Maggiano’s Little Italy has released a statement after a multiracial couple accused its Orlando location of racial segregation.
Earlier this week, Dorothy Moody, who is Black, and her husband, who is white, celebrated his birthday at the Italian chain restaurant.
En route to dinner, Moody says she saw multiple Confederate flags and signs in support of former President Donald Trump, claiming there was a Trump rally in the area.
At the restaurant, Moody claims she and her husband were greeted by a Black host who was ready to seat them right away. However, Moody claims that a white female hostess then whispered into the Black host’s ear, “Well they’re gonna have to go to table 113.”
The Black host then reportedly took the couple “all the way in the back of the restaurant.”
“We got to the table and I immediately noticed a stark contrast from the patrons in the front of the restaurant, versus where we were being seated,” Moody wrote on her Instagram.
Upon investigation, Moody claimed that the restaurant seated “black and brown folk in the back by the door” while white patrons were seated in the front.
“Guys….I ---- you not…this restaurant was segregated!!!!!!!!! In 2021!!!!!! Our minds were BLOWN!!!!!!” she alleged.
Though she and her husband wanted to leave, Moody says the two were hungry “from traveling all day without a single meal.”
“But guys….this ACTUALLY happened!!!!”
This week, Moody provided an update on the situation, saying she received a $200 gift certificate from the restaurant. She also said the president of the chain, Steve Provost, has reached out to her but, as of this writing, has yet to return his call.
However, Moody says that since she posted about her experience, “multiple ppl” have allegedly “come forward to share that they’ve also witnessed segregation at the hands of this franchise.”
“So now i am asking you all to please continue to share our story and if ANYONE else has had similar experiences at any of their locations PLEASE send me a DM with details!!! The time for change is NOW!!!!!” she wrote.
On Thursday, a spokesperson for the restaurant told The Shade Room that their Guest Management Team had reached out to the couple after they learned of their experience. Additionally, the representative said the chain immediately launched an investigation into the allegations.
In a statement provided to the outlet, Maggiano’s appears to deny the segregation claims, explaining that their Orlando location reportedly had a large party of Black patrons that night.
“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,” it read.
“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,” it continued.
“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.”
To prevent future incidents of this nature, the chain says they “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. We understand the perception of this night and want to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
However, after Moody asked other Maggiano’s patrons to come forward with their alleged stories of segregation, she told The Shade Room on Thursday that at least eight other people have reached out to her to share similar experiences.
The outlet claims they have verified one account that allegedly happened in October 2020 at a Springfield, Virginia, location.
Jamia McCambry says she went on a first date with her now-boyfriend at Maggiano’s and was reportedly seated in the back near the kitchen “where other Black guests were seated.”
McCambry says she then spoke to a manager who moved her and her boyfriend to a different table.
In response to this alleged incident, Maggiano’s told The Shade Room that this is the first they have heard of it, but are taking all claims seriously as they do not tolerate discrimination of any kind.
“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 added.
“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.”