ORLANDO, Fla. – A New Jersey couple has come forward after a dining experience at Maggiano’s Little Italy at the Pointe Orlando location. Dorothy Moody and her husband Colin O’Hanlon have accused the restaurant of practicing segregated seating.
On Sunday, the couple made a reservation at the restaurant as part of O’Hanlon’s birthday celebration.
“We see the host in the front, and we give him the name and he said, ‘OK we are ready for you to be seated’ and he starts jotting things down,” Moody said.
Once the couple was seated for dinner, Moody said she couldn’t ignore the segregation of patrons in the restaurant.
“I take a quick inventory of the area where we were seated and I noticed they were all Black faces right away, I looked to the other side, which was the front of the restaurant and I was like ‘huh,’” said Moody, who decided to snap some photos to document the incident.
“My husband goes what’s wrong? and I go, ‘I think we’re in the Black section,’ and he goes, ‘No way,’” Moody said.
O’Hanlon said once his wife brought it to his attention, they began discussing what they should do.
“There were no Black people in the front of the restaurant,” she said.
So, Moody did what she said many do and posted her experience on social media. Soon after that, her post went viral and prompted a response from Maggiano’s.
The Italian restaurant issued an apology on social media. Moody said a member of restaurant chain also called her and the couple was given $200 worth of restaurant gift cards. Moody said the president, Steve Provost, contacted her directly and informed her they launched an internal investigation into the seating controversy.
“I appreciate that they would take the time to reach out to me because I didn’t expect them to reach out at all,” Moody said.
News 6 contacted Maggiano’s for comment on the incident and a spokesperson provided this statement”
“We understand that two valued Guests felt unwelcome when they dined at our Maggiano’s restaurant in Orlando on Sunday, February 28, and for that we sincerely apologize.
“When we learned of the couple’s experience through social media, our Guest Engagement Team reached out and spoke with the wife to express our apologies. Our brand president, Steve Provost, subsequently contacted the wife personally. Our goal is to make every Guest feel welcome and special, and to provide them with an exceptional dining experience. We deeply regret that we did not provide this couple with an experience that meets our high hospitality standards. We hope they will give us another chance.
“We investigated the circumstances around the couple’s dining experience to understand what happened so we can take any necessary actions and improve. Our investigation revealed that we had a single large party of 36 African American Guests seated together in our restaurant that evening. While they were at separate tables – we couldn’t seat them all at one – they were all seated together in the same area at their request.
“We have always had a strong commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, and this commitment is reflected at all levels on our team and organization. We strive to create a positive and inclusive environment that welcomes all. We also recognize there is always room for improvement. We are having follow-up conversations with our management team to ensure future Guests do not have this experience and are revisiting our rotation practices to ensure seating arrangements are not just computer generated but have a human touch. We understand the perception of that night and want to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
“As a brand, we welcome all to the table and are on a journey to champion racial equality at every level of our organization. We work hard to create a positive and inclusive environment by coaching our teams to respect each other and our Guests and we quickly take corrective, disciplinary measures if or when needed.
“Our teams and our Guests are diverse in gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, religion, age, cultural background and life experiences, and these differences unite us. We’re proud to be a community meeting place where we celebrate these differences and cultivate an environment where individual strengths and stories are respected and valued. We deeply value our Guests and are committed to doing what is right for them.”
However, Moody said she is unsure if the restaurant’s response goes far enough after people reached out to her sharing similar experiences.
“More people have come forth and it’s not subjected to just our experience anymore. So, while I appreciate them reaching out and investigating our situation and looking at what happened to us, now it’s kind of a bigger question,” Moody said.
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