‘Embarrassing’: Pre-payment request from Winnipeg restaurant has patron claiming discrimination

Amidst rising dining and dashing cases in Winnipeg, a woman says she was discriminated against after being asked to pre-pay for food at a restaurant.

Kayla McPherson was at a Montana’s with five others when they were approached by staff. The group — all of whom were in their early to mid-20s — were asked to pay their bill early due to a new pre-pay policy.

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McPherson says she quickly realized her table was the only one being asked to pre-pay.

“It was embarrassing. And honestly, we all felt ashamed. Like, you know, there’s certain people that go through discrimination, just being at stores and being followed around, you know what I mean?” she said. “That’s what it felt like in that moment to have the server come up to us as well as the manager.”

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McPherson says she asked for proof of the policy, but the staff started to backtrack.

“The fact that this wasn’t implemented to all of your customers that are sitting down at the tables right now and you only decided to approach us and when we question it, you say it’s a policy and when we bring it back up, you say that you never said that word,” she said.

“You deny, deny, deny the fact that you even said the word policy when there’s six people sitting here who can confirm exactly what you said.”

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McPherson says she has eaten at the establishment many times with her parents and had never been asked to pay ahead of time.

“There’s so much discrimination going on, whether we’re referring to age, whether we’re referring to gender, whether we’re referring to race. You know, there’s so much discrimination going on and it could have been because of our age.”

Shaun Jeffrey of the Manitoba Restaurant & Foodservices Association says he was appalled to hear about what happened to McPherson.

“When I heard Kayla’s story, I was extremely upset. This is not and nor will it ever be our condone to discriminate against customers based on age or sex or anything like that. That is just straight-up discrimination,” he said.

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“You cannot have a policy in place like this in your business that is discriminating based on age.”

Jeffrey says this incident is an anomaly during a difficult time for restaurant owners scraping by after taking a brutal hit during the pandemic.

He says dining and dashing cases have doubled in recent days, and restaurants aren’t able to bounce back from that like they used to.

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“What restaurants have done in the past is most of the time just ate it, just ate that cost, but in this day and age coming out of the pandemic, the dollars and cents that are available to eat that cost, they’re just not there anymore.”

Jeffrey says restaurant operators are trying to come up with ways to ensure they don’t lose any more money to dining and dashing that might impact customer hospitality.

“I’d hate to see a time where we have to take a credit card before a group can sit down again. That just kind of counteracts the whole hospitality in the hospitality industry. But we’re really looking at all options.”

Global News reached out to the Montana’s involved in McPherson’s incident.

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In an email, a spokesperson from Recipe Unlimited, the company that owns Montana’s, said: “We are regretful that this incident took place at one of our restaurants and would like to clarify that the experience outlined is not our policy or something we support. We take these matters very seriously and have been in contact with the guest and the restaurant to take appropriate actions and ensure that this doesn’t happen again.”

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