A customer at an Olive Garden restaurant in Indiana on Saturday loudly demanded a server who is not black, an employee and an observer said. A manager acquiesced, and is no longer employed by the company.
Amira Donahue, a hostess at the restaurant in Evansville in southwestern Indiana, said the customer, a white woman, complained to a manager about her and the other black hostess working during Saturday’s dinner rush.
“She made comments about me to my co-workers concerning my race and saying that I should work at a strip club instead,” Donahue said. “She asked if I’m even black and if I am from here.”
Donahue, 16, said the customer — who was with a handful of other people, including two children — was seated at a table that had a black server, at which point she became particularly irate.
The customer then screamed her demand for a nonblack server to a manager, who complied, Donahue said.
Maxwell Robbins, 22, a customer who witnessed the entire ordeal, said he was so disturbed by what transpired that he documented it in a Facebook post and submitted multiple complaints to Olive Garden by phone. The Facebook post had been shared more than 1,500 times as of Wednesday afternoon.
Robbins, who was dining with his wife and one of their friends, said the manager complied with the customer’s demand without hesitation.
Both Donahue and Robbins condemned the manager’s handling of the incident.
Robbins wrote in his Facebook post that the customer should’ve been refused service for even making such a demand and that it is “disgusting” that the manager would honor it, especially considering the restaurant’s diverse staff.
Donahue said she was so upset by the incident that she began crying, which Robbins said he witnessed.
“The young lady was in tears and had no one to support her,” Robbins said Wednesday. “So I felt if I didn’t write this post, nothing would have happened and she would continue to go to work for a place that she feels uncomfortable at and unwanted at.”
Donahue said the manager made a decision that the customer was more important than two of his employees.
Meagan Bernstein, a spokeswoman for Olive Garden, said Wednesday the restaurant chain has zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind. Bernstein said the company completed an investigation Monday.
“As a result of our investigation, we made the decision to separate with the manager involved,” she said.