Racism and business? Restaurant owner saved business by keeping blacks away

This is a story I found on reddit.com . It’s so fascinating that I just had to share it with you guys.

Original link: http://www.reddit.com

reddit_logoI’ll get it out of the way and admit that what I am doing is racist, I myself am (reluctantly!) a racist, and I’m not about to argue that. I’m not proud of this, but I did what I had to to stay afloat for the sake of my family and my employees and I would do it again.

I own a family restaurant that competes with large chains like Applebee’s, Chili’s, and other similarly awful places. I started this restaurant over 20 years ago, my wife is our manager*, both of my kids work here when they’re not in college. Our whole life is tied up in this place, and while it’s a ton of hard work, we love it.

*Comment from Rya: These guys are so lucky to be working together! That’s why my husband and I want to start our own business, only we can’t just yet.

I’ve always prided myself that we serve food that’s much fresher and better prepared than the franchise guys, and for years a steady flow of regular customers seemed to prove me right. We’re the kind of place that has a huge wall of pictures of our happy customers we’ve known forever. However, our business was hit really hard after the market crashed, to the point where the place looked like a ghost town. A lot of the people I’ve known for years lost their jobs and either moved away or simply couldn’t afford to eat out anymore.

To cut to the chase, we were sinking fast, and before long it was clear we would lose the restaurant before the year was out. The whole family got together and we decided we would try our best to ride it out, and my kids insisted they take a semester off and work full time to spare us the two salaries. I’m very proud of my family for the way they came together. We really worked our butts off trying to keep the place going with the reduced staff.

Well the whole racist thing started after my wife was being verbally abused by a black family. I came over to see what the problem was, and a teenage boy in their group actually said “This dumb bitch brought me the wrong drink. We want a different waitress that ain’t a dumb bitch.” His whole family roared with laughter at this, parents included!

We had had a lot more black diners since the downturn, and this kind of thing was actually depressingly common. Normally I would just lie down and take this, give them a different server, and apologize to their current one in back. But this was the last straw for me. No way was I going to send my daughter out to get the same abuse from these awful people. I threw the whole bunch out, even though other than the five of them, the place was completely dead.

I talked with my wife about it afterward, and we both decided that if we were going to lose the restaurant anyway, from now on we would run it OUR WAY. I empowered all of my employees to throw anyone who spoke to them that way out, and told them I would stand behind them 100%.

My wife, who has been a bleeding-heart liberal her whole life, told me in private that the absolute worst part of her job was dealing with black diners. Almost all of them were far noisier than our other customers, complained more, left huge messes and microscopic tips, when they tipped at all. She told me if we could just get rid of them, the place would actually be a joy to work at.

I’ve been in the restaurant business a long time, so this wasn’t news to me, but to hear it from my wife, and later confirmed by my daughter… it had a big impact. I’ve never accepted any racial slurs in our household, and certainly not in my restaurant. I always taught my kids to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, and tried to do the right thing in spite of the sometimes overwhelming evidence right in front of me. But right then and there, I and my wife started planning ways to keep black people from eating at our restaurant.

First, I raised my prices. It had been long in coming, prices had skyrocketed, and we’d been trying to keep things reasonable because people were hurting. But this had brought in a ton of blacks who had been priced out of the other restaurants nearby, and so I raised my prices even higher. It worked, they would scream bloody murder when they saw the new prices on the menu, and often storm out of the place, not knowing that this was pretty much our plan.

We took a lot of other steps, changing the music, we took fried chicken off the menu, added a dress code that forbade baggy pants and athletic gear. I put up a tiny sign by the register that said “15% gratuity added to all checks” but we only added this to groups of black diners, since almost universally everyone else understands that tipping is customary.

As business started to pick up, we would tell groups of blacks that there was a long wait for a table. Whenever they complained about other patrons getting seated first, I would calmly explain that the other group had a reservation, and without fail they would storm out screaming.

And it worked! We managed to hang in through the rough times. It’s been almost two years since we started running the business this way, and we’re doing great, even better than we were before! I noticed as soon as the blacks started to leave, our regulars started coming back. Complaints dropped to almost nothing, our staff were happier, and the online reviews have been very positive. My kids are back in school, and my wife seems ten years younger, she’s proud of her work and comes in happy every day.

Of course, I did this by doing something I know to be ethically wrong. I did it by treating a whole group of people like pests and driving them away in a low and cowardly way. (though it’s not as if I could have put a sign out). I can’t help but feel like I’ve become part of the problem. At the same time, the rational part of me realizes that I did the right thing, but I don’t like knowing that I’m a bigot.

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15 thoughts on “Racism and business? Restaurant owner saved business by keeping blacks away”

  1. Ha ha, funny!

    They’ve been doing this to the Roma gypsies in Bulgaria for years and it is considered norm now.

    Yeah, the man from the article is a racist, but he’s actions were right – set the correct price levels and apply dress code to keep bad quality guys away.

    When my black friend (and he’s an investment fund manager) joined me for a cup of coffee in my all-whites neighbourhood he also got some funny looks, but that’s life unfortunately – people like segregation and are mostly xenophobic.

