Aretha Franklin didn’t get any respect at a Canadian fast food restaurant.
The Queen of Soul was reportedly scolded by a Johnny Rockets worker in Niagara Falls, Ont. for wanting to eat her takeout order - gasp! - inside the restaurant.
Franklin had just finished a sold-out show in nearby Lewiston, N.Y. and stopped into the restaurant to order her usual, a hamburger and cherry coke.
The employee (who most likely didn’t recognize the singer) reportedly screamed, "You can’t sit here because you ordered for takeout. You can only stand in the perimeter.”
In a statement issued to The Buffalo News, Franklin called him “very rude, unprofessional and nasty.”
A spokesperson for the restaurant chain apologized, saying the worker was “new and a very young employee.”
“The employee in charge of take-out that day had been with us a week,” says Phifer. “She’s 15. She was doing what she thought what was best.”
The protocol for take-out at Johnny Rockets is that tables are for dine-in customers first.
The manager supported her decision, but the incident was soon being shared on social media.
“We’ve talked to all (the employees) at length about what happened,” says Phifer. “They feel absolutely terrible.
“We’re taking this extremely seriously. In fact, my CEO is on a plane on his way up there right now.”
Franklin, 72, has a long association with Johnny Rockets. Her classic hit Respect is part of a choreographed dance routine by the waitresses, and the singer has been a longtime fan of the franchise’s burgers and cherry Coke.
“We celebrate her birthday – we have Aretha Franklin day in all our (restaurants),” she says. “We love her. She’s extremely important to our brand.
“So the fact it’s her that this happened to makes it all the worse for us. She’s an integral part of our business.”
Niagara Casinos director of communications Greg Medulun confirms Franklin was staying at the Fallsview Casino hotel that night, despite performing across the river at Artpark.
In the wake of the incident, Phifer says corporate head office in California has “clarified” the take-out policy with all of its locations. Johnny Rockets has 300 restaurants in 28 countries.
“You do need to make exceptions and you do need to be flexible,” she says. “We need to have people that are trained more than a week to be on the front lines.”
Phifer says the Niagara Falls server hasn’t returned to work since the incident.
“I had a very sincere and apologetic letter from her that I received yesterday, and she feels absolutely terrible.,” she says. “I don’t know what was said to whom, (but) it escalated more than it should have.”
On Saturday, Franklin told the New York Daily News “I like Johnny Rockets and I’ll go on liking Johnny Rockets, but not that one.”