An African-American couple that patronized an Austin-area IHOP restaurant Tuesday got a surprising addition to its to-go order. Austin's KVUE reports the couple — Arainia Brown and boyfriend Rolman Sparkman — picked up a to-go order at approximately 3 a.m. Upon glancing at the receipt, the two noticed the words "BLACK PPL" printed on it. Sparkman expressed his sadness and anger to the news station, calling the incident "very serious." According to the report, the server himself was a young black man.
When contacted for comment, IHOP corporate spokesperson Craig Hoffman confirmed the incident did occur and sent Eater the following statement:
This was poor judgment by a team member in a single location and is contrary to our and the franchise owner's values. The guests were offended and we are sorry for that. Everyone should feel welcome at our restaurants; the owner of this location has taken corrective action with the team member involved and re-trained the staff to prevent this from happening again.
That statement was slightly different than an earlier version released by IHOP (and published by KVUE), which called the incident a "teachable moment" and one that "could be offensive."
This was a poor choice made by our franchisee's team member, and is not in keeping with policies and procedures. We recognize that it could be offensive and apologize. Everyone is welcome in our restaurants and our franchisee is using this as a teachable moment for the entire team so that it will not reoccur.
Last year, following a viral video of an IHOP customer berating a Latina woman for speaking Spanish, the company issued a statement saying it was "an inclusive brand, with an extremely diverse guest and franchisee base."
Printing racist messages on restaurant receipts is a favorite pastime of bigots in the food industry. In August, a patron at a Denver Mexican restaurant found "you f—— Mexicans" on her receipt. Another recent incident featured the words "fried hard like a black d—" on a receipt in New Jersey. In December 2014, a man found the N-word scribbled on his receipt from a Pennsylvania eatery, and a Virginia restaurant employee was fired for printing "MAKE FOR BLACK PERSON" on a chicken wing order.