MANILA -- (UPDATED) An influencer duo has been criticized by members of the local restaurant community over their viral TikTok prank.
Chuck Aquino and Joe Abad, known as Chuck and Joe, recently posted a video of them repeatedly asking for additional servings of togarashi at a Japanese restaurant.
Turns out, they were hoarding the Japanese spice blend. One of them took out a jar and filled it with togarashi, placed it in his bag, and walked out of the restaurant.
In a statement released on Tuesday, Restaurant Owners of the Philippines (Resto PH) said it is "deeply concerned and saddened" about Chuck and Joe's TikTok video, which reached 2.5 million views as of Tuesday.
The group expressed concern that others, especially the youth, may emulate the prank and add to the many struggles of local restaurants given the pandemic.
"The restrictions of the quarantine have already caused many restaurants to close, and many more are struggling to survive. Malicious videos set a negative example and will have an adverse effect on the thousands of people who rely on the F&B industry for their security," Resto PH said.
"We, the members of Resto PH, appreciate influencers' contributions, but the quest for 'views' and 'hits' must be balanced with integrity," the group stressed.
"May we also enjoin other social media personalities to avoid creating content that clearly disrespects an industry and its workers. We are hopeful of the public's support, as these kinds of acts should not be emulated for virality and 'comedy.'"
Resto PH went on to warn Chuck and Joe that what they did was "a form of theft."
"While the influencers have posted an attempt at an apology, it was disappointing, as their video is still up on TikTok. We wish it to be made clear that we consider what they did as a form of theft; and once promoted on social media, theft no longer becomes petty. Restaurant losses are not casual matters to be used for a 'social experiment,'" it said.
Shortly after the release of Resto PH's statement, the viral prank has been "set to private" on TikTok by Chuck and Joe.
The influencer duo has yet to publicly respond to the restaurant group.