16 Racist Mistakes Fast Food Companies Have Made

racist fast food companies

We all know what it’s like to experience the rise of a viral video, photo, or tweet. This is especially true when it comes to incidents that revolve around racially-charged insults and discriminatory actions. Needless to say, these situations almost always cause a stir on the web, and it’s easy to see why. But have you ever noticed how many of these situations take place in restaurants?

This may come as no surprise, considering the public environment of your average restaurant.

Fast food restaurants are the perfect examples. The “grab-n-go” nature of these locations means that many different types of people are bound to cross paths. And while most of these interactions will go off without a hitch, some employee-customer exchanges can turn into scenarios tinged with racial discrimination.

These unfortunate incidents also have a knack for showing up in different ways.

Sometimes, it starts when an employee approaches or talks to a customer in a certain way. In other cases, questionable situations may stem from a corporate level in the form of ads or commercials. One thing is for sure, though: It’s unfortunate that these negative experiences even happen at all.

Below, you’ll find 16 racist mistakes that have been made by fast food companies.

Let this serve as a reminder that it’s important to think before we act and speak. After all, our words matter, whether you’re the employee, customer, or simply a bystander.

1. KFC: Controversial Ad For Fried Chicken

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In 2010, KFC debuted a commercial in Australia that sparked backlash from folks in the United States. The ad, which takes place at a cricket game, shows a white man surrounded by dancing and drumming West Indies fans.

He says, “Need a tip when you’re stuck in an awkward situation?” and starts handing out KFC fried chicken, which promptly quiets the music.

The commercial went viral on social media. Some people felt that the ad perpetuated stereotypes, while others pointed out that he was simply surrounded by fans from the opposing cricket team.

According to The Telegraph, KFC stated the commercial had been misinterpreted, since the suggested racial stereotypes don’t exist in Australia.

2. Taco Bell: Employee Refuses To Take Order From English-Speaking Customer

In 2018, a Spanish-speaking Taco Bell employee refused to accept an order from an English-speaking customer at the drive-thru.

According to the Miami New Times, the employee tried to “shoo” the customer away and call the cops.

The incident took place in Hialeah, Florida, a major city in the Miami metropolitan area.

3. Papa John’s: Founder John Schnatter Uses “N” Word

John Schnatter, founder of Papa John’s, faced criticism after a conference call between the company’s executives and a marketing agency called Laundry Service. According to Forbes, the call was an exercise to prevent future PR debacles.

Reportedly, Schnatter used the “n” slur during the call when asked how he planned to distance himself from racist Internet groups.

He said, “Colonel Sanders called blacks n——s.” Eventually, he was forced to resign and issued an apology, saying, “Racism has no place in our society.”

4. Burger King: Chopsticks Ad For Vietnamese-Style Burger

In early 2019, Burger King New Zealand released their new Vietnamese Sweet Chili Tendercrisp Burger. The accompanying promotional ad, however, was deemed racially insensitive by people on social media.

The burger’s promotional ad features people attempting to eat a burger with oversized chopsticks.

Allegedly, Burger King told People, “The ad in question is insensitive and does not reflect our brand values regarding diversity and inclusion. We have asked our franchisee in New Zealand to remove the ad immediately.”

5. Denny’s: Asking Customers To Pay For Food In Advance

On more than one occasion, Denny’s employees have asked certain customers to pay for their food before it’s made.

In 2012, a black couple at a Denny’s in Los Angeles was asked to “prepay.” Then, in 2017, a group of young black men at a Denny’s in Federal Way, Washington were asked to pay in advance.

In both scenarios, a nearby white customer overheard the request and thought it was completely unfair. They also pointed out that they weren’t asked to prepay.

6. Pho Shack: Racist Slur Toward Employee

Pho Shack is a pho restaurant with two locations in the Houston area. When the general manager decided to quit, she called one of the owners to give him a heads up.

According to the Houston Chronicle, the owner called her the “n” word in a follow-up text message later on.

Allegedly, she wasn’t supposed to be included in the group text thread. The owner has since left the restaurant and is no longer affiliated with Pho Shack.

7. Papa John’s: “Lady Chinky Eyes” On Receipt

A Papa John’s cashier in New York City was fired after using a racial slur on an Asian customer’s receipt.

The receipt read “lady chinky eyes” as her name. “Hey @PapaJohns FYI my name isn’t ‘lady chinky eyes,'” the customer tweeted.

According to an article on Huffington Post, Papa John’s confirmed the employee’s termination in a Facebook statement.

8. Chick-fil-A: Racial Slurs On Receipts

A similar situation happened at a Chick-fil-A in Irvine, California. In this case, a Resident Adviser (RA) at U.C. Irvine brought some of his students out to eat.

Two Asian customers received receipts with the names “Ching” and “Chong.”

The RA talked to the manager at Chick-fil-A and shared the receipts on Tumblr. Despite his disappointment with the situation, he urged people to avoid attacking the entire chain based on one person’s mistake.

9. Taco Bell: “Steve Chink” On Receipt

Apparently, racial slurs on receipts seem to be a trend. Another incident took place in 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

In this scenario, an Asian customer’s receipt read “Steve Chink.”

The customer reportedly spoke to the cashier, who eventually apologized. It isn’t clear if the Taco Bell location fired the employee.

10. Denny’s: Controversial Photo on Menu

After a string of racial discrimination lawsuits and viral news stories, Denny’s has allegedly changed the cover photo on their menu.

Some people see it as a simple comparison between the 1950s and modern-day families.

However, others think it’s a poor move, considering Denny’s reputation regarding racially-charged situations.

11. Charleys: Another Receipt, Another Racial Slur

In 2018, another receipt situation took place at Charleys Philly Cheesesteaks in Virginia. An article on NBC Washington states that an African American woman placed an order and told the cashier her name is Nicole.

Allegedly, when her food was ready, the cashier yelled out “coon.”

Her receipt also listed her name as the racial slur. According to NBC Washington, the restaurant stated that while English is not the cashier’s first language, she has been fired.

12. Waffle House: Manager Serves Racial Slurs

A Waffle House cook and manager were both sued for using racial slurs and derogatory insults toward a family of Mexican descent.

An article by CBS 46 states that the manager said, “Why don’t they deport you to Mexico?”

The incident took place in the Atlanta region of Georgia.

13.Dumbo Kitchen: Employee Says Everyone Knows Manager Is Racist

In November 2017, Instagram user @jypsyjeyfree shared a video of an employee at Dumbo Kitchen, an eatery in Brooklyn. According to the post, the employee said, “The restaurant was closing in the most hateful, disrespectful, and rude manner.”

When the woman filming the interaction said, “Your manager doesn’t like black people, honey,” the employee said, “Everybody in here knows that already!”

An article on Daily News states that the employee (and the manager on duty) were fired. The restaurant seems to has since shut down.

14. Saltgrass Steakhouse: Fabricated Receipt Note

In July 2018, a waiter at Saltgrass Steakhouse in Texas claimed that a patron wrote, “We don’t tip terrorist,” on a receipt. He shared it on Facebook and his post went viral. The restaurant even banned the customer from dining at Saltgrass.

But as it turns out, the waiter made up the entire story.

“Racism of any form is intolerable, and we will always act swiftly should it occur in any of our establishments,” said Saltgrass’s COO Terry Turney to USA Today. “Falsely accusing someone of racism is equally disturbing.”

The restaurant fired the employee and invited the customer back.

15. McDonald’s: Drive-Thru Rant

In Charlotte, North Carolina, a McDonald’s customer ordered food at the drive-thru and wanted to make sure her order was correct. She also asked the employee for extra ketchup.

The employee at the drive-thru fired back at the customer, saying, “Can you say deportation?”

It’s not clear what exactly sparked the rant, but the customer filmed most of it on her phone. ABC News says the employee has been fired.

16. Dunkin’ Donuts: Asking Customers To Report Non-English-Speaking Employees

A Dunkin’ Donuts in Baltimore, Maryland received a ton of backlash after a sign was spotted in their store.

The sign read, “If you hear any of our staff SHOUTING in a language other than English, please call 443-415-7775 immediately with the name of the employee.” There was even a reward of a free coffee and pastry.

According to the WBAL-TV 11, the general manager who posted the sign did so in response to customer complaints. And while they don’t work with the store anymore, she allegedly posted similar signs at the other locations. The sign has since been taken down.

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