Influencers Asked This Pastry Chef For Free Food In Exchange For Promotion In The Pandemic. He Called Them Out.
"I was getting messages from influencers requesting that we send free stuff so they could post it on their profile. I was like, fucking hell, this is such a piss take," he said.
Brian Campbell owns and runs the Miann dessert restaurant, patisserie and chocolate factory in Auckland, New Zealand.
The Scottish-born pastry chef's premises have been completely shut down in the country's coronavirus lockdown.
Last week Campbell watched as New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern announced that the country's alert level would be lowered to three, allowing businesses to reopen their premises (while still not physically interacting with customers).
"As she was talking about it, I was like, 'OK, I'm ready to go'," he told BuzzFeed News.
Campbell was relieved about being able to start taking online and takeaway orders for his business. He had started updating his website when he saw the restaurant's Instagram account had received a message from an influencer asking for free food in return for promoting the venue.
"Literally in 10 minutes, I was getting messages from influencers requesting that we send free stuff so they could post it on their profile. I was like, fucking hell, this is such a piss take," he said.
That day, Campbell remembers getting "five or six" requests from influencers for free food by the time he'd finished working in the early hours of the morning.
He responded to each of the individual requests, but also took to Instagram to address them collectively. He posted an image on his restaurant's Instagram profile that started: "Dear Influencer".
"PLEASE STOP FOR A SECOND AND THINK, Think about the Restauranters, food producers that have had ZERO income for a month, the possibility of 50% drop in revenue for the next few months. Think about the PEOPLE whom you are asking for stuff for free from, to boost your own profile.
"It's time for YOU to bring VALUE to your LOCAL BUSINESSES and go order some food from your favourite places, PAY FOR IT, POST IT, FEEL GOOD ABOUT IT. YOU JUST HELPED A SMALL BUSINESS!" he wrote.
Campbell said he has no hard feelings towards influencers — although he doesn't work with them even when there's not a pandemic — but he criticised them for making requests during a tough time for the hospitality sector.
"I think a lot of people don't understand what we're going through. Going from having business to having zero business is quite a tough situation to be in. We're supporting families, trying to keep our staff employed," he said.
He said he's had almost entirely positive feedback on the post, with some customers even deciding to order from him after seeing it.
"People in the industry are being like 'thank fuck someone spoke up' and just general customers [have been] asking if these requests really happen. A lot of positivity about this," he said.
Most people commented on the post in agreement. "Love this," one person wrote. Another said "I hate it when people ask for free food".
But there was some pushback from people defending influencers. One person argued that influencers help businesses by promoting them. "The reason most companies do well is because of influencers promoting them for free, most of the time, and advertising for them," she wrote.
Campbell stands by his post. He's heard that some local influencers are changing how they operate at the moment in response to his post.
He even reckons that influencers who asked him for free food changed their mind after seeing the post, because they all started to un-send their Instagram messages.
"I've never seen it before. Their name pops up and says their message has been deleted," he said.