- The Washington Times
Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The Cheesecake Factory Inc. issued an apology Wednesday in response to a Mother’s Day meltdown by its Miami staff over a customer’s “Make America Great Again” hat.

Two Cheesecake Factory employees have been fired and a company investigation is ongoing after customer Eugene Joseph’s red MAGA hat sparked threats of violence over the weekend. The man was with his girlfriend’s family when employees at the popular chain restaurant clenched their fists and vowed to knock the hat off his head.

“We were sitting at the table and my girlfriend’s aunt started noticing it,” Mr. Joseph, 22, said on Fox News’ “Fox & Friends.” “She informed us, ‘Hey, there are a couple co-workers back there looking at Eugene and making gestures towards him. So I just turned around and looked at them. I didn’t say anything. I see that they’re staring at me, staring at my girlfriend’s family. They’re trying to intimidate us, and I just ignored the whole thing.”

“After I turned around and was looking at my phone, they all started getting behind us,” he said. “One of the co-workers was saying, ‘Man, I’ll knock that hat off his head. I’ll hit him so hard that it’ll knock his hat off.’ They were clenching their fists. They were just standing behind me trying to like scare us and stuff. Me, I wasn’t really intimidated by anything, but my girlfriend’s family and everybody — it was just sad, you know? Everybody was disappointed. Mother’s Day was completely ruined.”

The company issued an apology on Wednesday as national outlets picked up the story.

“We were very disappointed to learn that two staff members made disparaging remarks about Mr. Joseph’s hat that made him and his family feel unwelcome,” the Cheesecake Factory tweeted. “As a result, as of Tuesday those two individuals are no longer employed with the company. No guest should ever feel uncomfortable in one of our restaurants and we are very sorry. Our investigation is ongoing and we reached out to Mr. Joseph directly to ask for his assistance. We are taking this situation very seriously, however, not all of the information reported by the media accurately portrays what occurred. The situation may have been exacerbated by an all-staff meeting that took place during our shift change between our staff members working the lunch and dinner shifts, which may have been perceived as a crowd gathering near the guests’ tables. We look forward to speaking with Mr. Joseph to welcome him back into one of our restaurants.”

Mr. Joseph told Fox that his interpretation of events places culpability on the shoulders of more than two individuals.

“I think my take is a little bit different,” he said. “A whole group of people came out of the kitchen and just started shouting and yelling and just clapping things and saying things towards me as I was walking back to my seat [from the restroom]. I just completely ignored it, but I could tell my girlfriend was uncomfortable. It was just really wrong.”

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