Owner of restaurant in Louisiana responds to racial profiling allegations, suspends two employees for ‘improperly’ adding tip to Black couple’s bill

Louisiana News

Desi Vega’s Seafood and Prime Steaks

METAIRIE, La. (WDSU) — The owner of a popular steakhouse in the New Orleans Metro area is responding to racial profiling allegations.

Desi Vega, who owns Desi Vega’s Steakhouse, admitted one of his employees, at the Metairie location, ‘improperly’ added a tip to a Black couple’s bill.

In response, Vega said he suspended two of his employees without pay.

Vega posted an apology on Facebook late Sunday saying his employees tried to cover this up by lying, which he said made it much worse. He also said he met with the couple and told them how his restaurant ‘will be posting policies for the employees regarding tipping and we will be instituting training for racial bias and sensitivity training for all employees.’ He also said Desi Vega’s “stands firmly against discrimination and profiling of any kind.”

Vega’s response comes after the couple detailed their experience Friday night at the restaurant.

On Facebook, James Washington said he and his wife went out to Desi Vega’s for date night. When they received the check, Washington said it had 20% gratuity added automatically.

Washington wrote, ‘”If you know me, you know that I grew up in the restaurant business. Started off as a bus boy at the Praline Connection, moved up to waiter, then all types of positions at Ruby Tuesday’s. A 20% tip for me is for par (or sub par) service. I respect waiters and bartenders so I like to do much more. Nevertheless, I thought the automatic gratuity was weird for a party of two. So I asked our server if this was standard. He said “yes, we add 20% to all of our bills.” Something didn’t seem right about his response. So, we called the restaurant (while we were still there) and the hostess answered. We asked for the gratuity policy, she didn’t know of one so she placed the manager on the phone. The manager asks if we’re at the restaurant. We confirmed that we were. He said, “absolutely.” “We add 20% to every single bill.” Something still didn’t seem right about this. We called friends who frequent the restaurant. They said they’d never heard of such a thing. Still not wanting to believe that we got singled out, and trying to give them the benefit of the doubt, I spotted a white couple that had just paid for their bill. I pulled them to the side and asked them if that happened to them. Their response – “absolutely not.”’

He went on to say, “I called the manager over to the table and asked if he had lied. He admitted that he did. He confirmed that he and the server prejudged us. Said he felt bad so he kept the lie going. Said he was in a “precarious” position. Said he didn’t mean to racially profile us but his server asked him to do this to us so he went along with it. Said he was “embarrassed and humiliated.” Promised he’d never do it again. Said they never did it before. So, you mean to tell me that my wife and I, without any dispute at the table, gave off a vibe because of the way that we looked, that made you think we were the only couple your restaurant has ever served that wasn’t going to leave a tip? So you all got together, changed your policy, and lied about it? And, didn’t tell the truth until I approached another couple in the restaurant? In the grand scheme of things, a 20% gratuity is nothing. But it’s a small sample size of how some people look at African Americans and assume whatever they want to assume. The expedience of how the employee and the manager got together, conspired, and covered for each other makes matters worse. Needless to say, we won’t be going back.”

Monday morning, Washington posted this response to Vega’s apology and called it ‘genuine.’

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