Olive Garden is, for the most part, a respectable establishment. It’s a decent first date option if you’re young or broke. It’s a great place to treat coworkers or families who really, really love breadsticks or have the gastrointestinal fortitude to eat pasta for two to three hours.
But for one pair of white diners at an Olive Garden in Evansville, Ind. this past weekend, whatever was on the restaurant’s menu, they insisted it be served by a white person.
The manager who received the racist request complied, and after another customer and a hostess wrote about the incident on social media, Olive Garden says that manager is now out of a job.
“We have zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind, and the manager involved no longer works for our company,” an Olive Garden spokesperson told TODAY earlier this week.
The incident was first publicized by customer Maxwell Robbins, who posted about it on Facebook. Robbins said the white guests refused service from a “colored” server and asked to speak to a manager.
“The manager without hesitation ensures that they will not receive service from a person of color. That couple should’ve been refused service for even asking something like that,” Robbins said.
Robbins, who was with his family at the time, said he didn’t directly address the white customers because he didn’t want to cause a scene, but felt the need to speak out about what he saw.
After his post, a black hostess who was berated by the white couple in question, 16-year-old Amira Donahue, came forward about her experience at the restaurant that day.
According to Newsweek, a woman asked for hot water, which Amira brought to the table. The customer immediately took issue with Amira, requesting “a server who wasn’t black,” the hostess said.
As Today quotes in a now-deleted Facebook post, Amira wrote:
“Racism is still prevalent in 2020! After years of experiencing micro aggressions and attitudes simply because of my color; I never thought I would be publicly embarrassed like I was yesterday. To be told that ‘i should work at a strip club instead’ was over the top. People don’t understand we’re not only children, but humans with feelings regardless of color,” Donahue wrote on her own Facebook page.
Donahue added that the white female customer said “awful things” about her and asked if she was even from the U.S.
... The hostess continued, “When she was sat she asked for a white server, then ate half her food & asked for a refund! She should’ve been kicked out ASAP. But I guess the racist customer is more valuable than your black employees that were left in tears.”
The incident is reminiscent of another racist debacle at a Buffalo Wild Wings near Chicago last year. There, staff members asked a group of black customers to move tables because a white customer didn’t want to sit near them. That staff was eventually fired as well.
According to Amira, the couple continued to talk about her to one of her co-workers, accusing her of not being “family friendly.” She also expressed disappointment at not being supported by management staff at the restaurant. Because let’s face it, you can’t control what kind of energy customers are going to bring in to your business on any given day. What you should be able to rely on is that your management staff will be competent, professional, and have your back.
The Olive Garden conducted an investigation into the incident over the weekend, which concluded on Monday.
A worthwhile lesson to take from these stories if you’re a restaurant employee? Just say no to racist nonsense. And for racist folks who don’t want to be seated next to, served by, or encroached upon by the more melanated among us: there’s always DiGiorno, bitch.