Desi Vega Apologizes to Black Couple Who Had Gratuity Added to Bill After Being Profiled in Restaurant
New Orleans restaurateur, Desi Vega, is apologizing to a couple after they were racially profiled in one of his restaurants.
James Washington and his wife said they decided to wind down from a long week with a dinner date at Desi Vega's Seafood and Prime Steaks in Metairie last Friday. Washington said the date started out great and there were no issues with the food or the customer service. He described the experience as "all laughs and giggles" until the young black couple received their bill.
Washington noticed a 20% tip was automatically added to their bill. As someone who grew up working in the restaurant industry, Washington found it odd that the restaurant would automatically add a gratuity for just a two-person party—so he asked the server if it was standard procedure, and the server confirmed that it was.
Something still didn't sit well with Washington so he called the restaurant from his table to ask about the gratuity policy. The hostess who answered the phone was unaware of such a policy, so she put the manager on the phone and he confirmed there was an "automatic 20% tip" that was "restaurant policy."
Even after speaking with the manager, Washington's uneasy feeling about the situation didn't subside, so he reached out to friends who frequent the restaurant and they said they've never had gratuity added to their bill. He then spoke to a White couple in the restaurant who already paid their bill and they confirmed that there was no automatic gratuity added to their ticket.
According to a Facebook post describing his experience, Washington called the manager over to his table to confront him about it.
I called the manager over to the table and asked if he had lied. He admitted that he did. He confirmed that he and the server prejudged us. Said he felt bad so he kept the lie going. Said he was in a 'precarious' position. Said he didn’t mean to racially profile us but his server asked him to do this to us so he went along with it. Said he was 'embarrassed and humiliated.' Promised he’d never do it again. Said they never did it before.
Washington's Facebook post went viral, being shared nearly 3,000 times in less than 48 hours.
The story quickly caught the attention of restaurant owner Desi Vega who issued an apology late Sunday, calling the entire situation "improper."
The fact that my staff tried to cover the situation up by lying about it makes it much worse.
Vega also extended an invite to the couple so he could personally apologize. Washington described the meeting in a Facebook update.
Although the employees involved were suspended, Washington said that wasn't his desire nor was it his decision to make. Instead, he laid out action steps that he wanted to see taken by Vega and his restaurant staff to ensure the situation couldn't happen so easily in the future.
The expedience of how the employee and the manager got together, conspired, and covered for each other makes matters worse.
While Desi Vega did apologize, some on social media are criticizing his decision to only suspend the involved employees without pay instead of terminating them.
See the full story here via NOLA.com