TSR Exclusive: Maggiano’s Little Italy is apologizing to a couple for their experience at one of the Italian restaurant chain’s Orlando locations where the couple alleged diners were racially segregated.
Dorothy Moody and her husband recently celebrated his birthday at Maggiano’s where they realized they were seated in the back part of the restaurant with only people of color. She noticed the front part of the restaurant was filled with white customers and it clicked that something was off.
“It was clear that it was a separate section,” Moody said, explaining that her grandmother experienced the segregated south but she herself never thought she would in 2021.
A spokesperson for the restaurant chain says their Guest Management Team reached out to the couple and an investigation was launched as soon as they learned of the couple’s experience. The investigation was conducted to understand what happened so that the company could take any necessary actions and based on what Maggiano’s investigation concluded, the incident seemed to be a coincidence.
“Our investigation revealed that we had a single large party of 30 African-American guests seated together in our restaurant that evening. Six additional Guests with that party arrived later and asked to be seated with the original party of 30,” the spokesperson for Maggiano’s said. “While they were at separate tables – we couldn’t seat them all at one – they were all seated together in the same room at their request. When the couple arrived at our Orlando restaurant, our system suggested a table that was still occupied by Guests, which prompted the reassignment of their new table.”
“We understand that two valued Guests felt unwelcome when they dined at our Maggiano’s restaurant in Orlando on Sunday, February 28, and for that we sincerely apologize,” the spokesperson said. “Our goal is to make every guest feel welcome and special, and to provide them with an exceptional dining experience. We deeply regret that we did not provide this couple with an experience that meets our high hospitality standards. We hope they will give us another chance.”
The spokesperson added Maggiano’s has always had a strong commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, and that they recognize that there is always room for improvement.
“We are having follow-up conversations with our management team to ensure future Guests do not have this experience and are revisiting our rotation practices to ensure seating arrangements are not just computer generated but have a human touch,” the spokesperson said. “We understand the perception of this night and want to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Sadly, Moody claims that after her post went viral, at least eight other people reached out to her to share similar experiences at different Maggiano’s locations. She says she might have brushed off her experience as an isolated incident but with these additional stories, she’s not convinced and that Maggiano’s may have a bigger issue on its hands.
The Shade Room could only verify one of those additional accounts from another diner in Springfield, Virginia.
Jamia McCambry said she went on a first date with her boyfriend in October of 2020 at that Springfield location. McCambry said the restaurant’s hostess sat them in the back near the kitchen where other Black guests were seated.
After complaining that she didn’t want to be close to the kitchen as she initially asked for a booth, she requested to speak to the manager who then accommodated her request.
McCambry admits she felt weird about her experience but she didn’t think much of it until she saw Moody’s viral Instagram post and decided to reach out to otherwise a complete stranger.
“At the time I thought, ‘Maybe I’m just thinking too deep,’” McCambry explained. “When I saw (Moody’s post), then I thought maybe that is a blatant thing with (Maggiano’s). I wasn’t that surprised.”
McCambry explained she reached out to Moody because she wanted her to know she wasn’t alone.
“I didn’t want her to think that she was overreacting,” McCambry said. “I thought, wow, this is crazy because it happened to me too.”
In response to the Virginia incident, Maggiano’s says this was the first it heard of it but the spokesperson for the chain ensured that they are taking these claims seriously and they do not tolerate discrimination or racism of any kind at their restaurants.
“As a brand, we welcome all to the table and are on a journey to champion racial equality at every level of our organization,” the spokesperson for Maggiano’s said. “We value diversity, equity and inclusion and have ongoing training programs with our teams from hourly Teammates to the president and CEO with a focus on unconscious bias, hospitality and making every Guest feel special. We work hard to create a positive and inclusive environment by coaching our teams to respect each other and our Guests and we quickly take corrective, disciplinary measures if or when needed.”
Want updates directly in your text inbox? Hit us up at 917-722-8057 or click here to join!