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San Francisco Korean BBQ Restaurant Repeatedly Hit By Dine-and-Dashers Amid Pandemic

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) -- One San Francisco restaurant is dealing with yet another blow on top of the pandemic, as every meal and every dollar counts for struggling restaurants scraping by during this time.

K-Elements BBQ on Clement Street in the Richmond District said they were hit twice over the weekend by dine-and-dash scammers.

Security video from the restaurant shows four young diners eating in its parklet Sunday night. First, the young women get up and leave, and another person follows shortly after.

The last man sitting at the table asks the waiter for the check. As soon as the staff member leaves, the diner looks around and then walks away.

The man then runs across the intersection and into a waiting parked car on Clement Street. The group's tab was about $150.

It was the second day in a row K-Elements BBQ was hit.

Co-owner Alfred Lee says three young women finished a nearly $100 hundred meal and skipped out on the bill. They were caught smiling on security camera as they ran down the sidewalk.

"The 'dine and dash' is just one thing that drives everybody up the wall," said Lee. "There's already so much that everybody has to deal with during the pandemic and having to deal with staffing issues."

Co-owners Lee and Tony Lau have struggled to find enough staff to bring back since they reopened in February. Currently, they can only manage to stay open four days a week.

KPIX 5 last spoke to them in January this year, when the restaurant had been closed for several months, and hit with repeated vandalism. The crimes also prompted them to invest in pricey surveillance cameras.

"Especially right now, food costs have been rising. I mean the profit margin is definitely lower than what we had before, so every single one counts right now," said Lau. "So we're still trying to figure out if we can make it this month."

They've also been victims of virtual dine and dash customers - people who order food through delivery apps and claim it never arrived, or dispute the charge with their credit card company to get a refund.

"We called back DoorDash right away and Uber Eats, we're like 'hey you know we actually had it delivered, we have camera footage that the driver picked it up,' but at the end of the day, we don't know where it went," said Lee. "As soon as it leaves the restaurant, we don't know where it goes, so why are we the one who's suffering."

Lee said depending on the customer service agent, the apps may or may not cover the charges.

SFPD said larceny theft in the Richmond police district is down nearly 38% this year, compared to the same period last year -- likely because most businesses have been closed.

"For something that's only $100, if you can't afford it, just don't come out. Save up more money," added Lee.

The owners believe most victims don't report these cases to police, but in this case they did. Lee and Lau want to encourage other businesses to do the same, so cases can be properly documented.

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