Desi Vega’s Seafood and Prime Steaks in Metairie, Louisiana, sparked outrage on social media after the restaurant added an automatic 20% gratuity to a Black couple’s tab.
James Washington of New Orleans shared a Facebook post explaining that he and his wife had a dinner date at the high-end eatery on Feb. 27. Upon receiving the bill, Washington asked the server if the added gratuity was the standard practice for a two-person party. The employee said it was.
Washington thought the server’s reply was suspicious, so he called the restaurant manager while still inside the establishment. He also confirmed the added tip was part of the restaurant’s policy.
The New Orleans man knew something was amiss due to his previous experience in the industry.
“Decided to go to Desi Vega’s Metairie restaurant (Desi Vega’s Seafood and Prime Steaks). Completely respectful to the server the entire time. No argument, no problem with the food, all laughs and giggles. Thought we were all having a great time. Check shows up and has a 20% gratuity added automatically
He continued, “If you know me, you know that I grew up in the restaurant business. Started off as a busboy at the Praline Connection, moved up to waiter, then all types of positions at Ruby Tuesday’s.”
Date night with wife Yasmin Racquel, trying to wind down from a long week. Great beginning, bad ending. Decided to go…
Washington, still skeptical, called friends to verify if the shady practice was valid. The friends told him that wasn’t the case. He then disclosed that he asked a white couple who had already paid their tab if an automatic 20% gratuity was added. There wasn’t.
Washington wasn’t about to let the racist incident slide.
“I called the manager over to the table and asked if he had lied. He admitted that he did,” he wrote on Facebook. “He confirmed that he and the server prejudged us. Said he felt bad, so he kept the lie going. Said he was in a ‘precarious’ position.”
“Said he didn’t mean to racially profile us, but his server asked him to do this to us, so he went along with it. Said he was ‘embarrassed and humiliated.’ Promised he’d never do it again. Said they never did it before.”
Like clockwork, Desi Vega issued the obligatory apology via Facebook, writing that the automatically-added gratuity was not correct, and subsequently suspended the bigoted manager and server.
“The fact that my staff tried to cover the situation up by lying about it makes it much worse,” Vega said in the statement.
Vega brown-nosed the couple calling them “impressive” before disclosing that the restaurants will be posting policies for employees regarding tipping and will also hold racial bias and sensitivity training.
Washington responded to the restaurant’s owner’s apology, saying that the couple believed his apology was “genuine.”
He also said they would not patronize the restaurant again.
The family man thanked everyone who supported him and added that he didn’t think it was the couple’s decision to ask the owner to fire the employees.
UPDATE on the Desi Vega experience.
Desi Vega, the owner of Desi Vega’s Seafood and Prime Steaks, reached out to me and…
“We did not request for the termination of the employees as we do not feel like this is our call to make. This is a call for him to make as their actions impact his organization. We did not post our experience to seek revenge, a lawsuit, or monetary gain. Our post was made in an effort to bring awareness and positive change.”
Although the Desi Vega manager expressed the incident hadn’t occurred before, another patron, Brandee Bocage, came forward and said the same thing happened to her on Feb. 20, according to Nola.com. Bocage had attended a birthday dinner at the same location. She was in a party of four– with everyone being Black.