Frequent San Diego-Based Influencer Accused Of Posting Negative Reviews After Restaurant Refuses To Provide Free Food

March 31, 2022 

A social media "influencer" is under fire after a restaurant accused him of posting negative reviews in retaliation for declining his request to comp his meal.

A former San Diego resident who worked locally for Rise & Shine Restaurant Group (Breakfast Republic, Fig Tree Cafe, Eggies), Antonio Malik is receiving online backlash following a St. Louis, MO-based eatery coming forward alleging they received negative reviews on Antonio's Instagram channel after refusing to provide complimentary food to the influencer. Malik's Instagram channel, @antonio_eats_la currently has 213,000 followers and was recently made private due to claims Malik was receiving threats.

"I went private because I’m getting death threats," explained Malik in an Instagram message response to SanDiegoVille's email outreach. "They are making it out to be something it's not. We went regardless and did an honest review. It wasn’t good and they making me seem like I did it because they declined to collaborate. It’s heartbreaking [because][sic] anyone that knows me it wasn’t intentionally done. I made a mistake. Regardless, I make a mistake. Less learned, it wasn’t what they’ve portrayed me as. I’m reaching out so you saw my side of the story, won’t happen again. Have a good day."

Screenshots posted by Corner 17 Noodles & Bubble Tea show direct messages between Malik's account and Corner 17's in which @antonio_eats_la requests access to shoot video of his food being made at the restaurant and requests $100 off his bill. After a back and forth exchange, Corner 17 politely declines the proposition. Corner 17 then posted images on their Instagram feed from what appears to be Malik's account where he insults the restaurant's food: "Worst dumplings ever!" reads one post; and "Taro dumplings that taste like a$$," reads another. 

"The taro tasted very dry and no flavor, you seem upset that I didn't like your food," reads a direct message allegedly sent by @antonio_eats_la to @corner17. "I don't have to like your food, if it was good I would've posted on it being good. It's the truth, you clearly can't handle it. Again, if you had any competition you wouldn't be in business. The boba place down the street has boba drinks much better than yours, we couldn't bring those in. We were forced to buy your tasteless boba. You're mad because your food isn't good. People don't have a better option around, that's your problem not mine. I'm not responding to you sorry messages anymore. Again, please focus on the quality of the food - it tastes BAD!"

Antonio Malik previously lived in San Diego and now resides in Los Angeles, CA, although he still frequently features content sourced from America's Finest City. Malik operates AGM Relations, a "digital marketing company, focusing on food and restaurant branding." AGM Relations' website states that the company has worked with Baba's Chicken, Food Network, ABC 7, Lobster West, Habit Burger Grill, Oreo, McDonald's Blaze Pizza, Shake Shack, and San Diego's own Breakfast Republic, to name a few. There is even a testimonial from the “Owner of Breakfast Republic”, presumably indicating it to be from Johan Engman, the proprietor of Breakfast Republic parent company Rise & Shine Hospitality Group

"Smart, aggressive, dynamic and everything in between, AGMRelations and his team are my number 1 asset!", reads the testimonial cited to the Owner of Breakfast Republic. "They’ve provided more meaningful exposure for me in 6 months than I’ve achieved in 10 years. In short, they’re worth every penny and then some! Oh, and they’re just plain good people. For me, there’s no better in the business!"

Several San Diego-based social media accounts shared information about this situation leading up to this article. We attempted to follow Instagram account @antonio_eats_la but were denied several times. We reached out to Breakfast Republic founder Johan Engman for comment, and he responded claiming the testimonial on the AGMR website was not provided by him. Malik's attorney later clarified that the quotes were not made by Johan Engman, but rather was placed on the website erroneously by a web developer has since been removed from Antonio Malik's website. 

"We understand that we have a small platform here in the social media, and we don’t get as much voice as other media influencers especially with Asian cuisine," reads the post about the situation on @Corner17's Instagram account. "Most of time the restaurants don’t have any social accounts or time to manage their accounts. An intentionally bad write-up from a large following influencer because of our refusal to accept their collaboration is unprofessional and a such hostile manner can simply ruin their businesses. I want to step up because we felt threatened by this media influencer. I want to give a voice to my Asian community that is ok to say no and turn down any promotional offers, no fear to stand up and defend yourself. It reminds me last Saturday at the back of our restaurant parking lot. A guy called me CHINK simply because I ignored his random cursing. I walked up to him even though he was two times bigger than me. There was no fight because there was a nice guy pulling that crazy guy away. What I want to say here is that we respect freedom of speech, but everything has its limit. When you feel disrespectful from anyone anytime, we should all stand up to fight for yourself and the community."