An odd encounter with a social media “influencer” has left a bad taste on the mouths of the owners of Little Italy poke spot Ok Poke.
Co-owners Beaver Sheppard and Marina Corsillo tell Eater that they were contacted by Instagram account Toutes Dans Mes Fesses, which touts around 3,500 followers, offering to “work together” with the restaurant and highlight the place to the account’s growing number of followers. The account belongs to Jessica Prudencio, a blogger and former writer for Narcity, the French-language counterpart to miscellaneous content website MTL Blog.
“She said, ‘Maybe I could have a meal and then feature it’...I didn’t understand that it was a case of ‘Oh, I have to give you all this free shit.’ I thought she was asking permission to come in and take stuff [pictures] and post about it,” says Corsillo.
Corsillo agreed to the proposition given it was just one comped meal, and Prudencio came by, although to the surprise of Corsillo and Sheppard, she brought a friend and requested food for both. Sheppard served them and claims that the restaurant lost business because the pair occupied one of their few tables for a long period of time.
According to Sheppard’s version of the story, the influencer then pushed to get free food for her dining companion as well. He elected to give the pair 50 per cent off on their poke bowls (so, a free bowl in total), and throw in dessert and drinks for free. Sheppard believes Prudencio did not intend to pay for either meal or to tip the server.
“[Prudencio] didn’t have any money, she looks at her friend awkwardly [to pay]. I think the bill was only $13…she made her friend pay full price for the friend’s bowl and it was super awkward. And they didn’t tip a penny,” he said.
After the visit, no photo surfaced on the @toutedansmesfesses Instagram, and instead, Corsillo received a message. “It said ‘I think that feedback is the least I can give you, I’ve tried almost every poke restaurant in Montreal and unfortunately I was really not a fan of yours, I don’t know if you’re still in the testing phase and it was just bad luck for me and my friend but we really didn’t love it. And I took a ginger juice and found that the taste of ginger was way too prominent,’” she recounted.
Update (Dec 22): Eater reached out to Prudencio for her version of the events, but she declined to comment. On in a Facebook comment replying to this story, she claimed to have screenshots and audio recordings that disprove Corsillo and Sheppard’s comments, but refused to make those available. She also claimed to have offered to repay the restaurant, although Sheppard says this happened after the story was published.
Corsillo and Sheppard say they’re not bothered by criticism, though they dispute some specific points (for example, the influencer complained about too much pepper on top of the poke, but the restaurant tops its bowls with seasoning mix furikake, not pepper). The pair was also skeptical of the fact that despite complaints about quality, all items were consumed by the visitors.
The influencer has continued to criticize the restaurant publicly — when another Instagrammer, @randomcuisine, posted positive comments about OK Poke, Prudencio’s account commented “really! :o hated it,” accompanied by a laughing emoji.
Sheppard says the whole encounter was unpleasant, but particularly the high expectations. “The attitude of entitlement from someone coming in…I would’ve given her the meal for free but she said ‘for me and my friend’...she’s just a person trying to take advantage.”
Corsillo says that this sort of expectation of substantial freebies for just a mere Instagram post isn’t uncommon — and that she’s now concerned that other restaurants are accommodating the requests of “influencers” far too much. “I’ve been approached by others…a lot of these people have less than 3,000 followers and you can tell that some restaurants do things for them so they just keep featuring that restaurant.”
Prudencio’s account has featured a range of restaurants from fancy Griffintown newcomer Perles et Paddock to burger chain McDonald’s.