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Study Shows that in Restaurants, Race Matters

A new study from NC State University shows that more than one-third of restaurant servers discriminate against African-American customers.

Sarah Rusche, a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at NC State, co-authored a paper describing the study with CHASS alum Dr. Zachary Brewster of Wayne State University, who earned his doctoral degree in sociology in 2009.

“Many people believe that race is no longer a significant issue in the United States,” Rusche says. “But the fact that a third of servers admit to varying their quality of service based on customers’ race, often giving African-Americans inferior service, shows that race continues to be an issue in our society.”

NC State News Services issued a news release about the pair’s research findings. News outlets around the globe have picked up on the story, including UPI, CBS Local, the Daily Mail (UK),the Digital Journal, and BuzzFeed.


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  1. Very very true. I’ve been working in restaurants for 15 years and believe me when i tell you it is even worse in most kitchens. If a black person orders the chicken or a well done steak the ignorant racist comments (aka jokes according to those saying them) continue long past the person has left the restaurant. If a white person orders something specifying no pork they must be jewish and therefore are treated and talked about just as much (if not more so). Of course I don’t need to mention Hispanics or Middle Eastern looking people; it’s a sad reality that most Americans choose to ignore

    1. I resent the assumption that an entire culture acts the way the first replier stated.You are a waiter/waitress, do your job 100% regardless. I have always tipped well and so do the BLACKS that I associate with. Regardless, I am fed up with waiters/waitresses who feel that I need to be the recipient of their bad moods because of what other customers do. My husband and I had a waitress decide that she needed to sit down at our table while we were eating and talk, and we did not know this woman. Am I suppose to give her a good tip? or the waiter who gave me a cup with another woman’s lipstick on it and his answer was to wipe it off with his finger and give it directly to me????
      There are two sides to this research.

  2. Did the research take into account WHY the servers discriminate? Like differences in tipping, differences in ordering complexity, unusual or maybe unreasonable demands made by the patrons, or behaviors that are distracting or annoying to other patrons? If I were a server, I suppose I might avoid customers who were troublesome or stingy tippers, and focus more attention on those I believe will give better tips. We have to remember that servers receive the majority of their income from tips, and their expectations about tipping then would have a big impact on how they serve. Would the problem be resolved by restaurants adding a predetermined tip to the bill, or would that just create a new set of problems, like poor service if the servers did not think their service would matter?