Waffle House apologizes after black couple handcuffed over bill dispute

Waffle House apologizes after black couple handcuffed over bill dispute
© Twitter/ Shaun King

The 24 hour fast-food chain Waffle House said on Thursday that it had called to an issue an apology to a Florida couple after video footage showed them being handcuffed by police following a dispute over the price of their meal. 

The incident, which occurred at a Waffle House in Fort Walton, Fla., on May 2 but was not disclosed to the public until this week, sparked massive outrage online.

The tape shows police officers handcuffing two people after they reportedly complained about the price of their meal and a glass of orange juice. The New York Times reports that the couple claimed their meal should have been $18, but that they were charged $27. The feud resulted in employees calling police. 

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“If you don’t pay your bill, you’re going to jail," a police officer can be heard saying to the couple. Police later released the couple without charges. 

After renewed calls for a boycott of the restaurant, the chain released a statement on Thursday, saying that "both sides" could have handled the situation better. It also said that it would provide “additional training” in customer service to employees at the restaurant.

“While our review of the Fort Walton Beach, Fla., incident is continuing, we think both sides could have handled this situation better,” a spokesperson told the Times. “On our part, our employee could have done more to de-escalate the dispute before calling the police.”

Walter G. Ehmer, the Waffle House chief executive, called the couple to apologize, according to the Times. The Fort Walton Police also released body cam footage this week "to set the record straight." 

“The cell phone video being shared only shows a small part of the incident and does not include that the individuals detained were released after the situation calmed and the bill in question was satisfied ― which is what the officers were trying to achieve from the beginning,” the department wrote on its Facebook page

Waffle House has drawn increasing scrutiny in recent months over problems related to race. Dr. Bernice King, the youngest daughter of civil rights legend Martin Luther King Jr., in May called for a boycott of the restaurant chain after video showed an unarmed black men being violently arrested at a North Carolina location.