Sueretta Emke was excited to show off her new, striped crop top on May 26 at dinner with her family.
The feeling was fleeting. While dining at a Golden Corral restaurant in Eerie, Pennsylvania, Emke, 25, was approached by a male manager, who informed her she would need to go to her car and change. When Emke asked why, the man allegedly replied, “You’re dressed too provocatively and a customer complained.” An embarrassed and confused Emke explained she didn't have another outfit in her vehicle.
“He kept repeating ‘This is a family restaurant and we need you to cover up or leave,’” Emke revealed. “He claimed Golden Corral has a dress code.” (According to a Golden Corral spokesperson, they do not.) Emke feels she was possibly discriminated against because of her body type as a woman who wears a size 16. “If a tall, skinny woman came in with a crop top, I don’t think anyone would have said anything to her,” Emke told TODAY.
The manager “reluctantly” refunded Emke for her meal, but refused to do the same for her husband. “The whole thing was so upsetting,” she said. In the parking lot, she broke down crying.
A few days later, Emke shared her experience in a Facebook post that has since gone viral. Most of the messages Emke has received have been overwhelmingly positive — so much so that she’s changed her mind and plans to wear the belly-baring shirt again.
Many have pointed out that the Golden Corral in question is located right next to a splash lagoon.
“One woman wrote and said, ‘I’ve eaten there in a bikini and see-through cover-up and no one has ever said anything,” Emke told TODAY Style. “Again, l think this is a size issue here.”
Golden Corral is looking into the matter and using it as a teachable moment. “People know and love us for the family dining experience we offer and the way we make guests feel at home, but it appears we didn’t meet the mark in this situation,” a spokesperson told TODAY Style in a statement. “While we don’t offer specific guideline on attire, we think the decision made seems out of touch. We are grateful the issue was brought to our attention because it represents an education opportunity for our restaurants and a chance to make amends with a guest we disappointed.”
A district manager recently sent Emke a letter of apology and some gift cards. “I do believe he will try to make changes at the restaurant,” she said. “My goal in speaking out is to make sure it never happens again."