A company representing Denny’s national chain of restaurants said there is an investigation underway into a viral video that accuses a white waitress of refusing to serve two Black customers and subsequently calling the police on them.
The video, which was apparently first posted to social media in mid-August, lasts for a little more than five minutes and shows a different waitress explaining to the two Black men that they would need to leave the Sioux Falls location for reasons that she said were unclear to her. The waitress said the police would be called if they stayed.
The men – identified on social media as truck drivers Damon Whitfield and Hector Madeira – said they had been sitting for 15 minutes without service and when one of them tried to get a waitress’ attention to order, they were accused of yelling.
That’s when two police officers showed up and escorted the would-be customers from their table.
“They’re refusing to serve us,” one of the men told the officers. “That’s crazy.”
He continued: “I’ve never been involved in something like this before. We just came in here to get something to eat.”
The officers gave the men the contact information for Denny’s corporate offices and encouraged them to place their complaints there while making it clear the men had to leave the restaurant.
Watch the video below.
After NewsOne requested a comment from Denny’s on Wednesday night, a marketing agency representing the restaurant chain responded on Thursday afternoon and said the company is taking the accusations seriously.
“A member of Denny’s leadership team has been in contact with these two valued guests involved in this restaurant visit to ensure they know this situation has our full attention,” an email to NewsOne from FINN Partners said.
The email also suggested that no one has been held accountable for what appeared to be an instance of racial profiling, implicit bias, unadulterated anti-Black racism, or a combination of all three.
“We are actively investigating the incident reported at Denny’s in Sioux Falls, South Dakota,” the email continued. “At the conclusion of the investigation, we will take appropriate disciplinary action.”
Metaphorically speaking, this is a movie that Denny’s has not only seen before but also starred in.
Perhaps most notoriously, in 1993, six Black Secret Service agents filed a federal discrimination suit claiming a Denny’s in Annapolis, Maryland, refused to serve them. That particular instance made national headlines and was so well known in popular culture that the renowned jazz musician Branford Marsalis (under the stage name Buckshot LeFonque) released a hip-hop-fused song called “Breakfast at Denny’s” the following year — just around the time that Denny’s paid $54 million “to settle lawsuits filed by thousands of black customers who had been refused service or had been forced to wait longer or pay more than white customers,” as the New York Times reported.
And in 2003, two Black customers took legal action against a Los Angeles Denny’s after they were asked to pay before eating.
In 2017, a Black patron at a Denny’s in Washington state claimed a waitress and manager demanded he and his fellow Black male diners pay for their food prior to eating. Palmer L. Pellham said the men were the only ones in the restaurant asked to pay for their food beforehand. He also claimed that they were forced to wait 10 minutes before being seated, even though there were plenty of available tables.
One year later, 25 Black churchgoers said they were refused service at a Denny’s in Lake City, Florida. Elijah Henderson Jr. said he was told his party couldn’t be served because the restaurant was understaffed. However, soon after another large group was seated.
In each of the above cases, Denny’s was forced to issue an apology.
But in the case of the Sioux Falls location, FINN Partners did not openly offer an apology on behalf of Dennys’.
Instead, FINN Partners said such behavior from its staff is a violation of policies.
“Denny’s has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to discrimination at all Denny’s locations,” FINN Partners said. “We embrace diversity and foster an inclusive environment where every guest feels welcome.”
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