Burger chain forced to say sorry for kicking deaf man and guide dog out
by Felicity Collier
A MAJOR burger chain was forced to make an embarrassing apology yesterday after management threw out a disabled man from one of its restaurants for having his hearing assistance dog with him.
Horrified customers at a Gourmet Burger Kitchen (GBK) branch in Wimbledon, London, complained after the middle-aged man and his wife were told they had to leave.
Witness Louise DeNew said: “The small dog clearly wore an assistance dog harness and the deaf gentleman tried to show the manager the dog ID card on its lead.”
Despite outraged protests from customers the manager ordered them to leave the premises, she said.
Ms DeNew and her partner put a formal complaint to the manager who allegedly “just shrugged and arrogantly stated it was GBK policy.”
Hearing dogs usually wear a clearly marked jacket to denote their special assistance role.
Ms DeNew fumed on Facebook: “Well, frankly shame on you GBK, not only have you broken a human rights law which clearly gives guidelines for restaurants on the laws of non-discrimination against disabled customers including those with assistance dogs.
“You have ignored your statements on your own website stating your ethical policy, breaking not only decent moral codes but this country’s own discrimination laws.
“Your business and your staff are a disgrace.”
Other social media users called for the restaurant to be closed down.
In statement, chief executive Alasdair Murdoch said: “At GBK we firmly believe in equality, and the treatment of these customers was unacceptable.
“This in no way reflects the values of the company and we are truly sorry for the upset that was caused.
“We have taken this matter very seriously. All our restaurants accept assistance dogs and we are taking immediate action to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”
The chain said it would be reviewing the training it offers to staff, with an emphasis on its inclusion policy.
It added that it had been in touch with the customers to apologise directly, saying: “We would like to apologise sincerely if we have offended anyone through this matter.”
Guide Dogs charity’s senior campaigns manager James White told the Star: “Although there are already laws in place to prevent taxi companies, restaurants, shops and other service providers from telling an owner that their assistance dog isn’t welcome, these access refusals happen far too frequently.
“It’s not only illegal, it knocks people’s confidence and stops them doing the everyday things that most people take for granted.
“Staff need to understand and abide by the law and allow guide and other accredited assistance dogs. This kind of discrimination is unacceptable and we are happy to work with establishments to make sure their staff understand their obligations.”
Disabled People Against Cuts co-founder Linda Burnip said she had heard of similar cases involving supermarkets as well as restaurants and blamed “ignorance” for the issue.
She added that all staff should be trained under the Equality Act 2010.