Jason Quinn to Yelp Reviewer: 'Burn in Hell'

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Christopher Victorio/OC Weekly
Jason Quinn
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."

Check out the review and Quinn's response below it. (Click to enlarge.)

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56 comments
Sam
Sam

You're awesome!  Keep doing what you think is right.  There are always morons and Yelp is full of wannabe critics.  I respect how you stand up for yourself and don't coward the way most businesses do. 

The problem biggest problem with Yelp is that it censors legitimate reviews.  Since when do we censor free speech in America?  Their filter is flawed, there are many fake reviews that aren't flitered, while many legitimate reviews are filtered.  Someone should sue them for violating our first amendment rights.

tim_{d}
tim_{d}

It's disappointing that Quinn is taking a negative Yelp review as an act of intentional disrespect and as a personally motivated attack on his livelihood. He shouldn't. People are sophisticated about online reviews and understand that they represent an individual's subjective experience. Naseem was disappointed with his experience and chose to share that. You can't always please everyone, particularly if you have some quaint ideas about compromising your values as an artist-chef or whatever, and you shouldn't expect to. As a consumer, I like to see both enthusiastic and disappointed responses when I'm making decisions about how to spend my scant and precious few dollars. Understanding why people end up disappointed and what they're disappointed about helps me understand whether I'm likely to be one of them or not. I found Naseem's response kind of encouraging, in that context. Quinn's response was anything but encouraging. I can't imagine I'll ever visit, now.

If you can't take the heat...

Missmathmd
Missmathmd

I have to agree with Tim about not being able to please everyone, but I don't necessarily agree about the context of these two reviews. While Naseem's does seem more objectively (and thus more professionally or maturely) written, I think that type of Yelp review occasionally fails to draw any light upon the more subjective, passionate, personal portions of the tale.

Yes, I am a Yelper, and yes, I am familiar with the Lime Truck. As a loyal but fair consumer of both products, and as an author-for-pleasure on such a public forum, I do try to self-regulate my reviews for the sake of propriety and human decency. However, I can't help but sometimes feel that if I don't include SOME personality into my words, then it just feels sterile. Does that occasionally warrant profanity? Maybe.

Is that always aligned with modesty and political correctness (and, God forbid, the occasional typo)? Maybe not. Can Jason Quinn use a bit of self-editing for the sake of publicity and promoting "Passion Over Profit?" Maybe. But does that turn me off from his businesses on principle alone? Absolutely not. Quinn's response, at least in my humble opinion, is every single bit as encouraging as anything else. The man obviously cares. Worth checking it out for me.

If anything, Jason and Naseem's tit-for-tat is obviously missing what ACTUALLY took place (who else was there, what the other servers think about that incident, etc.). What I wouldn't give to have been a fly on that wall.

Hungry Dude
Hungry Dude

Err, by the same token, Quinn's review is informative too. It paints him as a raw, passionate guy who carries a big stick and a big grin. It says that dining at his place is an adventure with a plan, and he'll try his best to accommodate you within that plan, but you'd better come prepared to do it his way.

That IS why his restaurant is interesting. That's why all the people defending him, love him. Talk of a "hospitality-driven" industry and "just give them what they want" entirely misses the whole punk atmosphere of the endeavor.

I say good on him for standing his ground, they way he wants to. Rock on, dude.

Marcus Porcius
Marcus Porcius

Every person who attacks the reviewer in favor of the foul-mouthed poser is, and I can't stress this enough, a complete loser.

The review was written in a plain-spoken and well-written way that pointed out succinctly what the reviewer thought was wrong with his dining experience.  He didn't cuss, he didn't call names...he simply stated his opinion.

The response from Jason "I contradict myself every other sentence" Quinn was an obscenity-filled rant.  It was written poorly, with all the style and grammar of a 14 year-old cussing out a rival on Facebook.  Quinn makes big statements about pleasing customers and changing to meet demand, then berates the customer for being unhappy after he, Quinn, flatly refused to actually DO any of those things for that customer.

