A 1-star Yelp review for wonderful Chinese restaurant in Millbrae, California has fired up a minor controversy for the Bay Area restaurant. According to Yelper Dan W., the staff of the small family-run restaurant refused to seat his party of one on a busy recent Wednesday night, leaving him with practically no choice but to leave a smug review of a place at which he apparently didn't even bother to eat. Unfortunately for Yelper Dan's budding career as a casual restaurant reviewer, the restaurant's own footage from their Dropcam appears to disprove his story flat-out.
"I guess it's tough to give an accurate rating on this but I'm not going back," Dan W. wrote in his original review, which has since been scrubbed from Yelp's memory hole and re-posted to wonderful's website, where it was picked up by Ratter SF. Dan's review continues (sic throughout):
My experience was at around 730pm on a Wednesday. I was flying solo that night, after a particularly challenging day. The waiter came up and asked how many. I said one, I had planned to sit at the bar or get the food to go. She said "one? no, one?" and then ran off. I waited a minute at the door, and then left. They were busy and potentially understaffed. It's not that classy of a place, but they refused to seat me. Sure, I was wearing jeans and a baseball cap with my flannel shift not tucked in. I had no intentions of taking a full table, just any corner I could fit in, or order off the menu to go once the guy next to me was done with it. Oh well, next time I go out in a group of three to six we'll take our business elsewhere. The key to a good business is to be consistent in the small things. That sucks, I just wanted food and I had cash, just as I sat down two people called me back and my entourage of 6 had an amazing dinner at Thai stick.
Although owner Junsong Xue tells Ratter that he is generally too busy to concern himself with Yelp, his son You You Xue caught the steaming review from abroad and brought it to his father's attention. The younger Xue then accessed the restaurant's Dropcam footage, found the time and date in question and pointed out the disingenuous nature of Dan's review. In a 38-second clip from the surveillance camera, which you can watch on the restaurant's site here, the alleged Dan W. can be seen entering the restaurant and looking around for approximately 22 seconds before glancing at the waiting list and showing himself the door. A second camera angle from the same timeframe shows a full restaurant with a few other patrons already waiting.
Wonderful restaurant's rebuttal was then promptly served with a heaping side of sarcasm, signed the "Management":
In this first video, you can see that you entered at 19:07, which is earlier than you quoted. You can also see that you did not wait a minute at the door. You spent a total of 22 seconds in the establishment. This video also clearly shows that there were other patrons waiting. We are sincerely sorry that we forgot to recognise your very, very "VIP" status at wonderful, a status so special that you don't have to sign the waiting list like everyone else... I've never been to a restaurant where to refuse to seat people because they're wearing what you were wearing... You're dreaming if you think that's why you didn't get service. [...]
Dan, we didn't refuse to seat you. You refused to wait in line like everyone else. You thought you were special, so special that you don't have to follow the rules. That's not true, we caught you.
Yelper Dan responded by tweaking his original review to include accusations of online bullying and claims that the restaurant did not have his permission to post his image online (although his face is obscured by a baseball cap the entire time). Dan finally concluded, menacingly, "The rating stands and I will share this with my friends. It sounds like the rest of your response is lip service, this is a real review and you have not addressed my concerns."
Although wonderful's blog claims Dan is now prohibited from visiting the restaurant, the elder Xue told Ratter SF if Dan does decide to return, "I will shake his hand and take care of his meal." Now that's wonderful.
[Update: An earlier version of this post incorrectly identified wonderful's owner as Joseph Xue. His name is Junsong Xue.]