Article written by Tomee E. Soujourner
When dining in a sit-down restaurant with friends, family or colleagues, most restaurant patrons have expectations. They expect to be seated promptly, spoken to with respect, treated with courtesy, and have reasonable steps taken to accommodate their dining needs. In addition, they expect that their orders will be taken in a timely manner and to be told either verbally or by signs posted on the entrance door or by the cash register which forms of payment are accepted.
For many restaurant patrons of African descent, these expectations are not met and instead they are confronted with:
- Delays in service, from being ignored when they enter the restaurant to being seated in “low visibility” areas of the restaurant (e.g. by the toilets, by the kitchen area, by a drafty door, in the darker part of the restaurant or in the ‘undesirable’ spots).
- Not being served water or provided with drinks without asking while others receive prompt attention, including refreshment or being charged a sharing fee.
- Being denied entry or service based on appearance.
- Indirectly or directly being informed that they may not be able to afford to eat in the restaurant.
- Told that their attire does not meet the restaurant’s dress code despite other non-black patrons dressed in similar outfits being served.
- Being asked for identification when paying by credit card when other patrons are not.
- Being subjected to extra surveillance, including being removed from premises by security or police after being labeled as a potential ‘threat’ or suspicious by restaurant staff or management.
These scenarios are part of a practice referred to as consumer racial profiling (also referred to as ‘Dining While Black’ or DWB). It is a practice where decision makers (e.g. restaurant owner, staff, management, security, or police officer) draw on their conscious or unconscious biases about the individual’s race, ethnicity, and skin colour as well as other factors including gender, age, gender expression, accent, immigration status, perceived ability to pay, and language to subject the person to differential treatment.
To address DWB experiences, Prevent CRP suggests the following tips:
- Document the incident in written format or use an audio recorder. Include vital details about the restaurant, server’s name, time, date, location, what happened and witnesses.
- Take video recording or photographs outside the restaurant if it is safe to do so.
- File a complaint with owner or corporate customer service via email.
- If the incident is not resolved, then one option to is to follow-up with a social media complaint. Be cautious when using any media or social media as a forum to raise a complaint because the restaurant may attempt to build a case claiming defamation.
- Seek legal advice from a lawyer or organization providing legal advice familiar with relevant state and municipal laws, and Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (the Public Accommodations Act).
- Contact Prevent CRP at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet @preventcrp for resources and initial suggestions.
Prevent CRP was founded by Tomee E. Sojourner who is based in Toronto, Canada. Read more about why she started the company in the Spring 2017 print issue. In her upcoming article, Sojourner will focus on suggestions to address those uncomfortable moments of bad service infused with consumer racial profiling while traveling domestically or out of the country.