It is a sad commentary on modern society that people reflexively side with the foul-mouthed jerk who doesn't understand that "hospitality-driven" is the THE number one rule of the restaurant industry, and that the only "chef-driven" restaurants are those that serve a rich, snobby demographic that actually brag about eating in restaurants where the chef is a mouthy diva.

It is a worse commentary that these same people attack someone for writing a well-spoken post and call him a "tool" and a "douche" for doing so.

The calm, well-spoken person is a douche, and the foul-mouthed maniac is the guy you side with.

Based on Jason Quinn's response and the type of people who apparently all want to flock to his restaurant because of it, I will never set foot in there.  I wouldn't want to be in the same room with any of you.

Condiment
Condiment

I am, to put it mildly, no fan of one-star Yelp reviews. They are nearly always petulant, one-dimensional and shrill, like the shriek of a toddler deprived of a favorite toy. And although I've never been to the Playground, I like what the chef is apparently trying to do. 

But Nadeem's ``review,'' after the boilerplate Yelpisms of his first two grafs, is actually pretty close to the standards of a professional critic. He puts the restaurant into a cultural context. He pinpoints the conflict of ambition and resources with a concision I have rarely seen in professional reviews of gastropubs - and the problem is a real one. He references Meyers and Chang in a way that identifies him as somebody who really knows about restaurants (and which clearly draws blood), and his qualms about the restaurant are clear. And even his comment about the family, while inartfully phrased, is not drastically different from what you might see in a big-city daily's review. 

Would I go to the Playground? In a heartbeat. Would I follow Nadeem on Yelp? Not a chance - I'm sure he's on the youngish side, but his complaints are the ones my grandfather would make. But in this particular instance, it is the chef, not the ``reviewer'' who is out of line.

tim_{d}
tim_{d}

I couldn't agree more. I thought Naseem's review was thoughtful and offered a useful counterpoint to the pages of glowing reviews; it would have helped me set my expectations and it wouldn't have kept me from visiting.

Quinn's response will.

Pretty Hungry
Pretty Hungry

typo: 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."

Gabe Garcia
Gabe Garcia

This Naseem guy seems like a snob.  It is not like "The Playground" is a bad place deserving of a 1 star review, it just wasn't for him.  But, he went out of his way to write this huge elaborate review to mock this dude's restauarant EVEN AFTER HE WAS OFFERED A FREE MEAL!  HAHA.  If that action doesn't paint a huge middle finger then I don't know what does. 

Amblers2008
Amblers2008

I've been wanting to eat at The Playground since before they officially opened. Now, after reading Naseem's review, I plan to go this weekend ;-)

I love yelp! I love using it as a tool to see what places are like and I love reviewing places I've been to. It's funny that Naseem only has only written 2 yelp reviews since becoming a member in July of 2011.

One is a 5 star review to a dental place and the other is a 1 star review for The Playground. I find it even funnier that she starts her 5 star review with "I'm shocked to see that anyone could give Brea a bad review. It's by far the nicest, cleanest, and most professional office I've ever been to. The staff is polished and friendly. I can imagine that the bad reviews might be written by crabby people." LOL

Joe
Joe

I have some extensive knowledge on the restaurant industry, and at times, the restaurant encourages the server to share his tips with the chef in the kitchen, the bartender (if the patron ordered a drink), the host and of course, the busboy. Because of this, I would actually have to compliment that the Playground offers a tip for its kitchen staff, but as with all tips, it should be up to the diner to decide what this tip should be. At times, the kitchen staff is not giving it their all and are disorganized.

Josh
Josh

I can attest to Jason's willingness to please a customer.  When the Lime Truck was new, I tried it and was not pleased with my first experience.  He told me to come back and try it again.  I did, fully intending to pay for my meal but he wouldn't let me and then proceeded to give me one of every item on the menu to try it out.  His service goes above and beyond so I would doubt the true motives of the reviewer. 

I do agree that the 3% forced tip is pretty lame though.  Like many others have said, add it on and I won't blink about the extra .25 for a burger but force me to pay it and I may take it out on your server's tip. 

Jon
Jon

Gota side with jason. Complaining about 3%??? Thats the lame thing.

