Analyst Responds to Manager Firing over Trump Hat

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The Sequoia Company is standing by its decision to fire a restaurant manager who refused to serve a man wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat from Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

The Vancouver-based restaurant group, which owns Teahouse in Vancouver’s Stanley Park, says Darin Hodge’s actions violated its philosophy of tolerance policy, noting he was aware he was probably acting contrary to brand values, according to CBC News.

Hodge’s decision to deny service to the Trump supporter garnered negative reviews on Yelp.ca, as well as criticism on other social-media platforms. The CBC News report noted that Hodge had been working for the restaurant for 18 months.

The news comes a little more than a week after a similar incident took place in the U.S. when White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was kicked out of the Red Hen restaurant in Virginia.

With political tensions between Canada and the U.S. on the rise, the occurrence highlights what could be a growing problem for restaurants going forward with regard to employees and guests expressing their political beliefs in the workplace.

Robert Carter, executive director with the NPD Group based in Toronto, stresses the need for restaurant-management groups to take responsibility for properly training their staff in order to prevent incidents.

“Restaurant management needs to take responsibility for poor training,” he says. “The idea of not serving someone based on any prejudice (political, religious, et cetera) is not a good business practice for a restaurant.”

Carter notes that restaurant managers need to do a better job of communicating guidelines to their employees, especially in today’s climate. “So much of a restaurant’s success relies on the opinions of consumers and ratings, social-media feedback, et cetera,” he says. “It’s just not good business practice, [plus] the blow back from the social/media world can be devastating for a restaurant in today’s environment.”

These are only a few of the latest incidents of discrimination in restaurants that have made news recently. According to CBC News, an indigenous man was kicked out of a McDonald’s in Red Deer, Alta. last week following a racist encounter with another customer.

Meanwhile, in the U.S., a Starbucks manager in Philadelphia was recently fired for asking two black men to leave the coffee shop for not purchasing an item while waiting for a business associate. The men had been in the store less than 10 minutes when police arrived and led them out of the store.

The manager’s decision caused a furor among international news pundits and social media activists. As a result, more than 8,000 Starbucks stores closed in the U.S. and Canada on May 29 for sensitivity training and conversations about bias and inclusion.

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