Pizza Hut has issued an apology to a group of special needs students who were allegedly rushed along as they ate so that they would be finished before “regular” customers entered the Tennessee restaurant.
Local mother Heather Bensch recently shared a viral Facebook post accusing the pizza chain’s Ripley location of discriminating against her daughter, McKaela, who visited the eatery along with about 20 other special needs students from Halls High School.
“Pizza Hut, please define to me who a ‘regular’ person is. No, better yet, please explain why my child and her classmates weren’t at least given the ‘regular’ service that anyone else would receive?” Bensch wrote on Facebook.
Bensch was not present during the incident, but said that the group had made a reservation, so Pizza Hut employees were aware they would be coming.
She said that a teacher who was present at the pizza party told her that the group was told to clean its own tables, use paper plates and finish their meal “because they [had] regular people coming in.”
As a teacher described it to CBS affiliate WREG, “They kept rushing us because their ‘regular’ group of people was coming in, whatever that was supposed to mean.”
“The eye rolling and attitude began the moment that the first child and teacher walked through the door (with a reservation, so they already knew what group was coming), before the term ‘regular’ was ever used by the waitresses,” Bensch wrote in her Facebook post. “So, to say that this has all been blown out of proportion, or posted for any other purpose than to get justice for these kids, is not only inaccurate, but also offensive to those that were there.
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Keith Duncan, whose stepdaughter was among the group of students eating, told WREG he also believed the situation could’ve been handled better.
“Just been more professional about it. Just have a little leniency for our kids,” he said.
A spokesman for Pizza Hut PEOPLE in a statement that the incident does not reflect the company’s “standard of serving the community and providing every guest with excellent service,” and that they’d reached out to apologize to those involved.
“Our local franchisee has been in contact with the school principal and superintendent to offer our apologies to the students and teachers and will be meeting with them this week,” the statement read. “Restaurant management will also be reinforcing our expectations with employees at the store to ensure that our standards of service are upheld going forward. We hope to welcome the class back into the restaurant soon.”
Still, the apology was lacking for Bensch, who told NBC News she felt it was too little, too late.
“The apology should’ve been given right on the spot to those that were there, and after the fact to the parents, as well as initial responsibility taken for what happened,” she said.
Lauderdale County Schools Superintendent Shawn Kimble told NBC News that he is investigating the incident, and that he has spoken with a regional manager for Pizza Hut, who told him he was “very sorry” for what happened and that they’re “willing to make things right.”