Staying out of trouble is difficult in today’s polarized climate.
Your organization might say all the right things and stay out of politics, but political discord increasingly is encroaching on public spaces—and the exchange is not always civil.
A Florida man who is a big Trump supporter wore his red “Make America Great Again” hat to dinner with his girlfriend’s family at The Cheesecake Factory at Dadeland Mall for Mother’s Day. According to reports, some restaurant employees did not appreciate his presence.
Joseph said it was mid-afternoon Sunday when a large group including his girlfriend and her mother headed over to the Cheesecake Factory to celebrate Mother’s Day. They weren’t seated long, he said, when someone in the group pointed out a waitress who was standing behind him pointing at his hat.
Then, Joseph and others in the group said, other employees joined in. Soon, it felt as if the entire staff of the Cheesecake Factory was closing in on him and his favorite red ball cap.
“A guy said, ‘I want to knock the hat off your head,” said Joseph, who plans on taking summer classes at Florida International University. “I really love Trump. It’s my sole reason for getting into politics.”
Joseph’s group left and his mother-in-law called the police. As they were leaving, Joseph said a store manager came forward and apologized. The one-paragraph Miami-Dade police report says no harm, no foul.
Despite the police report, a furor was whipped up on conservative media outlets, and The Cheesecake Factory has since apologized. Two employees involved have left the company.
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All guests should always feel welcome in our restaurants. The recent incident in one of our Miami restaurants fell short of our standards, and we apologize to the guest and his family. Two individuals are no longer employed by the company, and we are continuing to investigate. pic.twitter.com/gbrh1Ok8iC
— Cheesecake Factory (@Cheesecake) May 16, 2018
Joseph says company executives haven’t specifically apologized to him, despite the store manager’s apology immediately after the incident.
Joseph told WFOR that the Cheesecake Factory has not apologized to him personally.
After the suspension, The Cheesecake Factory announced that the two employees who made the comments are no longer employed by the company.
It released the following statement from Alethea Row, the restaurant chain’s senior director of Public Relations:
“We were very disappointed to learn that two staff members made disparaging remarks about Mr. Joseph’s hat that made him and his family feel unwelcome. As a result, as of Tuesday those two individuals are no longer employed with the company. No guest should ever feel unwelcome in one of our restaurants and we are very sorry. Our investigation is ongoing and we have reached out to Mr. Joseph directly to ask for his assistance. We are taking this situation seriously, however, not all of the information reported by the media accurately portrays what occurred. The situation may have been exacerbated by an all-staff meeting that took place during our shift change between our staff members working the lunch and dinner shifts – which may have been perceived as a crowd gathering near the guests’ tables. We look forward to speaking with Mr. Joseph to welcome him back into one of our restaurants.”
The response has been insufficient for some:
— Herman Cain (@THEHermanCain) May 15, 2018
Others are drawing comparisons to the incident involving two black men who were arrested for “trespassing” at a Starbucks.
Think Cheescake Factory will close all their stores for a day of race sensitivity training for EVERY EMPLOYEE at a cost of $16 million like Starbucks? Using the left’s warped logic, the fact that he’s a @realDonaldTrump supporter negates his blackness. https://t.co/FUz1IlnKml
— David A. Clarke, Jr. (@SheriffClarke) May 15, 2018
The Cheesecake Factory is pushing back on the official narrative as criticism continues to fall on its employees.
“Not all of the information reported by the media accurately portrays what occurred,” a Cheesecake Factory spokesperson told CBS MoneyWatch in a statement. “The situation may have been exacerbated by an all-staff meeting that took place during our shift change between our staff members working the lunch and dinner shifts – which may have been perceived as a crowd gathering near the guests’ tables.”
Some vowed to find other restaurants to patronize:
My family enjoys eating at the Cheesecake Factory, but, based on the treatment of Mr. Joseph and the lame corporate response suggesting that errors in perception exist, we can and will simply eat elsewhere.
— johnnywat (@jhnwtsn60) May 16, 2018
What do you think of The Cheesecake Factory’s response?