Restaurant chain Pizza Hut apologized to five professional soccer players Monday after they were asked to pay for their food before it arrived because of “the way they looked.”
The three black and two white players went to a Pizza Hut restaurant in Bournemouth, southern England, for lunch when their AFC Bournemouth club training session was canceled.
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It was only when they ordered their food that they were told they would have to settle the bill in advance.
The players, who said they were shocked by the request, which was not made to a group of white customers, refused to pay upfront -- and the restaurant manager called the police, who escorted them from the premises.
The fast-food chain apologized but claimed that it was following police advice to ask customers to pay in advance because of the number of people leaving without settling the bill. It said the request was not racist but that the acting manager at the branch was wrong to ask only the group containing black customers for payment upfront.
The players, including first-team regulars Anton Robinson, Liam Feeney and Marvin Bartley, went to the restaurant for lunch after their training session was canceled due to the bad weather.
“We ordered the food, and the next thing, the manager came up with the bill and said, ‘Would you mind paying first?’ We asked if that was the policy, and he said ‘no.’ When we asked why he had asked us, he said, ‘It’s the way you look,’" said Robinson, 24. “We had a good idea what he was trying to get at. A group of white kids came in straight after us, and they weren’t asked to pay before they had their food. The only thing that was different was the color of our skins."
A spokesman for Pizza Hut said it recently introduced a policy of asking certain customers to pay in advance but that this was left to the discretion of staff.