Suestorm4565
Suestorm4565

100% agree with Justin - everyone's a food critic now. Some of these reviewers are so obnoxious...additionally, they will post a nasty review to try to get a free meal from these restaurants.  

I don't care about the 3%.  If people want to turn that into them feeling like they got ripped off, nothing Jason can do about it.  He has the right to charge whatever he wants for his services and product. One question though, does he inform guests ahead of their meal? I think if you are charging "additional fees" it would probably be good to put up a sign or something stating this. I bet if people knew going in it might alleviate them talking smack about it.

I love how he tore this guy to shreds, quite honestly. In seeing some of his other responses, you can tell he does care about his customers.  I am likely to believe these people were really monsters.  Especially when they bag on his parents. Who does that??

Dave Lieberman
Dave Lieberman

It's in friendly letters on the menu. Not small print.

makesnoise
makesnoise

I admire Jaon's commitment to his food and his staff. I have eaten at Playground at least once a week since it opened and have had a great dining adventure every time. I had one dish that wasn't for me, and he could not have been more gracious about replacing it. He's an artist, and so he doesn't take requests to change his cooking to suit others. I admire that commitment and I will continue to dine at Playground and enjoy the fact that this insufferable Yelper will not be there. I wish more people had the courage to stand up to ignorance. Thanks, Jason and all that work there. Keep up the good work !

Dave Lieberman
Dave Lieberman

I guess I might as well go public with my assertion that I don't get the 3% gratuity (which comes through on the bill as "surcharge", not "gratuity"). It's not that I don't think the kitchen deserves it—they do—but it seems like an attempt to start a tradition, and one that confuses people at first and then pisses them off after they figure it out. It's the restaurant equivalent of the baggage fee (or pillow fee or sit-your-ass-down-first fee or whatever else they've come up with these days) on an airline.

Most of the dishes on the menu are in the $5-$15 range; increasing them 3% would take away that nice even dollar amount but would raise the prices $0.15 to $0.45 per dish.

I bet every chef in the world secretly cheered Jason on—most would love to tell their bad clients to burn in hell—and some people can't be made happy. There are politer and more creative ways of saying so, though. ("May you turn into a chandelier, to hang by day and to burn by night," for example.)

If by "pretending to be restaurateurs" this Naseem means walking around, busing tables, taking orders, talking about the food and the ingredients that go into it, well, um, how do I put this? That's what restaurateurs do. DUH.

I know the people at Playground and my experiences therefore aren't a good gauge, but I also have eyes and ears and the vast majority of people in the restaurant seem to be having a good, unpretentious, bullshit-free time.

909Jeff
909Jeff

  I bet every chef in the world secretly cheered Jason on—most would love to tell their bad clients to burn in hell.

If you have a good reputation and solid food you can do this on the reg... My Mother in Laws Husband has an Italian place in SF that has been there for 20 plus years.  I have personally seen him give people directions to the Olive Garden when they don't understand why he doesn't serve "Wop Slop".   

Dave Lieberman
Dave Lieberman

See also: Nozawa-san and his hatred of California rolls, Jean-Paul (of the Laguna Beach café) and his opinions of Starbucks and their sugary drinks.

Christian
Christian

The yelper loses some points for misspelling "restaurateurs." There's no 'n" in that word.

Marcus Porcius
Marcus Porcius

Actually it works both ways.

And why points off for him and no points for the restaurant owner whose obscenity-laced rant is filled with poor grammar and punctuation?

If you're going to nitpick, nitpick on the side of the guy who makes one (and arguably no) mistakes, not on the side of the guy who makes 50.

Dave Lieberman
Dave Lieberman

Thank you for saying that... it needed to be said.

DanGarion
DanGarion

The 3% Chef Gratuity confuses me. Why don't they just pay the chefs more money instead of adding an after the fact gratuity?

Jason Quinn
Jason Quinn

It's about raising awareness and following a promise to keep food prices fair.

tbplayer59
tbplayer59

But if you force a 3% gratuity, how is that keeping food prices fair?  Other than the technicality that it's not "food price?"

Marcus Porcius
Marcus Porcius

Raising awareness is for Hollywood activists and teenage girls looking for the cause of the week.