  2. I’m sure there are decent and well-behaved black people, but I’m also sure there’s a reason behind stereotypes. Obviously they turn true more often than not.

    Notice that the owner didn’t “officially” ban black people. He didn’t put a sign out front “No blacks” or something like that. He didn’t do anything out right. It may have been the right business move but if that kind of attitute is quietly applied by other people in other areas of day-to-day life… then being black must be pretty hard.

    But there’s an even more interesting question: if there’s a “special attitude” towards black people, who’s fault is that – the blacks or the whites?

  3. We should not call this racism.
    And we must not talk about racism and xenofobia as bad things.
    My country is my home. If you come here and want to live here, you must obey the rules. If you don’t like the rules please stay away.
    The problem concerning gipsies in Bulgaria and possibly blacks in US is that they are above the law.
    If a gipsy robs a house or hits someone, he is never found guilty. If a man hits a gipsy he is guilty even if he had defended his life or family.
    Yes, people should be given a chance to prove themselves good, but they should prove themselves good not only as a single person, but as a group.
    If there is 0,1% chance to find a good gipsy or black, would you risk it?
    Racism is normal and helthy – I don’t want someone to come and shit in the middle of my dining room and then say “if you hit me I’ll call you racist”.
    Racism is bad when it’s extreme – if you start killing or beating people.
    The punishment in the laws must be racist too – If you are not the same race as the majority in this country, breaking the laws is punished higher than for ordinary people (because you have come to live here and you should have learned the laws). The rules must however be the same – if I don’t break the law by doing something, the black or gipsy doesn’t break the law, too. If the black breaks the law by doing something, I break the law by doing the same thing, too.

  4. Racism may be “normal” in the sense that it is common, but is it healthy?

    “Racism is bad when it’s extreme – if you start killing or beating people.” Actually racism is bad long before you start killing or beating people. Have you heard the expression “glass ceiling”? That’s what many minorities face in their everyday lives when they apply for jobs. I don’t think it’s wise (or fair or humane) that people should have to suffer just because they belong to a certain group with a certain bad behaviour – it’s not fair to those who are the exception.

    Punishing the innocent along with the guilty is not right.

    And laws are laws because they are the same for everyone. That’s the whole point of living in a society (as opposed to living in the wild with no rules).

  5. Todor, you sound like a working class US citizen in the 50-s :-)

    Another misconception is that blacks are getting away unpunished for crimes. Look at the US Federal Prisons stats – 37% of inmates are black, which is 3 times more than their population percentage (12.6%). They may do more crimes, but also get more sentenced. Similarly, in Bulgaria half of all inmates are gypsies.

    Racism is putting your race above another race. By the way, the whole concept of patriotism and xenophobia are stupid and pointless – you do not decide which race or where you get born – you get this at your birth, pretty randomly. Why do you need to protect it or thisnk of these properties as more superior to somebody elses?

    The bigger problem is the differences in culture and life values – this is where gov and nogov organisations should help – get everyone’s values aligned and there will be no problems.

  6. I’m not sure if minorities have the special attention without first deserving it.
    Have you heard about a chinese or japanese that was refused a job just because he is asian? I have not. They are another race, too. The difference is that they want to obey the rules and want to be part of the society.
    As for the gipsies – they may be large part of the prisoners, and they would be much larger part if they were sentenced when for all crimes. It’s not a belief but an observation:
    Go to the public transport – the gipsies never buy a ticket, but when there are people checking, they just bypass them and start arguing with some of the bulgarians. Ok if the bulgarian has broke the law, he must pay for it, but why not the gipsy, too?
    Go on the street and look – 90% of the beggars are gipsies. And they earn much more than you do by working hard.
    A friend of mine had a house in a small village. There were several gipsy families that tormented all the people in the village. Whenever a family leaved to the city, their hoouse has been practically destroyed for few months – everything that can be sold was taken. when the last bulgarians left the village, soon the gipsies left, too.
    That is why I don’t like them. And that is why I wouldn’t hire any of them.
    Ok, but why do I dislike them as a group?
    Because most often than not they are like this. And they must decide as a group what they want. There may be individuals which are OK, but that doesn’t make the group OK. They have their own laws and regulations, so if they decide to change things, they are able to do it and it will take less than 20 years for us to accept them as equal. Seems long? No, it’s not.

  7. And, yes Rya, it’s healthy. In the same way that fear is healthy.
    We dislike group of people not because they are different, but because we’ve had bad moments with them.
    For example how many bulgarians have something against blacks? I don’t think they are many. And this is because there are only few people that have had problems with blacks.
    How many bulgarians have had problems with gipsies? 80%? 90%? Even if they are only 50% this is more than enough, to treat them as a bad group.
    racism and xenofobia say “keep away from these people because they will probably hurt you” in the same way that fear says “keep away from fire, because you may get burnt”
    If fire stops burning people, they will not fear of it.
    If a group stops behaving badly, they will be accepted in the society.
    And no, it’s not our obligation to integrate them. I cannot make anyone part of my society, if he or she doesn’t make effort towards it.

