An IHOP in Maine is apologizing after a server asked a group of black teenagers to prepay for their meal.
The manager of the Auburn restaurant, Melvin Escobar, told the Sun Journal he does not believe the incident was racially motivated. “We don’t discriminate (against) people for what they are or who they are,” he said. “This is the first time it happened, and that will be the last time.”
The restaurant has had a number of people, mainly teenagers, skip out on their bills in recent months and Escobar thinks the server was trying to prevent it from happening again.
The situation was made public when a witness, Avery Gagne, who was dining at the restaurant Sunday with his parents, posted about it on Facebook.
“As we finished up our meal a group of teenagers came into the restaurant and sat down across the room from us. I heard them order their food and they were respectful and were not loud or rude etc. We paid and sat there for a few minutes and I heard an employee tell the table that they were going to need to pay upfront and that it was ‘a new generation thing,’” he wrote.
Gagne said although the teens were not upset, he and his parents were, so they questioned the server about her actions. “The woman who requested they pay upfront came over and began to tell us how it was what management has asked her to do as they have had walk outs etc. She then looked at my parents and I and said ‘it’s not because of their color,’” he wrote.
He explained that the group of four were “African American teens who I believe were Somali as the girl was wearing a hijab.”
“The woman took it upon herself to make this group of teens pay for their meal upfront because she considered them ‘high risk.’ I don’t care who has walked out on your establishment. That does not give you the right to determine who you believe is going to or not,” Gagne continued.
His post had been shared over 2,000 times as of Tuesday afternoon.
By late Monday morning, the restaurant issued a public apology on its Facebook page, writing that a meeting was held with all staff members. “Everyone has been made aware of these inexcusable actions and reminded how we handle matters correctly in the future. We have rectified the situation and can guarantee this is not what we condone to go on within our restaurant.”
Escobar told the Sun Times that asking for prepayment is against restaurant policy and they don’t discriminate based on age, either. “The policy is: You come in, enjoy and we charge you at the end, like a normal restaurant. … [the server] took her own action,” he said.
“Please spare our credibility, as this situation is not a reflection of the service we strive to deliver. Auburn IHOP pride ourselves on providing a happy, enjoyable, and memorable dining experience,” the apology read.
IHOP President Darren Rebelez released the following statement to Fox News: “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 disciplinary 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.”