Dairy Queen Shuts Franchise After Owner's Reported Racial Confrontation with Customer

Dairy Queen immediately acted to close a franchised location after its owner purportedly used a racial slur aimed at a dissatisfied customer.

Dairy Queen maintains it is in the process of "terminating the franchise rights" of an Zion, Illinois, franchisee after he allegedly used racial slurs during a confrontation with a dissatisfied customer:

Describing the allegations against the franchise owner as "inexcusable" and "reprehensible," the chain affirmed the Dairy Queen in question would be "closed until further notice" in a statement first tweeted on 6 January 2017. The chain's statement was made in response to a 4 January 2017 incident at the Zion location, during which a customer said the owner had used racist pejoratives to describer her and her family after she complained of poor service:

[Deianeira] Ford had taken her two children to visit their grandmother — and, because they were well-behaved, she stopped by the Dairy Queen on the way home. She ordered a $5 box, but part of the order was wrong, and another part was missing ... The owner, James “Jim” Crichton, returned her $5, but gave her a mouthful, according to Ford and the police in Zion, 50 miles north of Chicago.

“He called me and my children n—–; he said I can go back to where I came from,” Ford [said].

“He took out his flip phone and he said he would take a picture and put it on Facebook because he wants to show the world what kind of n—— he has to deal with. Then he shut the window and walked away ... My daughter is 3. She’s a little sponge; she repeats everything,” said Ford, 21, who is biracial. “She asked me: ‘Mommy, we n——?’"

Zion Police Chief Steve Dumyahn told the Washington Post that the complaint made by Ford pertained to behavior that was "deplorable" but not "criminal." The newspaper quoted a police report in which a responding officer appeared to have corroborated the customer's claims:

“Crichton boastfully told me he would be happy to go to jail over the issue and proudly admitted to calling Ford a n——. He added that he is ‘fed up with black people,’ ” and described an incident in which two “of them” were in his restaurant squirting ketchup all over the floor, according to the officer’s report.

“During the course of my conversation with Crichton, he used the word ‘n—–‘ freely to describe black people,” the officer continued.

By the following day, the story was spreading on Facebook and caught the attention of Dairy Queen corporate. Later that day, Crichton extended an apology and offered to attend "sensitivity training":

Dairy Queen also released a statement from Crichton, which said he and his employees would undergo sensitivity training.

“I would like to sincerely and humbly apologize for my recent words and actions,” his statement said. “I have let my family, friends, employees, our system and this community down with what I have done.”

On 6 January 2017, Dairy Queen confirmed that the Zion location had been shuttered indefinitely and that Crichton's franchise rights were being terminated. An attorney for Ford applauded Dairy Queen's quick action but maintained she was investigating whether a "pattern of racial abuse" had occurred at the Zion franchise prior to its closure.

Originally published: 10 January 2017

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