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Queens Moroccan Restaurant Is Targeted by Bizarre Harassment Campaign Led by Influencer

Dar Yemma’s Google ratings have been dropping by the day

A crowd outside Moroccan restaurant, Dar Yemma.
The exterior of Moroccan restaurant Dar Yemma during the World Cup semifinals, when the restaurant was a hub for watching the game.
Caroline Shin/Eater NY

Moroccan restaurant Dar Yemma in Astoria found its ratings on Google have plummeted with hundreds of one-star reviews written in French due to a bizarre she said-they-said interaction, unleashed by a French influencer and her million-plus following on Snapchat.

The conflict allegedly stems from a disagreement between the managers of Dar Yemma, which was reviewed by the New York Times, and influencer Kenza Benchrif, known online as Poupette, with 1.1 million Snapchat followers. The restaurant declined to pay her 2,500 euros in exchange for temporary Snapchat stories about the restaurant while she visited New York in December. It is unclear whether the two had an agreement.

Negative reviews for Dar Yemma have come with a flood of hate messages over Instagram DM, and calls to the restaurant from the French country code (33), co-owner Saber Bouteraa confirmed. Eater has reached out to Benchrif for more details.

But the drama is a bit more bizarre than other influencer debacles.

Tensions have escalated since Benchrif released a five-part Snapchat video series earlier this week — now deleted but archived by her fans on TikTok — where, without stating the restaurant’s name, she implied that the wife of a manager at Dar Yemma was allegedly behind an attempt to kidnap her. Saber Bouteraa, co-owner at Dar Yemma, denied the accusation.

It’s not the first time influencers have mobilized their fan base on behalf of restaurants. Barstool Sports’ Dave Portnoy has his own list of people and businesses he currently “hates”, of which a Nantucket restaurant is among them. “Watch the Google review rating drop like a rock!” a fan responds after Portnoy said he “hopes they go out of business.” (Portnoy has also mobilized fans to save restaurants, directing money to them, including a Yonkers Italian spot.)

Restaurants as targets of more orchestrated harassment and negative reviews have become more prevalent in the past year. In July, for example, New York restaurants including Avant Garden and Huertas in the East Village and Dame in Greenwich Village were hit by online scammers threatening to leave one-star reviews on restaurants’ business pages until owners handed over gift cards to Google’s app store. The scam extended to restaurants other cities, including San Francisco and Chicago.

Negative ratings that aren’t based on real experiences are an abuse of the platform. Bad reviews particularly for smaller independent restaurants be a nightmare. A lower average rating on Google and or Yelp can shape where customers dine.

“Our policies clearly state reviews must be based on real experiences, and when we find policy violations, we take swift action ranging from content removal to account suspension and even litigation,” a Google Maps spokesperson told the Times in 2022.

Google has not yet responded to the harassment, as it had in July during several NYC attacks, by screening and taking down negative reviews from those who hadn’t visited the restaurant.