A new security guard stood outside a sushi restaurant in northeast Fresno after it was peppered with numerous threats due to a controversial Facebook post by the owner.
Roll One For Mi owner Steve Wayte said one woman called at least eight times in response to a post Friday on his personal Facebook page that read: “My servers are thinking about building a wall around the restaurant. Why don’t many Hispanics tip?” Wayte made the post, he said, after staff complained to him that four tables of Hispanic patrons left without tipping.
The woman who called asked Wayte if the restaurant served Mexicans. “We do,” he answered. The woman called back and made a reservation for 10 Monday night. Wayte wasn’t sure if the party would show, but it was enough for him to hire security for the first time.
“I brought security in just to make sure we don’t have any issues,” he said as the restaurant opened for dinner Monday evening to a crowd of about 30 customers.
Wayte also heard there was to be a demonstration at 1 p.m. Tuesday, but nothing occurred.
The post was shared on social media throughout the weekend, including by former Fresno County supervisor and Fresno mayoral candidate Henry R. Perea, who asked his friends and followers to build an “economic wall” around the restaurant.
One employee at the restaurant, chef Carlos Rucker, told The Bee on Sunday that he’s first-generation Mexican-American and was not offended by his boss’ post. He added that there’s some truth in it: “It might be a cultural thing,” Rucker said.
Matthew Jendian, chairman of Fresno State’s Department of Sociology, said when he heard about the incident, he thought about implicit biases – judgments people make subconsciously – and the study of self-fulfilling prophecies.
Jendian, who teaches classes about social psychology and race, said if a server has preconceived notions that a customer won’t tip well, based on race or social class or some other factor, that server may not work as hard at that table – eventually leading to a bad tip.
“Their behavior towards them is in such a way that actually produces the outcome that they were expecting, and then they say, ‘See, I knew I wasn’t going to get tipped well.’ The person’s assumptions get awarded, in part because of their own behavior,” Jendian said.
Wayte said his Facebook post was made jokingly in reference to the controversial wall President Donald Trump has promised to build on the border with Mexico. Wayte said he intended the post to be read as a question.
It was more standing up for my staff than hating Hispanics.
Steve Wayte, Roll One For Mi owner
Since deleting his post, Wayte has also deactivated his personal Facebook account as well as the business’s account.
Another caller threatened to hold a protest outside the business Tuesday afternoon, Wayte said. He also said some things were said to his daughter, a local high school student, including that her dad was a racist.
Wayte said his background – he was co-founder of the Central Valley Tea Party and used to have a political radio show called before opening Roll One For Mi in 2013 – has tempered him to negative feedback. “That’s your right to have your feelings hurt,” he said.
Despite the backlash, the owner has also received positive feedback.
“I’m getting a lot of email support,” said Wayte, who added three notes were shoved under the door overnight that had messages of encouragement.
“I just want to get this behind me and get on with my life,” he said, “because this is really wasted energy.”