Study: ‘Tableside Racism’ Persists In Restaurants


So much for our post-racial society.

A new report details the insidious racism that still pervades daily life in America, in this case the focus is “tableside racism” that plagues restaurants. The study by University of North Carolina researchers found that one-third of restaurant servers discriminate against African-American customers, with “substantial server negativity toward African Americans’ tipping and dining behaviors.” The report was published online in the Journal of Black Studies.

From the news release:

Researchers wanted to determine the extent to which customers’ race affects the way they are treated at restaurants, so the researchers surveyed 200 servers at 18 full-service chain restaurants in central North Carolina. The majority of the servers surveyed – approximately 86 percent – were white.

Survey results showed that 38.5 percent of servers reported that customers’ race informed their level of service at least some of the time, often resulting in providing inferior service to African-American customers. Findings show that many servers perceive African-American customers to be impolite and/or poor tippers, suggesting that black patrons, in particular, are likely targets of servers’ self-professed discriminatory actions.

The survey also found that 52.8 percent of servers reported seeing other servers discriminate against African-American customers by giving them poor service at least some of the time. Findings also show that restaurant servers share anti-black perceptions through racist workplace discourse, indicating a considerable amount of talk about the race of their patrons. Only 10.5 percent reported never engaging in or observing racialized discourse.

“‘Tableside racism’ is yet another example in which African-Americans are stereotyped and subsequently treated poorly in everyday situations,” says Sarah Rusche, a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at North Carolina State and co-author of a paper describing the study. “Race continues to be a significant barrier to equal treatment in restaurants and other areas of social life.”

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  • BuddaBomb

    this study is lame. I’ve worked at a country – western night club, and I can’t stand serving rednecks/cowboy wannabe’s and country/ghetto white trash because they’re generally rude, have an attitude about the prices, and DON’T TIP!  Sorry, but I can usually spot them by their clothes and body language – if people don’t want to be stereotyped, then don’t act like the crowd and don’t make it so easy to figure you out. Now, I work at a sports bar with a very diverse crowd  and I know that the older people (> 35) are going to tip and tip much better. And most young people don’t tip very good and if they’re dressed like they trying to conform to a part of they’re chosen culture (i.e., gangsta, cowboy/country boy, hippie, etc.), you’ve probably got a rude non-tipper. Generally, black people(mostly younger black males) haven’t tipped me good or most of the time at all –  could be me, but they seem to have an attitude with me immediately. That’s my experience and it’s all I have just like anyone else to go on.

  • Manlo

    For anybody who’s worked in a restaurant everybody is stereotyped. And you get the service you pay for. How about Indians Asians Jews Europeans teenagers the elderly and the socially awkward and don’t forget children, is anybody doing studies on the amount they are discriminated against? Servers are paid by the guest more than the restaurant this plays a large part toward systematically stereotyping every single customer not only ones of a certain race

  • M Bowman


    I am African American; my husband, son, friends and I eat
    out quite frequently……we eat at mom and pop dives and the very best restaurants.  I’ve experienced horrific service and
    exceptional service.  I’ve also been
    treated differently than Caucasian patrons, at different places.  We all know that waiters/waitresses don’t typically
    make a lot of money, so I want to tip them – especially if they’re young people
    trying to get through school, etc.  If my
    son waited tables, I would want customers to tip him (if he provided good
    service).  Nonetheless, as a black
    person, I won’t be goaded into feeling as though I have to tip (even if the
    service is bad), because I don’t want people to think, “Black people don’t tip”.  If the service is good so is the tip, if the
    service is terrible, SO IS THE TIP!  Black
    people don’t tip, because the service is bad…the service is bad, because black
    people don’t tip….we could go on and on.  The bottom line is, if you want a great tip from me – provide good service…period!

  • Ace Martini

    Not much of a theory here…If I’m an anorexic white girl dining alone, chances are I’m going to get less service  

  • Reasonable?

    I’m black. If a restaurant gives me bad service, I don’t return.  If it’s egregious I complain to the managers or write a bad review on Yelp etc.

    I think it’s more important for people of any race to know how to respond effectively to bad service than to lamenting the findings from some survey.