In the earlier days of Yelp, restaurant owners had to sit on their hands as amateur critics weighed in on their businesses, spewing out reviews that were sometimes good, sometimes bad, sometimes completely unfair. Now they get to respond, whether by thanking folks for coming in, apologizing to those dissatisfied, or rebuking claims outright. Diner-owner interactions traditionally kept behind restaurant doors are now aired for public display. And sometimes, it's craaaaaazy.
Great Food Truck Race winner Jason Quinn is a very hands-on Yelp user, responding thoughtfully to many of the 118 mostly 5-star reviews of his downtown Santa Ana restaurant, The Playground. But as Foodbeast reported, a particular one-star review prompted him to write a raging, expletive-loaded tirade. A few jaw-droppers: "how fu*king cheap are you," "I WISH I WOULD HAVE PAID FOR YOUR BEERS AND KICKED YOU THE FU*K OUT OF MY RESTAURANT" and, his closing line, "Burn in hell."
The reviewer, Naseem M. of Santa Ana, was complaining about the restaurant's 3 percent chef-gratuity add-on, its refusal to cook beef any way other than rare or medium rare, along with a flurry of other details ("Sous vide chicken? Seriously?"). To those who read a lot of Yelp reviews, it just seemed . . . like a bad Yelp review. It happens. Keep putting out a great product and move on. To any Yelp reader with no prior knowledge or opinion of Quinn, his remarks make him seem extremely defensive (and a little frightening).
But we talked with Quinn about the ordeal, and he stands by his decision to write what he did.
"The truth of the matter is, these people were horrible," Quinn says. "My only regret is not kicking them out. I did everything I could to make them happy. I literally told them they did not have to pay. They let themselves leave angry. They ruined their own time."
What set him off was the reviewer's line about his family "walking around endlessly trying to be restauranteurs [sic]."
"People can say whatever they want about me. I'm 25, a little bit of a hot shot, feeling invincible, and doing weird things that no one else is doing," Quinn says. "But when they mock my wonderful parents, who are just proud of their son, I'm going to go for blood." (Quinn's dad, Bob, is the co-owner of the restaurant.)
Quinn says he loves Yelp, and if it weren't for the service, "no one would know who the fuck I am or would come to my little Santa Ana restaurant." Therefore, he says, he's using the tool to help educate potential customers. The 3 percent chef gratuity was designed to highlight the hard work of kitchen workers, who are almost always underpaid, while still offering dishes at a reasonable price. Those who don't agree don't have to come to the Playground, he says.
"I'm sure I'm going to lose customers and I'm going to gain customers," Quinn says. "I can only do what I think is right."
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Check out the review and Quinn's response below it. (Click to enlarge.)