FEDERAL WAY, Wash. — A customer shamed a waitress and manager at the Federal Way Denny’s online Thursday after what he called a racist incident.
The customer, Palmer L. Pellham, said he watched as a waitress and her manager targeted a group of young African American men, asking them – and only them – to pay for their food in advance.
Pellham narrated the incident in a Facebook post that he made public and which was then shared over 28,000 times.
Pellham said the group of young men had to wait about ten minutes before they were seated, though the restaurant was empty.
“The server comes out … and walks over to the young men’s table with their order slips,” Pellham writes. “She then asks for them to pay before the cook will prepare their food.”
Pellham said the waitress told the group she had several people order food and leave without paying, so her manager said she had to have them pay in advance.
Pellham told the group of men to ask the manager why they were asked to pay in advance when Pellham and Pellham's wife, Esther, were not.
Denny's officials wrote on the chain's Facebook page early Saturday morning, condemning the incident and saying the employees involved had been fired after a swift investigation.
"We are deeply disappointed and outraged by the situation that took place at our independently-owned franchise restaurant in Federal Way, Washington," Denny's officials wrote. "Denny's has zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind. This type of behavior is unacceptable for any reason and is clearly inconsistent with our practices and policies. After a swift investigation, the employees involved in this incident are no longer employed by our franchisee and no longer a part of the Denny's system."
The restaurant chain has a history of dealing with racial discrimination.
In 1994, Denny's agreed to pay over $54 million to settle lawsuits filed by thousands of African Americans who were refused service or had to wait longer or pay more than white customers.
From a March, 1993 New York Times article:
The plaintiffs say that in one case, in December 1991, a group of 18 black students went to a Denny's in San Jose after attending a college event. By this group's account, the restaurant manager refused to seat them until they agreed to pay a cover charge of $2 each and to pay for their meals in advance.
More recently, a lawsuit filed in 2014 asserted that two black diners at a Los Angeles Denny's were asked to prepay for their meals.
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