The Vahl family and their party, a mostly Black group of parents and young kids celebrating a birthday, say they were discriminated against by staff at a Buffalo Wild Wings when they were told they needed to leave their table because another customer did not want to sit next to black people.
The incident has since gone viral and the staff has been fired. Leaving the restaurant chain to face backlash after yet another troubling example of public discrimination has been captured online.
“If you don’t want to sit next to certain people in a public restaurant then you should probably eat dinner in the comfort of your own home,” Mary Vahl wrote on Facebook, in a post that has been shared more than 4,500 times as of early Monday.
A spokesperson from the Buffalo Wild Wings chain told the Associated Press that it had fired the employees involved after an internal investigation.
The company “values an inclusive environment and has zero-tolerance for discrimination of any kind,” a spokesperson said in a statement to WBBM.
On Oct. 26, following a birthday party, the Vahls’ party showed up to a Buffalo Wild Wings in a strip mall in Naperville, Ill. Mary’s husband, Justin, asked for a table for 15, but as a host began setting up their table, he quickly realized he had miscounted the size of the group and went up to correct his mistake.
Then, the host — a young Black man — asked a question that took him aback: “What race are you guys?”
“Why does it matter?” Justin Vahl asked the host.
The host said a regular customer who was sitting nearby, “doesn’t want black people sitting near him.”
The Vahls and their party decided to sit down at the table anyway, not wanting to give the other customer any satisfaction. They said they noticed the man (who appears to be white in a photo Mary posted to Facebook) glaring at them and then noticed him talking to waitstaff. Shortly after, a manager approached them and told them they would have to move to a new table.
“These seats are reserved,” the manager told them, “and we will have to move your group.” (Never mind the fact that Buffalo Wild Wings doesn’t take reservations, according to the Naperville Sun.)
When they complained to their waitress, she told them she knew what was happening: The regular customer is a racist, she told them, but she couldn’t do anything. After multiple managers tried to order the group to move to a new table, they decided to instead leave Buffalo Wild Wings.
As they got up to leave the restaurant, the host had tears in his eyes, and other customers got up to hug the group, Marcus Riley, a member of the party, told WBBM.
Riley told the station he answered with his own question: “If they don’t value us as people, as human beings, would you want to pay them?”
Buffalo Wild Wings told the Sun that it was “in direct communication with the guest to understand their account of what happened and to offer our deepest apologies for any unacceptable behavior.”
By Sunday, multiple employees at the restaurant had been fired and several others had quit, though local media did not report how many were dismissed or what role they had played in the incident.