There's a lot of anecdotal evidence of waiters at restaurants delivering less than stellar service to black patrons, but a recent research study put hard numbers behind the phenomenon of "tableside racism":
"Many people believe that race is no longer a significant issue in the United States," says Sarah Rusche, a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at NC State and co-author of a paper describing the study. "But the fact that a third of servers admit to varying their quality of service based on customers' race, often giving African-Americans inferior service, shows that race continues to be an issue in our society."
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.