Spoon By H is closing forever. Owner/chef Yoonjin Hwang posted a heartbreaking goodbye message on Instagram last night about her popular nine-year-old Korean restaurant, noting not only the ongoing daily devastation of the restaurant industry as a result of the global pandemic, but also something much more nefarious: fraudulent orders and chargebacks from customers, resulting in significant financial losses.
The last day of service is technically February 27, though rumor has it the restaurant has already run out of much of its inventory.
The Los Angeles Times spoke with owner Hwang about her restaurant, and the false charges that have come to define her restaurant’s impending closure. Starting last summer, Hwang says customers began to frequently dispute charges with their credit card companies, fraudulently saying that parts of orders (or entire orders) were missing. Because these financial institutions, and often the ordering apps themselves, side with customers as a default most of the time, restaurants like Spoon by H are stuck footing the bill for food they sent out to those customers. Add those up, and Hwang was losing money while taking valuable time away from the kitchen to dispute the claims, says the Times. The paper also spoke with several other restaurant owners who have experienced similar chargeback schemes, including Luv2Eat Thai Bistro.
The LA Times detailed one event from November 10 when a customer ordered $728.76 worth of food via Tock, and scheduled a pickup for November 18. The customer left out vehicle information on the order, which Hwang used to accommodate contactless drop-offs. The customer did not respond to texts either. After helping the older man load the food into a white van, she thought nothing of it.
Tock informed Hwang on November 25 that the customer disputed the $728.76 charge. Because disputes like this were happening regularly, Hwang was armed with photos of the order and food. In January, Tock said she lost the appeal.
Hwang opened Spoon by H in 2012 with a simple menu of sandwiches, soups, and noodles before evolving into specialty dishes like manduguk, or pork belly and dumpling soup. The restaurant launched into the stratosphere after chef David Chang began to repeatedly tweet about Spoon by H’s food, while also discussing it on his popular podcast. Though 2020 saw a massive downturn in business for most LA restaurants, Hwang had kept going by offering combinations, dosirak, and dishes anywhere from $25 to $150 per person.
Unfortunately, Spoon by H is not the only one dealing with customer disputes with orders. Credit card companies, online ordering apps, and delivery apps must address these problems, but they reveal yet another systemic issue that have impacted restaurants and their employees during the coronavirus pandemic.
Spoon by H fans published a GoFundMe on Tuesday. There’s a $50,000 goal and it’s presently shy of $30,000 in contributions that will go towards rent, supplies, and expenses.
- LA restaurants struggle with a new form of dine-and-dash [LAT]
- A Running List of LA Restaurants That Have Closed During the COVID-19 Pandemic [ELA]