IHOP Auburn denies discrimination, apologizes for making teens prepay


[UPDATES: IHOP waitress says asking teens to prepay has ‘nothing to do with any race’IHOP president apologizes for racial incident]

AUBURN — The manager of a local IHOP has issued a public apology to his restaurant’s patrons after a server asked a group of black teenagers Sunday to pay upfront for their meals.

Manager Melvin Escobar said he has spoken with the server and that such an incident will never happen again.

“This is the first time it happened, and that will be the last time,” Escobar said.


Escobar believes the server’s actions were not racially motivated, but that she was worried the young customers would duck out on the $100 bill. He said the restaurant has had problems recently with patrons — mostly teenagers — walking out without paying.

“We don’t discriminate (against) people for what they are or who they are,” he said.

The situation caught the attention of Escobar and others after a young man from Monmouth posted about it on Facebook on Sunday. Avery Gagne wrote that he was having dinner with his parents when he overheard an employee ask the teenagers to pay their bill upfront, telling them it was “a new generation thing.”

Gagne said the teenagers were not upset, but he and his parents were.

“The woman who requested they pay upfront came over and began to tell us how it was what management has asked her to do as they have had walk outs, etc.,” he wrote. “She then looked at my parents and I and said ‘it’s not because of their color.’

“Now what I didn’t tell you at the beginning of this post was that these were four African-American teens who I believe were Somali as the girl was wearing a hijab. The reason why I didn’t mention that is because it does not matter. The woman took it upon herself to make this group of teens pay for their meal upfront because she considered them ‘high risk.’ I don’t care who has walked out on your establishment. That does not give you the right to determine who you believe is going to or not.”

Within 18 hours, Gagne’s post was shared by nearly 1,600 people. It quickly made its way to Escobar, who had not been in the restaurant when the incident took place.

“A lot of people know me and they started sending me the Facebook page,” he said. “I saw it this morning and I called the server to come in here.”

By noon Monday, Escobar issued a public apology on his restaurant’s Facebook page.

“A meeting has taken place with all of our staff members. Everyone has been made aware of these inexcusable actions and reminded how we handle matters correctly in the future,” the post read.

“We have rectified the situation and can guarantee this is not what we condone to go on within our restaurant. Please spare our credibility, as this situation is not a reflection of the service we strive to deliver.”

Escobar said his restaurant does not discriminate based on race.

“I’m personally, for me, kind of offended because I’m a Spanish person,” Escobar said. “I’m the type of person to say: ‘Here we help different kinds. Everybody I believe is American. Everybody is the same.’ We’re not racist.”

He said the restaurant also does not discriminate based on age, and the teens should not have been charged before eating. Such upfront payment goes against restaurant policy, he said, and was not approved by management on Sunday.

“The policy is: You come in, enjoy and we charge you at the end, like a normal restaurant. … She took her own action,” Escobar said.

Through a spokesperson, IHOP’s corporate president emailed the Sun Journal late Monday night to also offer a public apology.

“IHOP and our franchisees have zero tolerance for actions that are or allude to discrimination of any type,” IHOP President Darren Rebelez wrote. “The franchisee of this location is working to contact the affected guests directly to apologize for this incident and are taking appropriate actions in line with their HR policies. For 60 years, IHOP and our franchisees have strived to create a warm and hospitable dining experience for all guests, and this isolated incident is not reflective of that ongoing commitment.”

IHOP in Auburn has seen patrons walk out on their bill four times in the past three months. Although the restaurant does not make servers pay for unpaid meals, Escobar said servers get anxious when walkouts happen.

“They think they should have been paying attention more,” he said.

Gagne could not be reached for comment Monday.

This story was updated at 10 a.m. March 13 to add the IHOP president’s comments.



  • FrankE

    I wouldn’t have a problem with it if the policy applied to every customer. I don’t see it as being that much different than asking customers to prepay before pumping gas. It’s unfortunate, but times are changing. Think about it, how many people would wait around to pay for a movie after it’s been viewed? How about a door charge at a club to be payed on the way out? If business establishments need to protect themselves from unsavory characters who continually dream up ways to get free services, so be it, just keep it consistent. If one needs to prepay, then everyone prepays…………

    • The’BunksAreBest

      People pay at the end of a wait-serviced meal in order to know the size of the tab, and to to able to calculate the tip – and to tip according to the standard of service they receive.

      Who tips before receiving the bill, and knowing how much it is? Who tips before any service is given?

      • FrankE

        I guess if the group up and leaves before paying for the meal, the tip is sort of inconsequential……………

      • TJ

        I have no problem with establishments asking to be paid before service. Both BunksAreBest and FrankE bring up some decent points –
        1. Establishments should be allowed to charge before service. The change at gas stations is a good example. With too much theft of ‘gas and go’ a change was made to require the customer to prepay. Now, the downside – like many other I know, by having to pay at the machine or go in to the store to pay, I will most often just pay at the pump and leave. No more over priced ‘convenience’ foods with chips and pop to go with my tank of gas. Good for my waistline, maybe not so much for the gas station profits.
        2. Paying for food before the meal – tipping would be weird before the service. It is supposed to incentivise the staff (waiter/chef) to provide good service. And carrying cash is an inconvenience. If you tip before the meal, where is the incentive? But, the food industry has also been an industry that has lobbied for reduced minimum wages that are to be offset by tipping. Yet another forced incentive on the employee to work for tips, as the salaries are so low. When does the stick work as the best incentive?

        My thoughts – Charge customers upfront. As a business – protect yourself where possible from theft. Pay the staff a fair wage and get rid of the stick forcing them to work for tips. It isn’t their fault on a slow night that they should get paid less then minimum wage. Shame on the food industry for making the worker bare this loss. Put the associated overheads/labour costs into the product. If the staff are lazy, figure a different way to motivate and lead them – or send them on their way.

  • cairbuster

    A waitress makes a simple and a tryvial mistake on earth and before you know it some idealist from planet utopia writes a 21-paragraphs article. Now I have to wait for chance in a blue moon to be able to raise awareness about the 56 so called Muslim countries that are being ruled by tyrants and murderers.

    • daveinmaine22

      Mistake? Like she lost her balance and accidentally demanded the kids prepay for their meal? What does a group of teenage kids have to do with foreign tyrannies?

      • cairbuster

        Losing “balance” then subsequently have an accident is not a mistake. Sound minded people will not waste energy on such a trevial issue and in the process blow smoke screen on more real and urgent issues. There will be $o called Civil Righ$ group$ who will jump and exploit and milk thi$ opportunity till their content while screaming bigotry and this is all Trump’s fault.

    • CLibbey

      Yes, just what this incident have to do with 56 Muslim countries. We all have problems and some are bigger than others.

  • disqus_lW5Wars68c

    This is obviously a prelude to a multi-million dollar lawsuit with MHRC backing.

  • The’BunksAreBest

    I suppose one advantage of being forced to pay upfront is that no tip will be required at the end of the meal. Think about that…….

  • Genius

    I’m glad the restaurant acknowledged there mistake and took actions to rectify it. No one’s perfect and this will obviously be used as a learning experience for there employees . It’s nice when people own up to there mistakes.

    • EM Burke

      Hi Genius: The proper spelling is “their mistake” and “their employees”. ” “There” means “in a place.” “Their” means “belonging to.” A lot of folks do make mistakes, but this one is a little old.

  • Kimberly Schofield

    The headline places focus on race when the article is about teenagers who order food and run out without paying the bill. Teens play games and we, as adults, need to be prepared to handle reoccurring situations such as this. To place focus in race fuels a nonexistent issue in this case. Shame on Lindsey Tice.

  • CLibbey

    Many servers must make up the loss somehow. Instead of Mr. Gagne ragging on the waitress, perhaps he could write a post teaching his fellow adolescents to pay up and not leave restaurants hanging.

  • michichan

    It’s time to eliminate the culture of tipping and holding unpaid checks against the server. I am willing to pay an additional 15% at a restaurant if it means the server is getting properly paid.

  • Mr. Smith

    This is a common problem, i don’t blame them. Minority and lower income teens are not taught about simple things like tax and tip. We had to institute a policy at my restaurant that we will not serve tables without a responsible adult present. I was calling the police weekly for theft of services.

    • TheBoyWonder

      There are restaurants everywhere, and the concept of “tipping” is not only in the U.S. Asking someone to prepay for services, especially at a restaurant, not some old fast food joint is freaking absurd, doesn’t matter how you put.

      • Eileen Farner Beyer

        Maybe you would feel differently if it was you who owned a restaurant and lost revenue.

  • aldous Huxley

    To all those commenting on this article with typical faux outrage, stop it. Seriously. B l a c k s are the most violent, irreverent and destructive segment of the US population. Period. And stiffing a waitress at IHOP is not beyond the pale.Despite trillions of tax dollars stolen from tax payers to prop up 12-13% of the population with no ROI, this has become the most expensive forced robbery ever! With that being said, reputations are earned SJW’s, sorry to bruise your fragile sensibilities. The time has to come where the black community demands more of itself, instead of holding hard working business owners at gunpoint for protecting that which they’ve busted their a*s for! I guess Wal Mart locking up black hair care products because they are the most stolen product in the store deserves the ire of the of generation snowflake and must be shutdown! (sarcasm off) http://www.businessinsider.com/walmart-locking-up-african-american-hair-products-2018-1

    • Ohr4

      Least blacks don’t go and shoot up schools filled with children

    • TheDom

      BWAAHAAA here we go another white supremacist posting BS. You should look inward to your own race, I mean really – the genocide perpetrated in the US alone is staggering:

      1. Mass shootings

      2. Tobacco – pretty much global on that one

      3. Hitler

      4. Drunk driving deaths

      Tons of other examples but hopefully you get the idea

  • cseder

    I have no problem with pre-paying, as long as everyone is treated the same. What she did is single out a race/age without the consent of the restaurant or manager. That is where her mistake was made. If she wasn’t smart enough to realize this was going to be an issue, I hear McDonalds is hiring. They are pre-pay.

    • AnonDude123

      Thanks for pointing that restaurants are allowed to require prepay.

  • ProfessorThisCentury

    Was the statement: We don’t believe in discrimination unless they are black?