Buffalo Wild Wings contends with a high-profile racial incident

Sensitivity training will be stepped up, and the chain will look at such other remedies as upgrading its applicant screening.
Photograph: Shutterstock

Buffalo Wild Wings said it will revamp its training and investigate more effective ways of screening prospective hires to protect guests of color from the sort of mistreatment that a group of African Americans suffered last month at a branch of the chain in the Chicago suburb of Naperville, Ill.

The 18-person party, on hand to celebrate a birthday party, was asked to change tables. An employee explained that two frequent Caucasian guests had informed the staff they’d rather not have black people sitting near them. 

Two managers from the property have been fired, and chain President Lyle Tick has met with community leaders, the staff of the restaurant and guests. The chain has pledged to enhance its staff sensitivity training and to meet with the mistreated families “when they are ready.”

Members of the families held a press conference Tuesday, where their attorney, Cannon Lambert, stated that the victims have no intention of suing Buffalo Wild Wings or the restaurant. Rather, Lambert said, the offended parties hope to meet with chain officials and use the incident as a springboard for change. 

"We're looking to try and make sure that we do everything we can to keep the lines of communication open with Buffalo Wild Wings because we are hoping—in fact, we are expecting—that they will be good corporate citizens and that they will take this opportunity to do the right thing," Lambert said in his videotaped statement.  

The group posed a number of recommendations for averting future discrimination within the chain. Those suggestions included screening prospective hires to detect racial bias; alerting job applicants that if hired, they will be expected to be racially sensitive; and to flatly state in the employee handbook that the chain will fire anyone who shows signs of prejudice.

“The families involved brought up several great recommendations and requests in their press conference, all of which we can address,” Buffalo Wild Wings said in a statement posted on Twitter. “We also look forward to having a meaningful, open dialogue with the families when they are ready.”

Members of the group said that an employee had flat-out asked them, “What race are you?” Included in the party were a number of children, some as young as 5 years old. 

Buffalo Wild Wings’ reaction has drawn a positive response on Twitter. “You can’t control what people will do, you can only react in the right way,” stated one tweet. “Good on ya Bdubs.”

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