On Saturday, Salisha Rigsbee, Chelsey Richardson and Marquelle Blassingame visited the cheesecake-centric chain in Peoria to celebrate Blassingame’s birthday, The Arizona Republic reports. The women spent $52 on an appetizer and drinks and paid the bill with a touchless QR code, a no-contact option that the restaurant adopted in May in the fight against COVID-19.
Soon after, the women exited the restaurant and walked to Blassingame’s car, when a man they identified as a restaurant manager allegedly followed them to the vehicle, and wrote down the license plate number.
When the customers asked him what he was doing, the man said, “I know what's going on here, it's not a problem. It's cool. I know what's going on here,” and returned inside the restaurant.
Richardson wrote on Twitter that the employee went back inside to call the police, and shared a screenshot of the mobile receipt for the meal.
The women also returned into the Cheesecake Factory to ask what was happening and confirm that their payment was successful, even though the credit card had already been charged.
According to the outlet, Rigsbee, Richardson and Blassingame spoke with a waitress and two other managers about what transpired, but were “not allowed” to speak with the employee who jotted down the license plate information.
"You're not writing down a license plate number to send me a Christmas card. And you can't racially profile people and assume that because they use your system and paid via your QR code that they're automatically stealing,” Rigsbee said she told a manager, per the outlet.
Beyond an apology and a business card, the restaurant’s general manager told the trio that he could "not allow" the other employee "to come out and publicly humiliate himself," Richardson said, the Republic reports.
From there, Rigsbee and Richardson say they tried to explain that they were afraid the police were going to be called unnecessarily, but the general manager didn’t understand their concerns.
"Why do we continue to have to go through these things? And why was your first thought that we stole from you and not to say, 'We'll just go check the system?'" Rigsbee recalled.
"Black Americans are being killed for doing nothing wrong on a daily basis,” Richardson argued. “And this is another instance where we could have lost our lives if he would have finished that call with the police and have them come out for something we did not do. We had proof of our payments.”
Moving forward, the three customers planned to contact the restaurant’s corporate office regarding the incident, the Republic reports, and they will surely not mince their words; the women all work at Rigsbee's law firm, where Rigsbee and Blassingame are attorneys.
When reached for comment, a spokesperson for the Cheesecake Factory shared the following statement with Fox News on Monday evening:
“We do not tolerate or stand for discrimination of any kind. We believe this was a very unfortunate mistake on our part and we will further investigate internally to learn what went wrong and take appropriate steps to prevent it from happening in the future,” said Spero G. Alex, Senior Vice President of Operations at the Cheesecake Factory Inc.
“We had the opportunity to speak with one of the guests today and expressed our sincere apology. No one should ever feel disrespected, fearful or wrongly accused in one of our restaurants and we are truly sorry,” Alex continued. “There is no place in our society for racism or injustice.”