Minneapolis-based sports bar and chicken wing chain Buffalo Wild Wings fired a service manager and a shift manager over the weekend after a racist incident at its suburban Naperville location outside Chicago in late October, according to a company spokesperson. A party of multiracial and African American patrons said they left after an employee, who they described as a young black man, asked them about their race and told them a regular seated nearby did not want to sit near black people, the Tribune reported.
Former customers Justin Vahl and Marcus Riley told reporters that they intended to celebrate a child’s birthday at the restaurant, 2555 W. 75th Street in Naperville, on October 26 with a group of six adults and 12 children. Multiple managers tried to relocate the group to another part of the restaurant, claiming that their table was reserved for another party, and turning a festive event sour. A reporter called the restaurant later and was told that the location does not accept reservations. After staff attempted to move the group several times, the party decided to go elsewhere. Vahl’s wife Mary wrote about her experience on Facebook, upset that her young children witnessed the incident. The post has now been shared more than 5,000 times.
In an official statement to Eater, a spokesperson wrote, “we take this incident very seriously and after conducting a thorough, internal investigation have terminated the employees involved. Buffalo Wild Wings values an inclusive environment and has zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind.”
The Naperville Sun first reported the firings. An unidentified employee said that several employees quit as well. Naperville City Councilman Benny White told the Daily Herald that he was sad to hear about what happened and plans to address the episode at a city council meeting tomorrow.
This isn’t the chain’s first headline-making issue with racism. Last summer, the company made a public apology for a series of racist, sexist, and generally awful tweets posted to its official Twitter account and said it was working with the social media company to identify individuals involved. In a statement to USA Today at the time, representatives said they were sorry followers saw the posts that were the result of a hack.
In May, a former employee at a location in Overland, Kansas, filed a lawsuit against Buffalo Wild Wings claiming that managers made racist remarks and allowed employees to deny service to African Americans. The suit alleges that white employees made comments such as “blacks don’t give good tips.” In July, a Houston-area BWW customer told Fox 26 News that an employee told her, “Don’t take this racially, but sometimes the only way you can tell with black people is from their eyes and their smiles, because it’s so dark.”
Originally founded in Ohio, Buffalo Wild Wings is an international chain that currently operates more than 1,200 locations around the world. Roark Capital Group, the private equity firm behind fast-food spots such as Arby’s and Jimmy John’s, purchased Buffalo Wild Wings for $2.9 billion in 2017.