Olive Garden manager fired after complying with 'racist' customer's request

Over the weekend, a manager at an Olive Garden in Indiana reportedly obeyed when a party of white diners requested a nonblack server. It was only after customers took note and protested on social media that the chain took action.

On Saturday, Maxwell Robbins went to enjoy a meal at his local Olive Garden in Evansville with his wife and a friend. Instead, he said he got a taste of some disturbing behavior from customers sitting near his table.

"A few white people come in a (sic) says that they refuse service from a 'colored' server and asks to speak with the manager. The manager without hesitation ensures that they will not receive service from a person of color. That couple should've been refused service for even asking something like that," Robbins posted on Facebook the following morning.

Robbins told TODAY Food he decided not to talk to the customers directly to avoid causing a bigger scene, but felt strongly about sharing what he and his family witnessed.

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People enter a Darden Restaurants Inc. Olive Garden location in Reno, Nevada, U.S., on Thursday, March 19, 2015. Darden reported a 2.2 percent increase in same-restaurant sales for the Olive Garden versus last year, in a third-quarter earnings report released on March 20. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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"I felt the need to post that on Facebook because I do not think anyone would have stood up for those girls. They would've continued to go to work some where they were not comfortable," Robbins said. "Amira (the hostess) was in tears and didn't have anyone supporting her at that time so I felt like someone had to stand up for her."

Robbins' post went viral and has since garnered over 1,500 shares. It was also been seen by Amira Donahue, the Evansville Olive Garden's hostess, who, in addition to another young female server, said she was targeted by the white couple.

Robbins called Donahue "the sweetest host" he'd "ever met at any restaurant."

Following Robbins' show of support, Donahue also spoke up for herself on Facebook.

"Racism is still prevalent in 2020! After years of experiencing micro aggressions and attitudes simply because of my color; I never thought I would be publicly embarrassed like I was yesterday. To be told that 'i should work at a strip club instead' was over the top. People don't understand we're not only children, but humans with feelings regardless of color," Donahue wrote on her own Facebook page.

Donahue added that the white female customer said "awful things" about her and asked if she was even from the U.S.

"All I said to this woman was 'sorry I don't know', 'have a nice day' and 'excuse me' when she was standing in the way of a extremely busy restaurant 🙄 I got pulled aside by my managers twice. She then proceeded to scream at me in the middle in the lobby," Donahue wrote.

The hostess continued, "When she was sat she asked for a white server, then ate half her food & asked for a refund! She should've been kicked out ASAP. But I guess the racist customer is more valuable than your black employees that were left in tears."

In November, a similar incident occurred at a Buffalo Wild Wings when restaurant employees asked diner Mary Vahl and her 17-person party of mostly black patrons to move tables in order to accommodate a white customer, who was reportedly regular, after he asked not to be seated near Vahl's family. The hardest part, said Vahl, was that she had to explain why this happened to their young children.

But Donahue, 16, said she felt abandoned by those in charge at her restaurant.

On social media, however, Donahue and her coworker have been experiencing an outpouring of support, with some individuals claiming they filed official complaints with Olive Garden corporate. Soon after Robbins post went up, Olive Garden initiated an investigation (which was completed Monday) and has since fired the Evansville manager who complied with the white customers' request.

"We have zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind, and the manager involved no longer works for our company," Hunter Robinson, a spokesperson for the company, told TODAY.

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