Skip to main content

This Might Make You Sick: 11 Cases of Restaurant Racism

A roundup of news stories about racist behavior by restaurants and patrons
  • Author:
  • Updated:

Last weekend, a Famous Dave's server was fired over a photo of her holding a sign that complained of bad tipping during a powwow weekend. A week earlier, a South Carolina wing joint allegedly refused to seat 25 black customers (see below). And TV chef Paula Deen is the racially-insensitive gift that keeps on giving.

What's up with the race thing and the food thing? It seems that putting racist nicknames or comments on receipts is the current era's version of spitting in the customer's coke. Digging among the pocket lint of trashy news we turned up four recent stories of racist receipts from servers and one account of a racist receipt from a customer. Add to this several other race-related lowlights we found: three joints that that would turn away people of color, a delivery man's offensive butt-dial, a racist lunch menu, and a racist employee t-shirt. One restaurant owner posted a sign warning racists that she doesn't want their business -- and who can blame her? It's all enough to leave a bad taste in your mouth.

Racism is in the eyes of the customer

Short Dawg, center, sings one of his songs

The receipt Minhee Cho received in a New York City Papa John's read "Lady Chinky Eyes." She tweeted a photo of it; the store manager blamed "hip hop culture." Some wondered why she was even eating Papa John's pizza in New York in the first place.

New York Daily News: "Papa John's customer: Pizza joint called me 'lady chinky eyes'"

What? Black people call each other that all the time

Short Dawg, center, sings one of his songs

The staff at a California steakhouse singled out a regular customer and got creative with the racist-scatological names they put on his receipts.

OC Weekly: "Lawsuit Alleges Landmark Steakhouse Employees Referred to African-American Customer as 'McStinkynigger' and 'McNigshit'"

Also refused to gay-marry them

Short Dawg, center, sings one of his songs

A cashier at a Chick-Fil-A issued Asian college students from UC-Irvine receipts with the names "Ching" and "Chong." The student body at UC-Irvine is approximately 50 percent Asian.


Kitchen had run out of sexism that night

Short Dawg, center, sings one of his songs

An Asian customer of a Hooters restaurant in Queens received a bill for his meal addressed to "CHINX."

New York Times: "A Hooters in Queens Is Sued for Racial Discrimination"

No tips, please, I'm black

Short Dawg, center, sings one of his songs

Customers left a server at a Red Lobster in Tennessee a receipt that read "Tip: None" and "Total: Nigger." She posted a photo to Facebook and commented, "God Bless America, land of the free and home of the low class racists of Tennessee."

New York Daily News: "Red Lobster waitress posts racist receipt, and no tip, from customer — and gets suspended by restaurant"

The only thing brown in here is the liquor

Short Dawg, center, sings one of his songs

The Maker’s Mark Bourbon House and Lounge in Louisville, Kentucky, told a group they couldn't hold a public event there because the attendees would be black.

Scroll to Continue

Read More

AlterNet: "The Most Racist Restaurant in America?"

The only thing dark in here is the Guinness

Short Dawg, center, sings one of his songs

When a weekly event at McFadden's, an Irish bar in Philadelphia, began attracting African American patrons, the bar's manager decided to cancel it. As he explained in a text message to a bartender, "We don't want black people we are a white bar!" (McFadden's... why does that name sound familiar?) "McFadden's bartender says it discouraged nonwhite customers"

Please wait to be not seated

Short Dawg, center, sings one of his songs

A white patron at the Wild Wing Cafe in north Charleston, South Carolina, complained that a group of 25 black customers made her uncomfortable. The manager's crafty solution: Keep them waiting for two hours, then refuse to seat them.

USA Today: "Reports: S.C. restaurant refused to seat black patrons"

"Mozart's Jam (Explicit)"

Short Dawg, center, sings one of his songs

After receiving what they felt was an insufficient tip from an African American customer, two Papa John's pizza delivery men drove off trading racist remarks and singing "The Marriage of Figaro" -- with a racial slur substituted for "Figaro." They'd have gotten away with it, too, if one of them had not inadvertantly dialed the phone number of the customer. Their offensive comments were recorded as voicemail.

New York Daily News: "Papa John's drivers fired after leaving racial slur on customer's voicemail"

Join us in saluting black stereotype month

Short Dawg, center, sings one of his songs

Someone thought it would be a good idea to serve fried chicken at the NBC cafeteria for Black History Month. That someone was neither ?uestlove (of the Roots, Jimmy Fallon's Late Night house band) nor comedian Wanda Sykes, both of whom complained publicly that the menu was offensive. 

Vulture: "Racist NBC Lunch Menu Exposed by Tweeting Questlove"

A one-way taco home

Short Dawg, center, sings one of his songs

Employees of Taco Cid, a Mexican restaurant in South Carolina, wear t-shirts that depict a pair of tacos used as bait and the slogan "How to catch an illegal immigrant." The shirts were derided as racist by many news outlets in January, 2013, but the restaurant's owner disagrees, and employees continue to wear them. They're also available for purchase.

ThinkProgress: "Mexican Restaurant In South Carolina Under Fire For Racist ‘How To Catch An Illegal Immigrant’ T-Shirt"

Fear of a black restaurant

Short Dawg, center, sings one of his songs

Tired of prospective customers in her 97% white town (Ossett, in the UK) walking in, taking a look at her, and then walking out, restaurant owner Martha-Renee Kolleh put up a sign warning the public of the color of her skin. "Attention!," the all-caps sign exclaims, "everyone be aware I am a black woman, and always will be. If you are allergic to black people, don't come in." 

Gawker: "Cafe Owner Posts Warning to Racist Customers: ‘I Am a Black Woman’"