Patrons and staff at an Olive Garden were stunned when a customer began making loud, racist demands. They were even more shocked when the manager complied “without hesitation,” proving people can be terrible.
Amira Donahue, a 16-year-old Olive Garden hostess, was on duty at the Evansville, Indiana location when a customer, described as a white woman, began making racist demands. The woman allegedly insulted Donahue and another black hostess, vocally complaining about them to their manager and loudly demanding to be served by a nonblack employee while dining at the restaurant.
“She made comments about me to my co-workers concerning my race and saying that I should work at a strip club instead,” Donahue recalled, according to NBC News. “She asked if I’m even black and if I am from here,” she added, also explaining that the woman came into the restaurant with a group of people, including two children, and became irate when they were seated at a table served by a black waitress.
Sadly, things would only go from bad to worse. The woman allegedly screamed at management, shouting that she wanted a nonblack employee to serve her. Unfortunately, Donahue, her coworkers, and at least one customer were only left further appalled by how the manager handled the situation, quickly complying with the racist request.
This upset Maxwell Robbins, a 22-year-old who was dining with his wife and one of their friends and allegedly observed the incident. Disturbed by what transpired, he took to Facebook to document the ordeal and express his disgust in a scathing post, noting how the manager caved to the customer’s demands. “I’m never going back to the Olive Garden in Evansville,” Robbins wrote. “A few white people come in [and] says that they refuse service from a ‘colored’ server and asks to speak with the manager.”
“The manager without hesitation ensures that they will not receive service from a person of color,” Robbins added. “That couple should’ve been refused service for even asking something like that!! It’s disgusting that Olive Garden’s manager would allow that especially with a very diverse staff.”
In addition to making the post, which quickly went viral, Robbins also reportedly called the Olive Garden several times to report the incident and complain after witnessing the treatment of Donahue and seeing it drive her to tears. “The young lady was in tears and had no one to support her,” Robbins said. “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.”
Amira Donahue condemned the handling of the incident, saying her manager made a decision that the customer was more important than two of his employees. Thankfully, after completing an investigation into the ordeal, the restaurant chain agreed that the response to the customer’s demands was inappropriate and decided to fire the manager in question.
“As a result of our investigation, we made the decision to separate with the manager involved,” Meagan Bernstein, a spokeswoman for Olive Garden, said, adding that the restaurant chain has zero-tolerance for discrimination of any kind.
“It seems like Olive Garden made a massive effort to ensure that this will not happen again and one of the girls I have spoken to seems to be in good spirits with the company,” Maxwell Robbins wrote in an update to his original post. “We got done what needed to be done and it shows that we will not stand for any racism around here!”
As for Amira Donahue, Robbins said, “She is the sweetest host I’ve ever met at any restaurant,” and he’s “glad Olive Garden took care of her.” Indeed, it’s nice to see an employer do the right thing and stand up for their staff when a customer is out of line. The old saying might be that “the customer is always right,” but that’s not always true. Sadly, the reality is that some are downright terrible, and this incident proves it.
If you want to ensure that you are only served by someone of your race, stay home and serve yourself. Going out in public and belittling someone over the color of their skin isn’t okay. Thankfully, Maxwell Robbins realized that and was willing to defend an innocent person when no one else did. Wielding the power of social media, he insured it won’t happen again and hopefully sent a message to others who might think it’s okay to ignore racism in an effort to make a customer happy.