Black couple racially profiled by Desi Vega’s staff, had auto tip added to bill

James Washington and his wife have met with the restaurant owner for a personal apology and an explanation

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A Black couple shared their experience at Louisiana eatery Desi Vega’s Seafood which resulted in an apology from the restaurant owner.

James Washington posted a Facebook status that detailed how he and his wife, Yasmin Raquel went to the restaurant for dinner and were racially profiled by restaurant staff. Shared over 2,000 times, Washington expressed how the waiter judged them based on their appearance and automatically added a tip to their bill.

“Completely respectful to the server the entire time. No argument, no problem with the food, all laughs and giggles. Thought we were all having a great time. Check shows up and has a 20% gratuity added automatically,” he wrote in the now-viral post.

Desi Vega's Steakhouse www.theGrio.com
Image via Instagram @DesiVegaSeafood

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In his status update, Washington provided details on their dine-in experience. He knew from his prior work in the food industry that the tagged on gratuity was not standard practice for a two-person party.

“If you know me, you know that I grew up in the restaurant business. Started off as a busboy at the Praline Connection, moved up to waiter, then all types of positions at Ruby Tuesday’s,” Washington wrote. He continued to detail how the restaurant attempted to cover up the situation.

“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,” Washington explained to his followers.

He continued, “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.'”

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As the situation escalated, Washington was able to speak to the manager in person, who confirmed the 20% added to their bill was the couple being singled out by the staff.

“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,” he wrote.

Desi Vega’s Seafood has since issued a public apology to the couple after a private meeting. Restaurant owner Desi Vega shared disappointment in his employees for their actions and behavior toward the Washington family.

“I would like to publicly apologize to Mr. and Mrs. Washington, who did in fact have an auto tip added to their bill,” wrote Vega. “The fact that my staff tried to cover up the situation by lying about it makes it much worse. These two employees have been immediately suspended without pay pending further review. Desi Vega’s stands firmly against discrimination or profiling of any kind.”

The restaurateur also announced that his staff would receive additional training and be well informed on restaurant policies after speaking with the couple.

Washington provided another status update after the meeting where he shared the couple’s point of view and what they feel was resolved.

“My wife and I believe his apology was genuine. We did, however, emphasize that at this point, this is way bigger than us,” he wrote.

“We did not request for the termination of the employees as we do not feel like this is our call to make. This is a call for him to make as their actions impact his organization. We did not post our experience to seek revenge, a lawsuit, or monetary gain,” Washington explained.

“Our post was made in an effort to bring awareness and positive change. We believe this was accomplished and we could not have done that without all of you rallying behind us. We hope that other restaurants will implement similar policies in an effort to prevent this mistreatment from happening across the industry as a whole,” he concluded.

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