Pizza Hut has apologised to five black Bournemouth footballers who claim they were racially discriminated by the restaurant.
The League One footballers went for a bite to eat on Thursday afternoon at the chain’s Castle Lane West restaurant in Bournemouth after a training session had been cancelled.
But when they sat down, they received a shock when the duty manager at the Pizza Hut restaurant asked them to pay upfront because of “the way you lot look”.
Pizza Hut has denied the incident was racially motivated, saying the police had recommended they charge customers before dining.
However, one of the Bournemouth stars said while they were asked to pay upfront, a group of white teenagers who entered the restaurant were not.
A member of staff called the police, warning them they were about to ask a disruptive group to leave the premises. The police arrived and, while unhappy about the situation, the players left the restaurant.
The footballers, including first team players Anton Robinson, Liam Feeney and Marvin Bartley took to social networking websites to vent their disgust at the incident.
Mr Bartley, 23, wrote on Facebook: “It was 100 per cent a race issue. If it wasn’t then I would like to know what it was.”
A spokesperson for Pizza Hut told the BBC: “We do not tolerate any form of discrimination, so immediately investigated this incident.
“While our duty manager’s actions were absolutely not racially motivated, we are very sorry for the way this was handled.
“Unfortunately, it seems this approach was not enforced as a blanket policy and we have ensured all staff have been retrained. We will be contacting the customers concerned to apologise.”
In a statement, Bournemouth club chairman Eddie Mitchell said: “In this day and age, it is upsetting to hear that people are treated differently because of the colour of their skin and at AFC Bournemouth, we will not condone any treatment of people in such a way.”
No complaints have been made to police regarding the incident.