In America, the subject of racism is deeply engrained in our culture. Horribly so. Because of this, it’s incredibly important for businesses to be hyper-aware of producing any content that can be deemed as racist. All in all, it can range from the subtle to the not so subtle. I mean it goes without saying, if you’ve got a restaurant, you probably don’t want to be a racist restaurant. Food is meant to bring people together, not separate them.
Our first examination starts with a very famous restaurant group by Tom Colicchio. It’s flagship, Craft, is one of America’s leading restaurants, located in NYC. The business helped to secure America’s place in the fine-dining landscape, and gave birth to some of the best cooks in New York City. David Chang and Marco Canora are among just two of the forward thinking chefs churned out of it’s kitchen.
With Tom’s newest venture, he originally named it “Fowler & Wells”. This turned out to be a grave mistake. The name referred to two phrenologists whose names came from the duo that inhabited the building in the 1800’s. To Tom’s dismay, he was shocked to find that a NY Times reviewer pointed out that phrenology was the study of mental aptitude and personality, which ultimately led to the justification for racism. Colicchio decided immediately to change the name, for this stood against everything he believes in. His newly named restaurant, Temple Court, is now open to the public.
In Restaurant Nut’s own backyard in Chicago, a popular bar, Bottled Blonde, has its own “racist dress code”. The pizzeria and bar bans all shoes, shirts and pants that have been associated with “bad behavior”. This includes, but is not limited to, baggy, sagging, ripped, overtly flashy, gang-related and frayed clothing. Even the 42nd Ward Alderman called out the business via twitter, criticizing the dress code. “How many “restaurants” offer tableside bottles of vodka & need to post a “dress code” longer than the Magna Carta?” (Alderman Brendan Reilly). Roasted, Brendan. Roasted.
In an even more bizarre and frightening incident, I remember when a famous restaurant chain had an even more blatant display of racism. Already a plethora of disappointment, Joe’s Crab Shack used a photo of lynching as table decor. “It appeared to show a large group of white people watching a public execution of at least one black person. On the bottom of the picture, it reads: “Hanging at Groesbeck, Texas, on April 12th, 1895.” At the top, the caption reads, “All I said was that I didn’t like the gumbo” (USA Today).
Restaurants shouldn’t be racist. They should be places where we can all feel comfortable to come together to break bread. Ensuring that your brand has no subtle or overt racist connotations will ensure you provide an inclusive environment for all patrons and don’t end up a media culprit.