Wild Wing Cafe representatives and African-American customers who said they had been denied service met in person Wednesday after a firestorm was created in the wake of the patrons being told to leave a North Charleston, S.C., location.

The 33-unit Mount Pleasant, S.C.-based casual-dining chain also has hired an external third party to investigate the July 31 incident. Wild Wing admits its customer-service process failed to address the customers’ concerns. The third-party investigation team, which has experience in matters of racial discrimination and other aspects of human relations, has spoken with restaurant employees and customers, the company said.

A member of the group of patrons, Michael Brown, who also goes by the name of Michael London, took his frustrations public on Aug. 22, writing in a Facebook post that went viral: “We (party of 25 family and friends) waited 2hrs, patiently and were refused service because another customer (White) felt threatened by us.

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“This type of discrimination is unacceptable and we have to put a STOP TO IT,” he continued. “The manager looked me dead in the face and said she was refusing us service because she had a right to and simply she felt like it.”

Wild Wing Cafe chief marketing officer Debra Stokes said Wednesday that the company is still investigating the incident and working to prevent a similar situation in the future.

“We’ve had talks with our staff to make sure this never happens again,” Stokes said in an interview with Nation’s Restaurant News. “It was a breakdown in that they [the customer group] were not completely happy with the experience that they had. When they called to provide some feedback, we did not get back to them in a timely manner. And that was on us completely.”

Talks with members of the group that was denied service have taken place on the phone and in person, Stokes said, with a face-to-face meeting on Wednesday in the Charleston area.

“It was a positive conversation,” Stokes said. “It’s ongoing, so we haven’t reached total resolution yet. But it certainly remains amicable.”

Wild Wing Cafe said it is continuing to work on gathering details of the incident and what happened in its aftermath.

“It really goes back to the basics of exceptional service that our customers have grown to love,” Stokes said. “It was a hallmark of what defined our brand 23 years ago, and we failed in this instance. And we know it.”

Stokes said the company also “certainly understands the magnitude of the larger conversation that is taking place, and we don’t take that lightly.”

“We have zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind,” she said.

The manager involved in the incident remains on leave while the investigation continues, Stokes added.

Wild Wing Cafe, founded in Hilton Head, S.C., in 1990, has 13 corporate-owned and 20 franchised restaurants. The brand was purchased in January 2012 by Axum Capital Partners of Charlotte, N.C.

A breakdown of the social media response

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Please contact Ron Ruggless at ronald.ruggless@penton.com.
Follow him on Twitter: @RonRuggless