Daughter Shares Heartwrenching TikTok of Dad in Empty Restaurant Waiting for Customers — Then the Miraculous Happens
She thought it would only be seen by a couple of people, instead, her plea went viral.
It’s a TikTok video that has captured the hearts of more than a million people. In a mere 7 seconds, it takes viewers on a poignant journey of loss, longing, and waiting. A journey that Vuong Le knows only too well.
Business used to be booming for Le’s Santa Rosa restaurant, aptly named Lee’s Noodle House.
But then the pandemic hit. Like so many other small business owners, Le and his wife, Ha Tran, were forced to close their doors to indoor dining. Without adequate outdoor seating, they had to rely on take-out orders to get by.
Once the Covid restrictions finally lifted, Le was hopeful that things would go back to normal. They didn’t. For the past few months, the family has been struggling to keep their restaurant afloat, anxiously waiting for customers to return.
Their waiting may finally be over.
A Daughter Films a Heartbreaking TikTok of Her Father in His Empty Restaurant
Le’s daughter, 21-year-old Jennifer, is a master’s degree student at Long Beach State. She was home for a few days helping her parents at the restaurant when she decided to take a quick TikTok video and post it to the platform. She had no idea of the impact it would have.
In the video, Jennifer pans the camera around the empty restaurant before zooming in on her father. Dressed in a red jacket, he’s leaning across the counter, twiddling his fingers, staring sadly at a door that refuses to open. Just waiting.
Set to the haunting lyrics, “I don’t care how long it takes…” Jennifer captions it with: “it makes me so sad to see my parents just wait for customers to walk through the door to eat at their Vietnamese restaurant.”
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She also adds a plea for help in the description, writing: “tiktok do your thing & help support my parents Vietnamese restaurant:( my parents haven’t been having that many customers & been feeling stressed dealing with financial issues. if you want to check it out, they make delicious vietnamese food:) 1010 Hopper Avenue, Santa Rosa, CA 95403”
The video captures her father in a moment of raw vulnerability and it’s absolutely gut-wrenching. Even more so because her dad had no idea that she was filming it.
The Family-Run Restaurant At Stake
The restaurant is the Le family’s livelihood. Opened in 2003, it truly is a family business. Le cooks and serves, his wife is the head chef, and all 4 of their children have worked in it in one capacity or another.
It is open 6 days a week and on their one day off, Le and Ha Tran spend it cleaning, grocery shopping, and prepping for the week ahead.
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They have spent two decades putting their blood, sweat, and tears into their restaurant, and now, they were in real fear of losing it. Bills were piling up and they were under a significant amount of financial strain.
Knowing this and hoping to drum up some business, Jennifer posted the video on TikTok the next morning.
“First I posted it just to help my parents because when I was there helping them, it was really empty and quiet and we were just sitting around the majority of the time,” she told Press Democrat. “I thought ‘I’ll give TikTok a chance.’ I know a lot of kids used TikTok.”
How One TikTok Video Changed Everything
It turns out, A LOT of people use TikTok.
Within hours of posting it, the clip blew up, garnering nearly 1M views. Commenters came out in droves, from all over the world, showing their support and love for the hardworking family. The best part? It worked.
Since Jennifer shared the moving clip of her dad, Lee’s Noodle House is booming, a trend the Les hope continues for a long time to come.
As for how Le feels about what his daughter did? “She surprised me a lot … I didn’t know she did that,” he said. “But it’s a fact,” he continued. “How come at nighttime nobody dines in? It’s so stressful. We usually close at 9, now we close at 7:30 because you can’t afford to pay PG&E gas and electric and all that and you cannot wait for customers.”
Thanks to the power of social media, now they don’t have to. And the family is incredibly grateful. They posted a notice on their Instagram account thanking everyone who has supported them. “We are deeply grateful for the love everyone has shown us and we cannot thank you enough,” they wrote.
The Les struggle is not unique. Thousands of small business owners are still grappling with the devastating impact of the pandemic. Jennifer’s TikTok of her dad is a poignant reminder of just how important it is for us to continuously step up in support of local businesses in our communities.