  8. You know what I think? Whenever there’s “racism” in a given country, there’s always a big financial gap between the two groups.

  9. Of course there is. But the question is why?
    It’s a bit like a circle :
    You are poor, so you steal
    you steal so I don’t believe you.
    I don’t believe you, so I don’t hire you.
    I don’t hire you, so you stay poor and the circle closes.
    What do the government do for this? – it gives some more money for each person. The money are not enough for them to become wealthy, so they stay in the above circle. But the money com from the tax payers and they feel bad to give more money to the people that steal and destroy their homes. So they dislike them even more.
    What is the better solution? – The government to pay a bonus to the salary of any gipsy that stays at work for more than a year and removes any children bonuses for all and reduces the time they pay for unemployment, but pay full salaries in the period. In the same time crimes such as stealing should become the top priority of the courts and must be sentenced effectively. The result – the option to stay home and live on child bonuses is not good any more. The option to be permanently unemployed is not good , too. And the option to commit a crime is even worse. Maternity leave should be paid as full salary for the whole period, but only for the first two children, so making children in order to receive maternity will not be an option too.

  10. Yeah but you can’t have different laws for blacks and whites. So if you remove maternity for any child after the first two, you will be penalizing ALL people who want to have three kids or more (like us).

    Getting out of poverty doesn’t happen overnight. Actually it’s pretty hard to do in one person’s lifetime. It would take several GENERATIONS before any noticable change in behaviour appears.

    The problems between the rich and the poor have always existed throughout different times and places and folk. You can’t solve it with a few decades, no matter what you do.

    Which is why I think that instead of trying to solve such a general and wide problem all at once, we should aim to make the problem… tolerable. And for me, doing that has a lot more to do with income levels and standard of living than with being black or white.

  11. About maternity leave – yes, you penalize all who want three or more kids, but that is right – the government pays for the first two children, but if you want more, you should have enough money to take good care for it. If you work and earn enough you will be able to breed the new child without problems. If you don’t earn enough, you will have problems breeding your children. Usually people would like to have the best for their children and would wait for the third till they can afford it.
    As an addition when someone has two or more kids she or he doesn’t pay maternity insurance anymore, which gives him or her an additional “salary increase” and it is for both the man and the woman (hmm, it sounds strange but men pay maternity insurance, too)

    This situation will not affect most of the bulgarians, but will affect the gipsies – when they can’t use their children as source of income and can’t commit crimes without going to prison, they will have to work in order to survive.

    As for the time for the things to change – it will not be more than two or three decades.

    Making the problem just tolerable is bad for all – it does not solve the problem but just delays it for the next generations and makes it worse. And how would you make it tolerable? Will someone listen to you if you say “hire a gipsy for your office”? It is not just the difference between wealthy and poor. It’s the difference between people that want to work and people that don’t.

    Really. I’ve lived in Sliven as a child and although there were a lot of gipsies there, they were not making problems. Sliven was the cleaniest town in bulgaria, because every gipsy was hired and was having job. And I have listened good words for gipsies from my grandmother. That is not happening now, because they learned that it is easier to steal or live on maternity and social benefits, rather than working.

  12. I owned a gym and did the same thing. I raised memberships 25%, started enforcing the dress code- no sports jerseys, no hats, no jewelery, no profanity, and I turned the basketball court into a tennic court. Inside of 3 months all but 2 of the blacks quit coming, and they were elderly guys that never caused trouble. I also banned employees from playing rap or hip hop music, only classic rock was allowed on our system.

    When I took the basketball court down they were PISSED, but I stood firm and said the liability was too high for a basketball court, due to the fighting and risk of injuries. They called me a racist and I just ignored them. I banned one black member for using racial slurs and he attacked me physically. Why he thought using the “N” word was acceptable behavior is a mystery but he acted like I was telling him he wasn’t allowed to breathe. He found out the hard way that I am a brown belt in Judo as well as a wrestler.

    Once the blacks were gone my white Members started telling their friemds and families about how nice my gym had become and I sold more Memberships than I ever had before. I was able to sell the gym for a nice profit a year later, and discouraging blacks from coming was 90% of why things turned around for us. Garbage being left all over the place also stopped right after the blacks stopped coming in. Blacks would just drop their trash on the floor and keep going, it was shocking.

    My advise is to just stop reacting to accusations of racism. Just take all of the power out of it. When they called me racist I didn’t deny it or explain myself I just shrugged and re-stated the policies.

  13. Hi William,

    Your story is a very interesting one. Also, a very telling one. Thank you for sharing it with us.

    I don’t think it’s “racist” to ask your clients to behave and follow some basic rules.

  14. “I did this by doing something I know to be ethically wrong”

    There is literally nothing wrong with ensuring the success of yourself, your family, and your community.

  15. Well done! It’s nothing personal, its nothing racist, its just business!

    You did what you had to do to keep your family afoat and if that meant getting rid of parasitic people that never contribute to society at all then so be it!

    I also really liked the part were you told your employees that you had their backs!

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