News & Politics

IHOP Requires Table of Black Teens to Pay Upfront

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An IHOP in Auburn, Maine, finds itself in hot water after a server demanded that a group of black teenagers pay for their meal upfront. The restaurant’s manager and IHOP’s corporate office are denying that the server’s actions were motivated by race. They insist that the server was responding to a string of dine-and-ditches executed by teenagers.

Avery Gagne, a customer sitting nearby, witnessed the event and later published a lengthy post on Facebook about it.

Today I witnessed something that has left me feeling literally ill. I went to dinner tonight at Ihop with my parents in Auburn, ME and witnessed something disturbing. As we finished up our meal a group of teenagers came into the restaurant and sat down across the room from us. I heard them order their food and they were respectful and were not loud or rude etc. We paid and sat there for a few minutes and I heard an employee tell the table that they were going to need to pay upfront and that it was “a new generation thing”. …  The woman who requested they pay upfront came over and began to tell us how it was what management has asked her to do as they have had walk outs etc. She then looked at my parents and I and said “it’s not because of their color”. Now what I didn’t tell you at the beginning of this post was that these were four African American teens who I believe were Somali as the girl was wearing a hijab. The reason why I didn’t mention that is because it does not matter. The woman took it upon herself to make this group of teens pay for their meal upfront because she considered them “high risk”.

In an email to Patch.com, IHOP spokeswoman Stephanie Peterson “confirmed … that the incident did take place. Peterson said that the franchisee apologized for the incident, noted that it was not racially motivated, took disciplinary action, and is retraining the entire restaurant staff on Thursday.”

Patch.com pushed back by asking how the restaurant determined the actions were not racially motivated. According to Peterson, the general manager “believed the server’s actions were not racially motivated but she was worried the kids would duck out on the $100 bill.” Peterson told Patch that the restaurant has had problems in the past with teens walking out without paying their bill.

“IHOP and our franchisees have zero tolerance for actions that are or allude to discrimination of any type,” company president Darren Rebelez said in a statement.

“The franchisee of this location is working to contact the affected guests directly to apologize for this incident and are taking appropriate disciplinary actions in line with their HR policies.”

In closing, I have a couple of thoughts.

In today’s political climate, how naïve does an individual need to be to single out a group of black teenagers and embarrass them? It’s almost as if this IHOP server in Auburn wanted to have her fifteen minutes of fame.

That being said, having worked in the service industry, I understand the sinking feeling in your stomach when you’re given a table of teenagers. As a general rule, teens make for terrible customers, rarely tip, and the chances that they’ll skip out on paying for the meal rise exponentially. Still, this server’s actions were unnecessarily foolish.

If these teenagers are like I was when I was their age, IHOP just needs to offer them free pancakes for a year and this will all go away.