Things That Matter

Buffalo Wild Wings Faces Backlash After Booting An African American Family From From Its Restaurant For ‘Racist’ Regular

Like most families who hit up Buffalo Wild Wings for a family birthday, the Vahl family was looking for a friendly family meal when they went to the restaurant on a Saturday night in Chicago. However, the family and their party, a group made up mostly of African American adults and children, were faced with a dreadful experience of discrimination instead.

The family had just sat down for a meal when staff at the restaurant ordered them to leave their table.

The incident started when another customer insisted he would not be seated by Black people.

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Last week on October 26,  the Vahl family and their party, which included 18 people, headed to a Buffalo Wild Wing located in a strip mall in Naperville, Ill. Naperville is reported to be a racially diverse suburb about 40 minutes southwest of Chicago. In a post to her Facebook page, Mary Vahl described the racist encounter. The story has been shared more than 4,500 times as of Monday afternoon.

At the time, Justin Vahl asked for a table of 15 for his family. However, as the host began to set up their table, he realized he’d made a mistake and approached her asking to accommodate for a table of 18. Then the host asked Vahl a question that caught him off guard,  “What race are you guys?” A report from the Washington Post says that the young host was African American.  Justin Vahl asked why it mattered and the host replied that a table with 2 of their “regular customers” were next to where they were to be seated and he didn’t want the party sitting there because he is “racist.”

Not wanting to give the customer the “satisfaction” of leaving, the family sat down at the table anyway and began their orders.  According to Mary Vahl, they realized who the customer was because he, at this point, continued to shoot them glares. However, it wasn’t until the other customer spoke to waitstaff and had a manager ask them to move that things got serious.

“These seats are reserved,” a staff member told them, “and we will have to move your group.” According to the Naperville Sun, Buffalo Wild Wings does not take reservations. According to Mary Vahl, the men at the party politely refused and requested to speak with the manager. It turns out the staff member who attempted to get them to move WAS the manager. 

When the family finally complained to their waitress, she replied that she was already aware of the situation. Vahl expressed her frustration in her post saying, “How is an establishment ok with serving people who try to control which types of people sit around them?! It was not ok that that a person of management was willing to move 6 adults and 12 children versus 2 grown adults who are uncomfortable sitting by black folks!!” 

By this point, Vahl said the group had been made to feel extremely uncomfortable for the situation they were subjected to and eventually the restaurant’s service manager, a woman named Hannah, approached them.  “After already speaking to the other table, to say that it was told to her that our seats were already reserved by a party of 18 that called in.” Vahl explained in her post. “Although we walked in with no call, if these tables were in fact reserved there would have been a reserved sign on the table. At this time management is giving every excuse for their “misunderstanding” because John decides to change his story in front of his superior. We call him out on his words and tell him he didn’t “think the tables were reserved” and blatantly told us they WERE reserved and we HAVE to move our group.”

According to a member of the party named Marcus Riley who talked to WBBM, several customers outside of the party got up to hug the group when they finally had it and decided to leave. According to Riley, the host at the restaurant had tears in his eyes as the group left. 

“In 2019, this type of behavior should not be accepted because of certain views,” Vahl wrote. “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. A moment to hang out with a group of friends after a birthday party turned into a discussion with our young impressionable sons about how we didn’t get kicked out, but willingly CHOSE to leave because of the unfair treatment we were being given. This Buffalo Wild Wings location has lost our business indefinitely. Thank you to the Hooters for serving our group and the patrons of Hooters for not being close-minded people that would ruin the night of others.”

After the incident went viral, the restaurant chain announced the staff that had been involved had been fired.

“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.

A Buffalo Wild Wings spokesperson told the Associated Press on Monday that it had conducted an internal investigation and fired the employees involved.

The company “values an inclusive environment and has zero-tolerance for discrimination of any kind,” a spokesperson said in a statement to WBBM.

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