Locatelli's responds to KPRC2 report: Here's why and how we covered the story

By David T. Strickland

HOUSTON - Locatelli’s restaurant is responding to a KPRC Channel 2 News report from June 14 in which a customer accused the Italian eatery of racially profiling her by arbitrarily enforcing a group tip policy prior to ordering.

The customer was asked to leave Locatelli’s after an argument with the restaurant’s manager. The restaurant denied that it was racially profiling the woman but did say it arbitrarily enforces a group tip policy.

The owner of Locatelli’s took issue with the story broadcast on KPRC and published on Click2Houston.com.

The restaurant posted security video Tuesday night with a statement on its version of the incident. Watch the video below.

You can read and watch KPRC’s report on the situation here

Because of the community interest around this story, we want to explain why we covered this story and how.

Here is a note from KRPC’s News Director David T. Strickland:

"It was obvious from the beginning this would be a controversial story. Unless there was an audio recording of the conversation, proving who said what would be impossible. That’s why it was imperative that reporter Vincent Crivelli accurately and fairly reflect both sides of this story.

"With a story like this, our goal is to find out what actually happened through interviewing the customer and the restaurant manager with the attempt to get at the real issue. In this case, the real issue was not race, but rather the restaurant’s group gratuity policy. We never take sides in stories like this. We represent the sides and let the public decide. Those different viewpoints are why we decided to do the story in the first place, that a customer believed she was being profiled. That was interesting but so was this idea around the tipping policy. There were many layers that made this story newsworthy.

"Vincent’s reporting did not focus on if the customer was removed from the restaurant because of her race. That was not the case and we ensured that we did not make this story about that. After talking with both the customer and management, it became clear that both agreed there was an issue with the restaurant’s group gratuity policy. That policy, like most restaurants, states that large parties of customers will receive a 15% gratuity added to their final bill. The customer was enraged because she was told the gratuity was being added prior to the group ordering. The restaurant stated the same group refused to tip during previous visits. Plus, the restaurant owner and manager admitted they arbitrarily enforce the tipping policy. That arbitrary policy fed the fuel for the profiling charge. From the point of view of the African American customer, she never had the opportunity to tip as she was profiled for the extra charge by the restaurant prior to ordering dinner.

"The tipping policy, confrontation and charges of profiling made this a newsworthy story. There have been thousands of comments on various social media sites proving high interest in what took place.

"The incident ended with the customer being asked to leave after a barrage of insults directed at the restaurant’s manager. To the restaurant’s credit, they did extend an olive branch and invited the group back at a later date.

"While I understand the emotions around this story, we want the public to understand why and how we approached this story."

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