Panera Bread trying very hard to dig itself out of an embarrassing hole.
Last week, an assistant manager at a Savanna location told a mother than she had to take off her two-year old daughter's shoes - because a customer complained that they squeaked too loudly - or leave the restaurant.
It turns out, however, that the child was wearing special orthopedic footwear because she has a developmental disorder.
"It was very hurtful, and I left the store crying, not a very good thing for a mom to feel like her child is being discriminated against," the mother, Catherine Duke, told WTOC.
Added the toddler's father in an interview with Good Morning America:
“She just started to try to walk at 23 months, which is very late, so the orthopedist recommended special shoes to her for better ankle support. The shoes squeak as an incentive when she walks heel to toe, so she’ll hear it and know that she’s walking properly.”
Panera has since apologized to the family and said it would like to host a fundraiser to help pay for the girls' medical bills.
Says the chain in a statement:
As you would expect, Panera Bread does not tolerate discrimination of any kind. The last thing we would want to do is make anyone feel unwelcome. Consistent with this system-wide policy, our franchisee met personally with Ms. Duke today to directly hear and address the concerns she has raised.
We understand from our franchisee that Ms. Duke has been assured that she and her family are always welcome at Panera and her concerns have been addressed.
All associates at this bakery-cafe will be receiving updated and ongoing customer relations training.