On Saturday, a New Orleans couple posted about their experience at a fancy restaurant.
Their post, which detailed the staff adding a gratuity to their check without asking because they "prejudged" the Black couple, went viral this weekend. The husband said in his post that he had worked for years in the restaurant business, and was taken aback to see the automatic gratuity added. They asked a white couple that had dined nearby if they had a gratuity added, and they had not.
The couple then questioned the staff, and eventually the manager admitted that he had lied about the policy, and that there was no automatic gratuity policy.
"So, you mean to tell me that my wife and I, without any dispute at the table, gave off a vibe because of the way that we looked, that made you think we were the only couple your restaurant has ever served that wasn’t going to leave a tip? So you all got together, changed your policy, and lied about it? And, didn’t tell the truth until I approached another couple in the restaurant?" the husband posted. "In the grand scheme of things, a 20% gratuity is nothing. But it’s a small sample size of how some people look at African Americans and assume whatever they want to assume. The expedience of how the employee and the manager got together, conspired, and covered for each other makes matters worse."
Last night, the owner of the restaurant, Desi Vega himself, posted an apology to the couple, saying he had met with them. He also said he was very sorry, that he had suspended the employees involved and was instituting training for all employees.
"They went through their concerns with me, and I expressed how disappointed I was with what happened to them," Vega writes in a post on his restaurant's Facebook page. "We discussed together how my restaurants will be posting policies for the employees regarding tipping, and we will be instituting training for racial bias and sensitivity training for all of my employees. I also would like to apologize to the community. We have worked hard to become part of the diverse city that is New Orleans and to be a great place to have fun and enjoy a good meal."
Today, the couple posted that they didn't ask for anyone's job, they didn't ask for a refund - which Vega processed anyway - and that they felt the apology was genuine.
"My wife and I believe his apology was genuine. We did, however, emphasize that at this point, this is way bigger than us. The community has rallied behind this and has been vocal in seeking change. Our post began as a simple effort to bring public awareness to a horrible, racist experience, and ended up being shared and commented on more times than we could ever imagine. My wife and I appreciate all of the support. We have read thousands of comments and suggestions. These suggestions have spanned from individuals asking us to demand a refund, file a lawsuit, get the employees fired, seek positive change, etc.
We decided to request the following: a public apology and acknowledgment that this happened to us; implementation of implicit bias training throughout the organization; posting (in the menu, throughout the restaurant, or the receipt) the actual gratuity policy so that employees can never do this again and so that no one would have to ever experience what we experienced; having his organization work with, support, and donate to Café Reconcile - an organization that supports the training of underprivileged youth to promote entrepreneurship and advancement in the restaurant industry. My wife and I will be reaching out to Café Reconcile today to work on the details of this arrangement," he wrote. "We did not ask for a refund. We ate the food so we have no problem paying for the food. He was, however, adamant about processing a refund to our credit card and did so above our objection.
"We did not request for the termination of the employees as we do not feel like this is our call to make. This is a call for him to make as their actions impact his organization. We did not post our experience to seek revenge, a lawsuit, or monetary gain. Our post was made in an effort to bring awareness and positive change.
"We believe this was accomplished and we could not have done that without all of you rallying behind us. We hope that other restaurants will implement similar policies in an effort to prevent this mistreatment from happening across the industry as a whole."
Here's the restaurant post: