A Black couple claims that a Waffle House in Missouri denied them in-dining service because of the color of their skin.
Jimmiecia Benit and her wife, Camry, went to the St. Charles City Waffle House after a day at the casino. They ran into problems as soon as they got there, according to KMOV4.
“Before we can even get in the door, an employee goes ‘you can only do to-go orders. We’re not taking dine-ins,’” Benit told KMOV4. “We were dressed nice, came in properly, not loud, but as soon as we got to the door, no, only to-go orders.”
Neither of them gave it a second thought because they assumed the restaurant was following COVID-19 guidelines, so they just waited around for their to-go order. But they felt something wasn’t right when an older white man was seated. The man asked if he could dine in. The server looked at Jimmiecia and Camry to see if they were paying attention and then reluctantly seated him. Then another group came in and sat down.
The Benits started recording everything and the server gave her own explanation.
“I am the only server here, and I am trying to catch up from the last shift. So, I have my own reasons for telling you this,” the server said on a video the couple recorded on their cell phone.
The couple said they were never offered a chance to sit down.
The Benits’ attorney, Lynette Petruska, said “when the only customers who can’t dine in are the Black customers, it just doesn’t look like they are doing things for a legitimate reason.”
Here is more on the story, per KMOV4:
“We really are deeply sorry that we have two customers who had a bad experience with us and left feeling very unappreciated,” Njeri Boss, a Vice President of Waffle House, told News 4.
She says they did an investigation into the situation. “Out of that investigation what we found was very poor customer service that was rendered by a very young, inexperienced and flustered server,” Boss said.
But she denies there was any racial motivation.
“Earlier in the shifts, we have video of her serving no problem customers of diverse backgrounds, Black and white customers with no issue,” Boss said.
She says pandemic-related staffing shortages have made normal operations more difficult, but she says the company works hard to train its employees on best customer service standards.
Overall, she said the company takes discrimination very seriously.
“I know it can’t take away the hurt that these customers feel and still feel, but we hope it goes a long way to understand that’s not who we are not and not what we stand for,” Boss said.
Boss said the server voluntarily resigned and notes that the manager of that particular Waffle House is Black.
Boss said she offered the Benits an opportunity to meet with their CEO to discuss the incident because she wants to make this unfortunate situation right.
As for Jimmiecia Benit, she feels humiliated after the experience.
“I just want to make sure it doesn’t happen to anyone else. Nobody else goes through this,” she said.