Every January the Antonopoulos restaurant group, a family company that owns and uses the Experience Old Montreal website to promote the likes of Kyo, Bevo, Méchant Boeuf, Modavie, Suite 701, Taverne Gaspar, Verses and Vieux-Port Steakhouse in Old Montreal, throws #HappeningGourmand. The month-long promotion features discounted three-course menus at all of the company's restaurants.
The hashtag is a fabricated sham, however, because the Antonopoulos Group effectively pays food bloggers to promote it as a sui generis Old Montreal event. This is done via 1 Milk 2 Sugars, a public relations firm whose most visible employee is Na'eem Adam, a food blogger (Méchant Mangeur) and co-creator of La Poutine Week and Le Burger Week.
This is how #HappeningGourmand works.
1. The Antonopoulos Group hires 1 Milk 2 Sugars to promote it
2. 1 Milk 2 Sugars enlists food bloggers and media outlets to do likewise
3. 8 handpicked bloggers are offered $500 each to "host" a blogger/media free-for-all ($4,000 total) at the #HappeningGourmand launch party, which took place yesterday at the Antonopoulos Group restaurants
4. The "guests" (bloggers and media people) in attendance enjoy complimentary food and drink
5. Everyone blogs, tweets and posts photos on Instagram with the #HappeningGourmand hashtag
6. Very few bother to clarify that #HappeningGourmand is an Antonopoulos Group event
7. This is the email that the blogger "hosts" were sent
Maria Antonopoulos admits today that the bloggers who inundated social media with the #HappeningGourmand hashtag ate for free.
"We invited them to help promote the event."
Did they ever.