SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Two cross-country truck drivers who said they were refused service at the Sioux Falls Denny’s are telling their side of the story.
Damon Whitfield and Hector Madera held a news conference Monday with their lawyers.
They are planning a lawsuit against the national restaurant chain because of the incident in Sioux Falls.
They say it all started when they stopped to grab a bite to eat and were eventually refused service by a waitress in August.
The two men from Philadelphia say a waitress at the restaurant ignored them and served other customer who came in after them.
“‘We just want to let you know that we are ready to place an order.’ And then she goes, ‘Well you know what? I’m not serving you people. As a matter of fact, you can get your stuff and go now or I’m calling the cops.’ And that’s when I’m like, ‘Are you serious?’ And she snatches the menu and snatches the orange juice and then she storms off and then she called and then she was on the phone,” Whitfield said.
Shortly after the regional manager, who identified himself as Mike Fletcher, called police while driving to the restaurant.
“The team called me and they said they are just like very confrontational, argumentative and refuse to leave the building, harassing the team. Kind of following them around the restaurant,” Fletcher said.
In the meantime, Madera says they tried to salvage the situation
“You know, I waited for her to finish her conversation and I walked up to her and I said, ‘Excuse me, I apologize maybe we got off on the wrong foot. Maybe there was a misunderstanding,’ and immediately she just went from, ‘No, there is no misunderstanding. I want you people out of here. You people need to leave and the police are on their way,'” Madera recalled.
Whitfield can be heard talking to police on video recorded on a phone on August 13 at the Sioux Falls Denny’s near Interstate 29.
“I’ve never been involved in anything like this before man, like I said we just came to get something to eat,” Whitfield said to police at the time.
The truck drivers say it was a humiliating experience.
“I was humiliated. We were humiliated. I had to walk out of there with my head down just ashamed of the fact that you know at this point we can’t put up, I wouldn’t to put up any sort of resistance,” Madera said.
We asked how they viewed the response from Sioux falls Police.
“Once we got outside and we explained what happened, they are just shaking their head like they couldn’t believe that this was happening, and the one cop he went inside and he pretty much tried to do what he could to help,” Whitfield said.
“Fortunately, in our case, they were respectful, they are sympathetic of what we pretty much were going through,” Madera said.
Denny’s released a statement which in part says:
We regret this incident and want to apologize to the guests involved. Clearly, we fell short of own standards that day and are committed to making it right.Denny’s statement
As a matter of practice, we do not comment on any specific legal matters, pending or otherwise.
Lawyers for the two men say Denny’s response was lacking and they plan to file a lawsuit because they don’t want this to happen again.
A press release from Denny’s says the waitress who refused to serve the men has been terminated and employees at the restaurant have been given additional training.
Denny’s provided this statement to KELOLAND News Monday night:
Denny’s is committed to a culture of inclusion and service excellence for all guests. We wholeheartedly regret the incident in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and have apologized to the guests involved. We conducted a thorough third-party investigation into the incident at the location, and as a result, the franchise owner immediately took decisive action, and the employee is no longer with the company.
At Denny’s, we continually look for ways to improve our processes and procedures, and we acknowledge there were opportunities for better service in this specific situation.
Denny’s maintains a strict zero-tolerance policy when it comes to any form of discrimination. We maintain our commitment to ongoing training and development of all staff. The employees at the location have already gone through a dedicated training program to ensure this never happens again. We fell short of our standards that day and are committed to making it right.
We have reached out to the guests to resolve this matter in a way agreeable to all parties.