Prices are supposed to be based on food cost and profits, not fairness.

Try running a restaurant instead of being an amateur social crusader.

FishWithoutBicycle
FishWithoutBicycle

Did you hurt yourself climbing down from your ivory tower to address us peasants? You needn't have bothered...I'm still more than happy to give my business to a restaurant whose owner gives a damn about something besides profits. Imagine that.

Try having some compassion instead of being a pretentious jerk.

Evertzbill
Evertzbill

If he needs to mandate a 3% gratuity to help compensate his employees yet still "keep food prices fair", then by definition his wages aren't fair to begin with.  So who is really being the jerk here?  Just raise your prices by 3% and do away with the mandatory tip (which just makes it look like a hidden cost).  Thatt way people won't feel ripped off, and it also won't look like you're just trying to cheat the government out of payroll taxes...

Jen
Jen

For this reason alone, I will be a frequent guest at the playground. (Like the food, too, but I think this nod toward the people in the kitchen who are making the food, and who are almost always overlooked, shows they are valued by their employer. It's a statement too few employers make these days.) Keep up the good work Jason.

1000steps
1000steps

But if it's an automatic 3% how is that more fair than raising prices by 3% doing a profit share plan and simply put a write up on your menu and website about the awesome, hard working team that supports you?

Morecheeseplease
Morecheeseplease

Maybe I am in the minority here, but, I could care less who gets paid what out of my bill?...........Serve me good food at at a fair bottom line price and I will keep coming back.......try to confuse me with a bunch of add-ons and surcharges and I walk..........I wish you luck Jason.........but, chances are, our paths will never cross........

909Jeff
909Jeff

I'm sorry but we'll have to agree to disagree on that...Even if you're keeping food prices fair at the end of the meal I'm still paying one tab... If I'm paying ten bucks for a burger and 30 cents for "Chef Gratuity" Im still paying $10.30 for the Burger... Just charge me $11 and give 3 dudes a raise. And then my other quandry, do I pay my server 20% on the price of the burger plus the chef gratuity?  Or do I knock 3% off the server tip?  If i come to your place it will be to enjoy what I assume will be a phenomenal burger (Med rare of course) not try to solve a polynomial equation.  

Thats my only gripe... I look forward to coming and giving your grub a try and I promise I wont bitch about the 3%!

Local gal
Local gal

Jason is a nice fellow but I don't agree to tip the chef especially if I didn't like something they made.  The tip is for service and traditionally servers make minimum wage, chefs do not. Servers have to put up with the public and cannot hide when sh*t hits the fan, chefs are in back of house and have the option of interacting. I agree, if you want to pay back of house more, raise the price.And sorry that burger is a complete rip-off of Sang's burger (Father's Office). You are better than that Jason-don't make that burger again...it is beyond obvious.  Other than that keep going and that Nasmeem fellow sounds like a tool and be thankful you wont have to see him again.Now if all the other restaurants can kick him out.

DanGarion
DanGarion

Thanks Jeff, that was the point I was trying to get to, but was on my way out the door when I posted.

DanGarion
DanGarion

Thanks for the response Jason.

Justin Moore-Brown
Justin Moore-Brown

The problem with Yelp is that it has given birth to this whole entire caste of food critiques.  Food critiques who have never worked in the restaurant, can't cook worth a damn, or who've never opened up a restaurant and had to deal with people going that extra step to tear down what they've worked so hard to build.

Not trying to paint with broad strokes here as many of the people on Yelp do indeed provide useful information that I'm sure even Jason would agree with.

Rate the food, rate the service, rate the ambiance (totally unnecessary but whatever), but please for god's sake leave the big words, the obnoxiously long-winded snarky quips and your know-it-all attitude at the door.

Because at the end of the day, this Naseem cat is just a hater who wishes he had what it takes to put it all on the line to start his own business. 

JB
JB

Jason Quinn is by almost all accounts a heck of a good guy who is frighteningly talented.  But I agree with Ms. Woo...the response to the review should have been, at most, a couple or three very poised sentences, restating the facts and feigning contrition.

