate
Despite the restaurant’s explanation, some netizens strongly disagreed and said the remark was still inappropriate.
They believed that mentioning a “special ingredient” in the previous post could insinuate unhygienic practices that could potentially endanger customers’ health.
A netizen commented: “Is this type of bad marketing beneficial for a blessed life? I’m asking this because it concerns our own flesh and blood that will remain in our bodies.”
“Do you think this is funny? With a post like that, made publicly for everyone to see. Do you think Islam teaches us to behave in this manner? I’m speaking as a fellow Muslim. Everyone will judge us based on our character.”
Bad marketing strategy which killed potential customers’ appetite
Other comments expressed how the mention of “special ingredients” by the shop owner instantly killed their appetite:
“I was so eager to visit this shop since it went viral before… but never had the chance. However, when they mentioned ‘special ingredients,’ it immediately made me think of my past experience working in the food and beverage industry. So, I’m very familiar with what ‘special ingredients’ can mean.”
“Exactly. It instantly came to mind. From being eager to go and eat there, I now feel disgusted every time I see their food because of the term ‘special ingredients.'”
“Yup, this shop has had several issues before. The owner is extremely sarcastic, but I didn’t mind because it was for marketing purposes. However, once they mentioned ‘special ingredients,’ it raised a red flag… It immediately gives me a sense of disgust.”