An Indiana Olive Garden is facing major scrutiny after a woman customer requested to not be served by a Black employee and the restaurant manager complied. The manager has since been terminated, but the location is also under investigation by the NAACP over the alleged racially discriminatory incident.
Amira Donahue, the hostess at the Evansville, Indiana location, said that the customer began screaming at her in front of the other patrons dining in the restaurant. However, the incident transpired after the woman asked for hot water.
“But she asked for a server that wasn’t black and the manager complied and I do agree that was a bad decision at the moment but there was a better way that could have been handled,” Donahue said, according to WHET.
Not only did the customer discriminate against two Black employees, but she also made disparaging comments against Donahue. “The lady also made comments about me to another coworker saying that I am not family-friendly and that I should go work at a strip club instead of an Olive Garden. (She asked) am I even black, am I from here, am I from America, just like offhand comments like that and referring me to the ‘other one,’” the hostess said.
Donahue also said that the server was not emotionally ready for an interview.
Donahue told Courier & Press that the company has somewhat of a “customer is always right no matter what” policy. She continued, “I guess he was just trying to help the customer. We deserve more respect than that. I’m literally a 16-year-old child, and this grown woman was just screaming at me in front of everybody.”
The manager is no longer employed by Olive Garden, according to the restaurant franchise in a statement. “We have zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind, and the manager involved no longer works for our company,” the restaurant said, according to Indiana’s 14NEWS.
A spokesperson for Olive Garden said that the establishment does not tolerate discrimination, adding that senior leadership is investigating.
NAACP President Rev. Gerald Arnold spoke on the organization’s investigation into the incident. “We need to determine a distinction whether this is a cultural thing, or is this just an incident of an individual making a very bad choice, okay?” he said to the Indiana ABC affiliate. “So, that’s what we have to do first. So, if its culture, then we have to deal with it, and I don’t believe that this is systemic.”
Rev. Arnold also told WHET that the incident is likely not the culture of the company, as they have a very diverse staff and clientele. “It’s probably not going to be the culture because they have a very diverse staff and diverse clientele. I go there myself so we have to investigate those things,” he said.
Donahue said she was taken aback by the public display of racism. “It’s 2020, not 1920. We should be over this. Something should have been done and I feel like it should take more than social media to get a problem like this out there,” she added.