The Kiwanis Club planned a banquet in an Olive Garden restaurant located in Alabama in the City of Oxford. 80 year old Kiwanis club member Marti Warren was outraged by the restaurant chain's policy and said she felt like she had been slapped in the face because she was not allowed to display the U.S. flag in the restaurant.
The restaurant agreed, but it wasn't until the night of the banquet Warren learned that she would not be allowed to bring the American flag inside the building. That slap came one hour before the Golden K Kiwanis club's awards banquet the restaurant manager told Warren she couldn't bring in their banner or even an American flag. Warren said,
"I said having known this earlier you can bet we never would have eaten here. And I said if we had time we would have gone to McDonald's because we know they are American all the way through,"
Warren added, "This is not my country. This is not my country I grew up with." "I was so angry. I felt like I had been slapped in the face."Olive Garden's parent company Darden restaurants gave this statement:
"Like all Americans we have nothing but the utmost respect and admiration for the American flag and everything it symbolizes. In fact, we periodically provide American flag collar pins to our employees to wear while serving our guests. We understand and appreciate the way some people have reacted to the situation in Oxford and we're very sorry if this decision has caused them any concern. The Oxford Olive Garden does not have a private dining area. To be fair to everyone and avoid disrupting the dining experience for all other guests, they're unable to accommodate flags or banners of any type in the dining room."But Warren says that's not what they told her. In fact she says they told her she'd be in banquet room three. And as for being in the way, they were seated in the back by the kitchen.
"I resent that. I do resent that. I'm about truthfulness and that's not truthful," said Warren.And now she's isn't sitting back quietly. Warren said,
"Word of mouth is powerful and if people find this out and decide not to patronage these places and it will hurt them in their pocket."Olive Garden later has issued this apology:
“We are very sorry for any misunderstanding about this issue. We do not have a policy at Olive Garden concerning bringing the American flag into our restaurants. Some members of our team were misinformed about company policy by our corporate office. As a company we take responsibility for that and we regret it. We take pride in how we communicate to our restaurants and we are correcting this so it doesn’t happen again. Like all Americans we have nothing but the utmost respect and admiration for the American flag and everything it symbolizes, and we welcome anyone who wishes to bring the flag into our restaurants. In fact, we periodically provide American flag collar pins to our employees to wear while serving guests.”The American flag may not have been present at that Kiwanis club meeting, but that didn't stop Warren or the others from saying the pledge. Warren told the club to close their eyes, picture the flag waiving in the wind, and they did just that.