Today was a joyous occasion. My grandson, Ethan, turned four years old. He has brought such joy into our lives, I could never imagine our lives without him. His favorite place to eat is Ponderosa-mostly because they have rolls with butter and “Poppa’s corn.” So to celebrate we decided a Ponderosa visit was in order. We have always been treated kindly by the gentleman who actually owns the restaurant. We’ve always been catered to and felt as if we were the ony customers in the place by this man. He has always went out of his way to give us great service. Last January, my daughter, Ethan’s mother, underwent gastric bypass surgery. Needless to say, buffets are no longer “her style” of eating. She can only eat 4-6 ounces of food at a time. So since January when we would go to Ponderosa, she would get her food in a styrofoam tray and pay for her food by the ounce instead of paying for an entire buffet. She would then sit with the rest of the family and nibble while we all ate buffet. This has NEVER been a problem-until this evening.
After our group of seven had filled our plates and had started eating, the manager of the restaurant came over to our table. Expecting a greeting of “How is everything? Is there anything you need?” We were instead greeted with, “You can’t eat your food in the dining room.” He was speaking to my daughter. She asked, “WHY?” He said,“You bought a take-out box and our rule is no one can eat a take-out box inside the restaurant.” My daughter proceeded to explain to him, her situation of having gastric bypass surgery (which is very personal to her) and not being medically able to eat more than 4-6 ounces of food at a time. She also told him we were there to celebrate her son’s birthday and the family had gathered here to eat for his birthday. He was also informed that she had eaten several times with the family in this restaurant since the surgery and had never been told she could not eat the food she had paid for in the box. I verified to the manager that this was the case and that she indeed had undergone gastric bypass surgery. He very smartly remarked, “Lots of people come in here and say the very same thing and then they proceed to eat off of other people’s plates or fill up six plates at the food bar.” My daughter said, “I can show you my medical records and gastric bypass card or better than that my scars.” He said, “Anyone can print medical cards off the internet.” I again replied, “She can ONLY eat 4-6 ounces of food, she was eating only her food in the box. If you had watched her you would have known that before you came over here.” " My daughter then stated, "What you are doing is discrimination. " He said, “No it’s not, it’s just a rule.” My daughter then said, “I ordered a baked potato separate, will I be allowed to eat it? Other people come in here and order only a steak and salad, do you watch them every minute to make sure they only eat what
they pay for?” He replied, “I don’t have time to watch you eat and stand here over you to make sure you only eat what you paid for.”
We asked for the owners number (which the manager proceeded to tell us was HIS FATHER) and he would only give us the restaraunt number(later given to us by our waitress). When asked how long he had been a manager, he first said 10 years, then later corrected he had been manager at this restaurant 5 years. We told him we were regular customers and had never seen him here before and told him what a gentleman his father had always been to us. We told him we would be reporting this to the Discimination Board, the Better Business Bureau, and the franchise and would never be back to patronize the restaurant. With no understanding, or regrets, he left the table and went back to the kitchen-often staring at us at our table.
Needless to say, by this time, everyone in the restaurant was listening to the conversation and my daughter was humiliated and in tears! Over in the corner, several waitresses were laughing. My grandson’s birthday dinner was ruined and he was asking, “Mommy why did that man make you cry?”
The waitress ironically brought to the table, the baked potato that had been ordered on a restarant plate. My daughter had to ask for it to be put in a to go container, stating, “The manager just told me I could not eat with my family in the dining room.” She had to sit there, with her boxes closed, while we ate, trying to make the best of what was left of my grandson’s birthday. Our waitress was very sympathetic, also seemingly not understanding what had just taken place.
This should have never happened. This was discrimination. People with medical issues should be given “exceptions” to “the rule.” If only this manager had taken time to find out why my daughter was only eating what she had placed in the box, had taken a few minutes to watch and SEE that she was only eating what she had paid for, or communicated with the owner (his father) this incident would have never happened and a four year old little boy’s birthday would not have been ruined!
It is against the law for an individual to be denied access or to receive poor service or lesser quality accommodations because of his or her race, color, national origin, ancestry, religion, sex, familial status (having children under 18) and disablility in any of the following:
Not given full and equal access to the goods and services of restaurants, hotels and motels, gasoline stations, theaters and certain other public places or accommodations without discrimination or segregation.