Australian influencer shamed for asking restaurant for free meals in exchange for 'exposure'

Hospitality businesses are unimpressed with influencers' efforts to obtain free food in exchange for 'exposure'.
Hospitality businesses are unimpressed with influencers' efforts to obtain free food in exchange for 'exposure'. Photo credit: John Lethlean / Instagram; Jasmine Rollason / Instagram

A Brisbane-based influencer has been named-and-shamed online after she allegedly attempted to obtain free food from a restaurant in exchange for "exposure".

Jasmine Rollason, a "health and beauty" blogger with more than 37,000 followers on Instagram, has been called out by Australian restaurant critic John Lethlean for reportedly trying to "freeload" off a restaurant in Noosa, a tourist hotspot in Queensland. 

According to a screenshot shared by Lethlean to his Instagram, Rollason had contacted the unidentified restaurant owner via social media offering to promote their venue on her platform.

In the message, Rollason said she would be travelling to Noosa in the coming weeks and was planning to share and review her experiences.

"I would love to have the privilege to help your business grow," she wrote. "I have 35,000 followers that trust me and will value my opinions and posts on your restaurant.

"I love creating content for brands and I would be more then [sic] happy to supply your company [with] images you can share on your channels that are aligned with your current feed aesthetic or values. I also like to add my little touch too."

To conclude the message, Rollason pointed out she is a "model with lots of experience" who is "more than happy to help out". 

Not all of Rollason's message was included in the screenshots, but it appears that the influencer had requested free meals in exchange for her services. 

Captioning the screenshots, which he shared to his Instagram on Tuesday night, Lethlean wrote: "A model and a reviewer. #Couscousforcomment."

The popular hashtag is regularly used by business owners on social media to shame influencers who approach them offering promotion or exposure in exchange for free food. 

Lethlean's followers were quick to condemn Rollason for her behaviour, with one writing: "When will the freeloading end! How about buy your own meal and then tell your followers about your experience [sic]."

"Just pay for your dinner sweetie and leave a review on their website like normal people do," another added.

"Is there no end to this madness?" a third weighed in.

Rollason, who has been contacted for comment by local media, appears to have jokingly addressed the fallout on her Instagram. Taking a snap of the ocean on Friday afternoon, Rollason wrote: "I might be lucky enough to catch a 'free feed'," alongside emojis of a fish, a winking face and an eye roll expression.

Her response to the backlash.
Her response to the backlash. Photo credit: Jasmine Rollason / Instagram

Another pair of influencers also were subjected to Lethlean's wrath earlier this year for requesting free food in exchange for "some [Instagram] Stories". 

Elle Groves and Annie Knight, the women behind the food-related Instagram account Two Teaspoons, claim they are "wining and dining [their] way across Australia", but it appears paying for their meals isn't always on the menu.

According to screenshots again obtained and publicly shared to Instagram by Lethlean, Groves sent a message to an unnamed restaurant proposing an exchange of meals for content. 

"We would love to come and try it out in exchange for some Stories on our personal accounts, and a post and Stories on our food page," Groves wrote. 

Currently, Two Teaspoons has less than 3000 followers.

The screenshots obtained by Lethlean show that the restaurant owner didn't take kindly to Groves' proposition, responding with a lengthy message that highlighted the plight of the hospitality industry amid the ongoing pandemic. 

The restaurant owner told Groves they had no choice but to take up a second job on their days off - just to cover their rent and staff's wages.

"I've been grappling with how much rage to demonstrate/throw in your direction," the owner said in their response.

"Reaching out blind to a venue you know nothing about looking for free stuff is... even worse when COVID is still very much a thing, affecting small businesses like us devastatingly for two years now.

"Maybe give it a year or so and see how the business landscape looks, and see if you can amass enough followers for your 'collabs' to actually be of benefit to the venues you approach so naively, instead of them being only of benefit to you."

After being publicly exposed for her "shitty" offer, Groves addressed the fallout in an interview with the Daily Mail, claiming she and Knight "have never asked companies for free food".

"[It] is always left open to them to what they want to offer," she added.

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