Buffalo Wild Wings has fired two managers for their handling of a racist incident at an Illinois restaurant in which a group of mostly African-American diners were asked to switch tables because of their skin color, the company announced on Monday.
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One of the diners, Justin Vahl, told the Naperville Sun that his group of 18 — six adults and 12 children — asked for seating to celebrate a child’s birthday at a Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant in Naperville when a host asked about their ethnicity. Vahl, who is multiracial, said a manager eventually asked his group to switch tables because a regular customer was sitting nearby and didn’t “want black people sitting near him.”
The group initially refused to move, but later left the restaurant after multiple managers asked them to relocate to another table. Buffalo Wild Wings said it conducted a “thorough, internal investigation” into the incident that resulted in its decision to fire two managers and banned a customer who “exhibited the inappropriate behavior” from all of its restaurants for life.
“Buffalo Wild Wings values an inclusive environment and has zero-tolerance for discrimination of any kind,” the company said in a statement. “We have been in direct communication with the group of guests to understand their account of what happened and have offered our deepest apologies for any unacceptable behavior.”
Buffalo Wild Wings will conduct sensitivity training for employees in the Chicagoland area in response to the incident, the company said.
Vahl said one of the managers who asked the group to switch tables told him that they needed to move because another group of 18 had already reserved the seats. But the Naperville Sun reported its inquiries found that the Buffalo Wild Wings location in Naperville does not take reservations.
Mary Vahl, who was one of the six adults in the group, recounted the incident in a Facebook post that went viral, garnering thousands of likes and shares on the platform.
“In 2019, this type of behavior should not be accepted because of certain views. 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,” Vahl wrote. “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.”
Buffalo Wild Wings is a subsidiary of Inspire Brands, which also owns Sonic and Arby's.