Once again, some black diners have been targeted by waitstaffs due to the irrational fear that they may dine and ditch. A February incident at a Missouri Applebee’s—in which two diners were accused of running out on a check the evening before—resulted in the restaurant branch being shut down for awhile as the chain fired employees responsible for the incident and instituted some racial training. Now a similar incident has happened at an IHOP in Maine.
A group of young diners was asked to pre-pay by their server at an Auburn IHOP. The server stated that this was based on several previous dine-and-dash incidents by teenagers, and not the fact that the diners were black. But Uproxx points out that “in reality, demanding customers pay in advance is such a common form of harassment, national chains have been dragged to court by the Justice Department over it.”
A fellow diner posted the incident on Facebook:
According to a followup article in the Bangor Daily News, the server was suspended for a week without pay. The restaurant is being closed for a day so that the staff can undergo racial sensitivity training. Restaurant manager Melvin Escobar told the paper, “The server took the action on her own after having had several customers leave without paying. ‘That’s why she did it,’ Escobar says. ‘She did it because of having some action before, with a couple groups in the past three months, teenagers coming and ordering tons of food and they just run out of my store without paying it.’ But Gagne says that’s not what the server told him and his parents. ‘When the woman explained to us what’s going on, she said this is what management wants me to do.’”
Unlike the similar incident at Applebee’s, IHOP has yet to address the incident on its Twitter page, sticking instead to a “Wanderer’s Wandering” campaign. But the IHOP Auburn branch did offer its own Facebook post:
And IHOP President Darren Rebelez responded to the incident in an emailed statement:
IHOP and our franchisees have zero tolerance for actions that are or allude to discrimination of any type. The franchisee of this location is working to contact the affected guests directly to apologize for this incident and are taking appropriate actions in line with their HR policies. For 60 years, IHOP and our franchisees have strived to create a warm and hospitable dining experience for all guests, and this isolated incident is not reflective of that ongoing commitment.