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Consumer Racial Profiling in U.S. Restaurants: Exploring Subtle Forms of Service Discrimination against Black Diners
Articles and Chapters
  • Zachary Brewster, Wayne State University
  • Michael Lynn, Cornell University
  • Shelytia Cocroft, Wayne State College
Publication Date
In this paper we advance scholarship on consumer racial profiling (CRP), in general, and the practice as it occurs in restaurant establishments, in particular, by presenting findings from a survey of restaurant consumers that was designed to ascertain the degree to which discriminate service is evident in Black and White customers’ perceptions and evaluations of their servers’ behaviors. We found no evidence of interracial differences in subjects’ perceptions of being the recipients of subtle server behaviors that are discretionally conveyed (e.g., recommend entrée, compliment food choice, joke with, etc.) or those that constitute standard markers of service quality (e.g., eye contact, smiling, expressing appreciation, etc.). We did, however, find some evidence of CRP in customers’ perceptions of their servers’ attentiveness/promptness. Additionally, we found that African Americans’ tend to subjectively appraise their servers’ performance less favorably than their White counterparts and this is the case even when other indicators of service quality are held constant. Findings taken as a whole suggest that servers’ extend similar cues of hospitality but do so in qualitatively different ways (e.g., less sincere) across racial groups. We discuss the implications of these findings and conclude by encouraging additional scholarship on the subtle nature of racial discrimination

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Citation Information

Brewster, Z. W., Lynn, M. and Cocroft, S. (2014). Consumer racial profiling in U.S. restaurants: Exploring subtle forms of service discrimination against black diners. Sociological Forum, 29, 476–495. doi:10.1111/socf.12093. Retrieved [insert date], from Cornell University, School of Hospitality Administration site: