Restaurant chain Gourmet Burger Kitchen is facing a boycott today after it emerged that the manager of their Wimbledon branch threw out a deaf couple for being accompanied by a hearing assistance dog.
Louise DeNew posted an account of the ‘horrible’ incident to her Facebook page, which has since received over 5,000 shares, with many of the hundreds of comments urging a boycott against the chain.
Louise wrote on Facebook:
Witnessed the horrible, horrible sight at Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Wimbledon this afternoon of the manager publicly throwing out a middle aged deaf gentleman and his wife because they had their hearing assistance dog with them.
The small dog clearly wore an assistance dog harness and the deaf gentleman tried to show the manager the dog ID card on its lead.
The manager wasn’t interested and despite protests both from the couple and also other customers he ordered them out. My partner put a formal complaint to the manager who just shrugged and arrogantly stated it was GBK policy.
In a interview with the Wimbledon Guardian, DeNew said:
The couple were in the restaurant and seated when the duty manager approached and told them they would have to leave, saying it was company policy.
The gentleman had speech difficulties so he was trying to hold up the dog’s hearing assistance credentials.
It wasn’t nice to witness so we left shortly after and my boyfriend went to complain, but was told by the chef behind the counter and waiting staff it was company policy.
Ms DeNew’s partner, Tom Richards, said:
I saw the man trying to explain to the staff with his lead and becoming upset because he couldn’t talk, he was holding it above his head and I then saw him being shown the door.
He was becoming very agitated and animated, making noises at staff who ignored him.
It wasn’t until I saw the woman and the dog leaving did I realise they were deaf and this was their only way of showing anger.
I felt we let them down and they had left before we could react.
The three staff members I spoke to were unapologetic. They shrugged and the only words they said were, ‘It’s company policy’.
Gourmet Burger Kitchen’s chief executive, Alasdair Murdoch, has since issued an apology, stating:
I was very disappointed to learn of the incident at the weekend that occurred in our Wimbledon restaurant.
At GBK we firmly believe in equality and the treatment of these customers was unacceptable. This in no way reflects the values of the company and we are truly sorry for the upset that was caused. We have taken this matter very seriously.
All our restaurants accept assistance dogs and we are taking immediate action to ensure this doesn’t happen again. We are reviewing all training and are re-communicating with all members of staff regarding our inclusive policy.
In the meantime we have been in touch with the customer affected to apologise and have resolved the situation directly.
Again, we would like to apologise sincerely if we have offended anyone through this matter.
Louise DeNew also told Evolve Politics that HearingDogs.org.uk were now liaising directly with Gourmet Burger Kitchen regarding the incident.
Evolve Politics have contacted GBK for further comment, but are yet to receive a reply.
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