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Restaurant Charges Diners Based On Their Race In Social Experiment

Restaurant Charges Diners Based On Their Race In Social Experiment

A pop-up stall has sought to charge white diners $18 more than people of colour to raise awareness of racial wealth inequality.

Chris Ogden

Chris Ogden

Food is the great equaliser between people - with all of us needing to eat, sitting down over a slap-up meal is a great way to start a conversation about important issues.

Now a pop-up restaurant in New Orleans, Louisiana has aimed to raise awareness to racial wealth inequality by asking white customers to pay $18 more for the same meal than people of colour.


Saartj, the brainchild of Nigerian-born chef Tunde Wey, was open all of last month offering customers a Nigerian vegetarian menu including fermented cassava dumpling and fried plantains.

The project was created with the aim of bringing attention to the disparity between white and black in America and especially in New Orleans. In 2013, the median household income for African-American households in the NOLA metropolitan area was 54 percent lower than for white households.

The restaurant's website explained: "Each day we offered a single lunch plate with two pricing options; a standard price of $12 and a suggested price of $30.

"The standard price was available to all customers, while the suggested price was offered to white customers. The pricing differential represents the wage disparity between black and white households in New Orleans."

Interestingly, Wey sought to redistribute any profit he gained from sales at the suggested price to customers of colour, offering the money directly to them.

Wey intentionally didn't promote the restaurant to get as a natural a response from customers as possible. He will be presenting data he gained from the study at a NOLA town hall meeting on March 15 2018.


Saartj proved quite good at doing what it set out to do as 78 percent of white guests chose to pay the suggested price. However, according to Wey, white guilt was definitely a factor.

"Refusing to pay more comes off as anti-social and people don't want to be judged for that. People look on the other side of the till and see me standing there and they're thinking that I'm judging them," Wey told Civil Eats.

"If they couldn't pay a higher amount, they gave me a list of caveats why they couldn't."

Interestingly, only six customers of colour signed up to get their share of the money. According to Wey, many black customers offered to pay the $30 or simply insisted they didn't need the money, suggesting it be given to someone else instead.

Looks like Saartj was an eye-opening experiment. For some punters, no doubt the extra cost was worth it.

Featured Image Credit: Instagram

Topics: News, US News