A pair of British-Asian friends have claimed that they were turned away from a restaurant due to their ethnicity, despite many tables being free.
Fatima Rajina and Nasar Rahman were trying to dine at the Welwyn Garden City branch of Côte Brasserie when they were allegedly turned away by staff.
Rahman, who is British-Pakistani and Rajina, who is British-Bangladeshi, said they were told the restaurant was 'reservations only' despite there being several empty tables.
Rahman alleges that when he called the restaurant while putting on a different accent, he was told one would be available immediately.
Explaining what happened during the incident later, Rajina wrote:
After reverting to his normal accent, the 'flustered' member of staff at Côte Brasserie is alleged to have then offered a table if the pair arrived 'immediately'.
Speaking to LADbible, Fatima Rajina spoke in depth about the incident, which occurred on Sunday.
She explained that after going to another restaurant which was full, a waiter kindly pointed them in the direction of Côte, saying that maybe the nearby restaurant would have 'something available'.
Fatima explained what happened when they were met by a female member of staff when they went into Côte. "The lady looked at us and said 'someone will be with you shortly','" she said.
"This tall white guy waiter said, 'Sorry, it's reservations only'."
The pair returned to their car but began to feel uneasy. "We weren't even asked if we did have reservations," Rajina explained.
"There was no 'hello', no 'good afternoon', just 'sorry, it's reservations only'."
Rajina then told Rahman to find the restaurant's number and to 'put on an accent, make yourself sound like you're a white man, and see what happens'.
When he did so, they claim they were offered a table within 15 minutes if they came to the restaurant.
At this point, Rajina explained, Rahman asked why they'd been refused minutes earlier.
"This is when the lady got very flustered, started umm-ing and ahh-ing and said, 'If you come back I can offer you a table asap'," she added.
Rahman told the restaurant they would be complaining and said they spent about ten minutes in the car 'coming to terms with the emotions we were feeling at the time'.
Since the incident, she has appeared on the Victoria Derbyshire Show on BBC, during which the company's CEO told her the number she had called had been central office. However, Rajima says she has confirmed the number was that of the Welwyn branch.
She believes that in addition to being racially profiled, the incident may be an example of 'classism' as she is from the predominantly working class Asian area of Luton.
Speaking to the Metro: Mr Rahman said: "The man at the door looked me up and down really distastefully, and I found it rude.
"There were lots of empty tables for two but he insisted they were fully booked. 'We went outside and Fatima said we had just been victims of racial profiling.
"I couldn't believe that would be the case in 2018 but I phoned the restaurant to see if I could get a table if I put on a white-sounding voice. Straight away, the woman on the phone said they had tables free and we should come within five minutes."
He added that after he asked if they had just been refused because of their race, the woman hung up.
A spokesman told the Metro: "We are aware of the incident and managing it directly with the guest.
"We are saddened to hear that someone who was turned away felt dissatisfied as a result. At Cote Brasserie we are proud to be an equal rights employer, counting over 120 nationalities amongst our team members.
"We have a strict zero tolerance policy against any form of discrimination, whether it be amongst our team or towards our guests. We strongly deny that there is a policy to refuse guests a table on any basis other than the restaurant being full.
"As such, we are taking this allegation very seriously and have also reached out to the guest in question to discuss the matter further.'
LADbible has reached out to Côte Brasserie for further comment.
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