Flight restaurant owner says they are investigating allegations of racism after protests

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Two popular restaurants in Memphis faced a weekend of protests after a social media post about the restaurants went viral with claims the restaurants seat African-American customers in areas where they can’t be seen from the window or street. 

The claims were made by people who say they used to work at Flight, and sparked protests at the downtown restaurant and another restaurant in Midtown owned by the same group, Porch and Parlor.

It got to the point that the restaurant was forced to make a comment on Facebook, saying they take these allegations seriously and are starting an investigation.

They also said if the accusations are true employees will be terminated immediately.

Former employees also say the company was very selective in who they hired, hiring very few African-Americans and those they did hire worked in the kitchen area.

WREG visited the restaurants Monday to find out the status of that investigation, but no one seem to know when it would be done.

It’s a black eye for Flight restaurant, considered and voted one of the best in the country.

Russ Graham, the Flight restaurant group owner, sent a statement Monday, saying they don’t seat anyone based on race. Graham said seating is based on party size, and where customers ask to be seated.

He said they will continue to review the accusations and plan to “listen and learn” as they move forward. He also says they are pursuing diversity training for all the staff.

Full statement from Russ Graham:

We are deeply concerned by the allegations we have read online. As a leadership team we apologize if we have been insensitive in anyway. The management of Flight Memphis, LLC continues to review the accusations that have been posted online.  We realize that we need to be reflective, to listen and to learn as we move forward.

We are taking the time to be self-reflective and our first step is to determine if we need to make changes. We are currently pursuing diversity and inclusion training for the full staff and will continue to assess ways we can improve our customer experience and staff experience.

We do want to address one allegation related to seating of African American guests. There has never been a policy or intent to seat any specific group in any specific location. The nature of our seating arrangements are that 64% of our dining room seating is located upstairs. It’s simply not true that we seat anyone based on race, parties are seated based on party size, at the request of the party and as available wait staff dedicates. 

Our commitment to customer service is what sets us apart from other restaurants in Memphis. We will continue to uphold our high standards of operation to ensure our customers receive the fine dining experience they have come expect.

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