I also agree with Jason that the part of the review that said "Chef's family walking around endlessly, trying to be restaurateurs"    was a very shameful blow.  But again, let it speak for itself.  (And the Quinn 'rents seem like great folks...they can walk around my apartment while I'm eating dinner any day.)

More than a year ago, Jason read a comment I wrote objecting to paying $8.00 for "french fry goop" from the Lime Truck and opened a debate with me, rather than ripping me a new one.  Keep following that path, sir, and you'll never have to worry about a reviewer "negatively affecting your business."

gustavoarellano
gustavoarellano

I'm all for chefs telling crazy Yelp kids to shove it, but I find it fascinating that you're so willing to give Jason a free pass yet bitch at the McDonald brothers at Old Vine for doing the exact same thing...

FishWithoutBicycle
FishWithoutBicycle

If some arrogant douche was talking smack about my parents I'd tell them to go fornicate with themselves, too.

1000steps
1000steps

Love Lime Truck and really looking forward to trying Playground. I can see Jason's point on this after jumping through hoops to please the customer all the way down to comping everything. Though, I also don't get the automatic 3% gratuity for staff. Of course it is a very small amount of money in the grand scheme of things but gratuity is something given voluntarily and it's just strange. If you gave the employees a 3% profit sharing plan and raised prices by that same nominal 3% it would provide the same benefits. It's his place and frankly he can do what he wants and it's everybody's right to go or not, it's something I think he should reconsider.

Andrew Gruel
Andrew Gruel

The thing that bothers me most about this is that 11 people found this useful, and 7 people found it cool. The 6 people that found it funny I am assuming are laughing at Naseem.

Two thoughts on yelp. People shouldn't be empowered with stars AND reviews shouldn't go live until a user has posted at least 10 reviews.

This review makes me want to eat at the Playground every day to support Jason and his family. I wonder if Chef Naseem steals from the tip jar at Starbucks?

As for the "burn in hell", I am assuming that was a reference to the way he wanted his burger done...

Devon Rémy
Devon Rémy

Actually, Andrew, I beg to differ. With all due respect, of course.

I think the fact that Yelp relegates first-time or infrequent reviews to the "filtered" section negates the value of the opinion offered. I think all reviews should be given equal merit - that is, they should be visible to everyone, not just those people who know about or care to explore the hidden opinions at the bottom of the page.

Let the readers decide whether an review is valid, or even spiteful or obsequious. I GET that Yelp is trying to provide readers with "reliable" sources, but if that means one has to submit repeated reviews just to gain credibility, then we're talking about quantity over quality.

I actually value the opinion of someone who doesn't comment on every experience. If a restaurant or auto mechanic or dentist moves a person to open a Yelp account and offer an opinion - good or bad - to me, it means the experience was noteworthy. I can discern whether the reviewer is a malcontent or someone who's been induced to rate the establishment highly. Okay, maybe I can't, but the entire body of reviews can give the reader an idea of the quality of the establishment. I don't care for the Yelp filter. And yes, my first review on Yelp was filtered.

And I'm looking forward to eating at The Playground.

Anon
Anon

So chefs deserve a 3% gratuity for doing their jobs? WTF?

909Jeff
909Jeff

Dude... You should have just over cooked his burger!  Its not like they asked you to seriously alter a recipe.  Some people are squeamish at seeing pink in their meat.  Other than that yes It sounds like Naseem was a raging douche... 

I'm just saying 1 min longer per side would have saved you a whole lotta bullshit.  

It is a little chicken shit that he still decided to take it to yelp after you made so many overtures to try and make him happy.  I had a bad experience at Slaters in Dec and I sent an e-mail to Scott with pictures and even said it wont stop me from coming back but that I thought he would like to see what I experienced... Dude hooked me up big!  So to wannabe yelpers out there before you trash someones work, talk to them directly, and be respectful.  You may be surprised how receptive they are to criticism if its done with a little tact. 

As far as the 3% "Chef Gratuity" goes charge an extra buck or two for your food and give your guys a raise.  Yeah cash tips are a good way of dodging taxes and not carrying that extra liability on your books but it just sounds obnoxious.  

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