A woman says she was recently kicked out of a Golden Corral restaurant in Erie, Pennsylvania, because of her outfit and appearance.
Sueretta Emke, 25, said she hopes that by sharing her now-viral story, “even one person will change the way that they view and treat other people.”
Emke, who lives in Dunkirk, New York, said that on May 26 she drove an hour to the restaurant in Erie, which features an all-you-can-eat buffet, with her husband, Andrew, and their young son, Aiden, to celebrate the boy’s birthday with friends.
When she went to get food, Emke, who was wearing a new crop top and denim shorts, said that she was approached by a manager who told her she was dressed “too provocatively” and that a customer had complained about her appearance.
The manager said she either needed to change or leave, according to Emke.
“I explained that we drove an hour there,” she wrote on Facebook. “I didn’t just have clothes I could change into but he didn’t care.”
Emke told NBC News in a phone interview Thursday that when she asked the manager if the restaurant had a dress code, he said no, “but it’s a family restaurant so if someone complains, we step in.”
She then asked, “So what if I am in there and if I have a problem with someone’s religious attire, would you make them leave?”
The manager allegedly had no response. Emke left and said when she later complained to the restaurant’s franchise owner, he defended the decision.
Golden Corral told NBC News that while it does not “offer specific guidelines on attire” to its franchise locations, its intention is never “to offend anyone.”
“We are grateful the issue was brought to our attention because it represents an education opportunity and a chance to make amends with a guest we disappointed,” the company said.
Emke said that she saw other customers at the restaurant in more revealing clothing and believes she was discriminated against because of her size.
“I really do believe something was said to me because I’m not thin, so it’s not considered sexy,” she wrote.
After the incident, Emke said she consulted a lawyer to explore her legal options and he advised her to share her experience on social media.
“People are going to have their own opinions and they’re entitled to their opinions, but you’re not entitled to share your opinions to hurt someone else,” Emke said. “And what upset me the most is that another customer’s experience was more important than my family’s experience.”
Emke received a letter and gift cards from a Golden Corral franchise business consultant on Thursday. In the letter, a copy of which was provided to NBC News, the consultant apologized “for the treatment she received.”
“Please be assured that the Franchise and I are looking into your concerns and taking whatever corrective action is appropriate,” the letter said.
Emke said one of the worst parts of the experience is that she had never owned a crop top before. She was nervous, but felt confident enough to wear one with her husband’s encouragement.
“I really felt cute in it and now I never want to wear that shirt again, even though it was the first time I ever wore it and I felt good about myself in it,” she said.