Chili's manager who took vet's meal on Veterans Day placed on leave

A Chili’s manager who took a free meal from a Veteran on Veteran’s Day is on administrative leave, according to the restaurant.

Chili’s officials apologized to Army Veteran Ernest Walker for the incident and thanked him for his service, Kelli Valade, Chili’s Grill & Bar President, said in a statement.

“We took swift action and immediately removed our manager from the restaurant,” Valade said. “We are now in the process of working with Mr. Walker on a resolution that promotes trust and healing.”

Walker’s lawyer, Lee Merritt, said during a press conference he met with leaders from Chili’s and the restaurant’s parent company, Brinker International on Monday morning to discuss the incident.

Merritt said the parties are working on the legal aspects of the incident, since the manager “assaulted” his client, though he said Walker does not want to see the manager permanently fired.

“[He’s] not interested in seeing the young man fired; didn't want to see anyone lose their job,” Merritt said, adding that Walker is not on a “witch hunt.”

The restaurant chain has faced fierce criticism since the incident, with many calling for boycotts of the organization on social media.

Walker captured part of the altercation with the manager in a Facebook video which he posted on Friday afternoon.

According to Walker, he went to Chili’s, which was offering free Veterans Day meals, with his service dog and was waiting for his to-go order when an older white man questioned him about his military service.

"[He] asked me what unit did I serve in the 24th, I said no the 25th. He said he was in World War 2 in Germany and we did not see people like you over there,” Walker wrote. “They would not allow blacks.”

Walker said he just listened to the man and waited for his food.

Later, a manager walked over to him and asked him for his military ID.

“The manager comes and says some guests at the restaurant say that you’re not a real Soldier,” Walker wrote. “I reply, ‘what are you serious what guest?’ The manager Wesly Patrick said can I see military ID?  I felt that was reasonable, most people ask for that, so I showed him my ID it checked out.”

Walker said he started recording when the manager questioned whether his dog was a service dog. In the video, Walker appeared to hold an I.D. and asked the manager whether he’s checked it.

In the video, things continue to escalate, and the manager takes the meal from Walker.

Valade said in the statement that the incident was not in line with the restaurant's mission.

“Our goal is to make every Guest that walks into our restaurants feel special, and we fully own that one of our restaurants fell short on an important day where we strive to honor our veterans and active military for their service,” Valade said.


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