I have to rate my recent meal at the Hillsdale Mall California Pizza Kitchen in San Mateo as the most degrading restaurant experience of my life. And I’ve eaten out a lot – up to 10 times a week in restaurants of all types in North America, Europe, Asia and the Caribbean. I’ve never found that being a woman and a visible minority was a problem at a restaurant until I went to California Pizza Kitchen.
My dining nightmare began with the hostess, Elise, who insisted on giving my table away to a non-minority customer whose name was on the wait list after mine and whose name had been called after mine. She stood aside while the man berated me for refusing to wait my turn and would not explain that I had in fact been there first. She stalled me when I asked for the manager. Then, when my family was taken into the restaurant while I waited for the Manager, they left them standing in the middle of the restaurant surrounded by empty tables and told them that there wasn’t a table ready for them.
The General Manager, Michael, initially apologized for the mistake by his staff and offered to take care of the situation. Then, to add insult to injury he came to our table as I was quietly feeding the children and announced, in front of my family, friends, and the guests and staff of the restaurants, that he was going to call security to have me removed from the restaurant “for the safety of his staff” because “they felt unsafe and threatened by my presence in the restaurant.” He refused to discuss the situation in a reasonable manner and I was forced to leave, humiliated, with 3 hungry and upset children in tow, while the hostess stood by smirking at us and people stared at us.
I am still trying to figure out how I, a respectable university professor at dinner with 3 children (two 9-year olds and a 1-year old), could pose a public threat that warranted my immediate removal from California Pizza Kitchen. More importantly, I don’t know how to explain to my son why they kicked him out of the restaurant before he could finish his pizza.
I can’t comment on the quality of the food – they didn’t give me a chance to eat. The Denny’s-like customer service did, however, leave me with a very bad taste in my mouth.