On 20 May 2016, Facebook posts began circulating claiming that a Tacoma, Washington-area Outback Steakhouse refused service to a Donald Trump supporter:
The post reproduced above was shared to the Facebook page “The Trump Party,” and it described a purported scene in a parking lot:
A Trump supporter in a customized Trump truck, flying the American flag went to this Outback Steakhouse and before she could even get out of her vehicle the restaurant owner came running out screaming at her to get the hell out of his parking lot and calling her filthy names! Let this Trump hater know what you think!
The rumors included almost no detail about the incident or the purported would-be patron, lacking a date or source for the claims. It was unclear how the manager was aware that the patron intended on visiting the Tacoma Outback, nor exactly what a “customized Trump truck” would look like. Most posts included a phone number with directives to call the Tacoma Outback Steakhouse to complain. Posts to Outback’s page as of 20 May 2016 were almost entirely complaints from Trump supporters, some of whom demanded that the franchise owner be fired:
A Trump supporter in a customized Trump truck, flying the American flag went to an Outback Steakhouse and before she could even get out of her vehicle the restaurant owner came running out screaming at her to get the hell out of his parking lot and calling her filthy names! I will no longer be a customer. The owner of this franchise should be fired immediately!!
One commenter provided what appeared to be a link to the original claim, shared to Facebook on 19 May by John Beavers of Tacoma. That post indeed depicted a truck with “Trump” emblazoned on the side in red, white, and blue in the parking lot of an Outback Steakhouse:
Outback’s social media staff responded to the posts with what appeared to be a boilerplate reply. The chain appeared to confirm that some sort of dispute took place between a patron and a manager, but added that the owner was not the individual who was apparently involved in the incident:
We are very disappointed about what happened. We value all of our customers and have personally spoken with the guest to apologize. The franchisee who owns this location is also disappointed and is addressing the manager’s actions.
A separate response suggested that the chain apologized before confirming the details of the disagreement:
This isn’t how we treat our customers. We are in touch with the franchisee who owns this location to immediately address the manager’s actions.
Although Outback Steakhouse individually replied to frustrated Donald Trump fans, the chain issued no official statement regarding the controversy, nor did anybody supply further details of the altercation. The only information available was the claim made by Beavers, and subsequent apologies published to Facebook and Twitter by Outback’s social media staff.