metal-themed restaurant Kuma’s responds after being accused of racism & homophobia
Metal-themed Chicago burger joint Kuma's Corner has responded after being accused of harboring a culture of racism, sexism, and homophobia. Metal Sucks points out the accusations were made in @the86dlist, an Instagram account that shares anonymous submissions of racism and abuse in the Chicago restaurant industry. The post about Kuma's reads:
I'd like to add Kumas Corner to the list. The owner Ron has been known to park in the only handicap spots available (a customer event left a review on it about the owner as he drove a mercedes with a cop star lisence plate and it said "kumas"). The owner wanted to start playing sports in the West Loop Location but specifically asked the manager at the time (who confided in us) to not play basketball to attract "THAT CROWD". He gives 30% discount to cops and he has several sexual harassment arguements against his business and has addressed NONE of them and when someone would complain to management about a cook sexually harassing them, they would tell us that the cook was fired. in many of the cases, the owner would just move them to a different location.
an example of this is that a cook who was known to sexually harass the girls was caught on camera forcing my coworker and friend to kiss him. RON CAIN (the owner) personally told my friend that he fired him right away and that her safety was most important. months later, we found out the was just moved to one of the suburb locations. i believe vernon hills?
cpd also gets 30% discount, which is more than we're allowed to give our friends and family
I'd like to remain anonymous because it's hard enough to get a job in this toxic-ass restaurant hellscape but once you start callouts, it's nearly impossible. But you gotta know how gross the culture is at Kuma's. Not only is the owner a racist, homophobic, "park my Kuma's license plate suv in the handicapped space" douchebag who is pro-police and ICE. But he, his wife (who is in charge of HR), and *some* of the management have fostered a culture of racism, homophobia, and sexual harassment that goes unaddressed to this day. Employees who speak up eventually wind up having their hours cut or they're fired for arbitrary reasons. They LOVE to fire people there!
It is an INCREDIBLY WHITE environment FOH. When I was working there we had only one black server, who was constantly given a hard time about petty things like how she kept her hair and her "compliance" with their dress code (while other white employees wore whatever tf they wanted) until she got tired of it and quit. The only other server that was a POC was fired in the middle of a shift by the *completely shitfaced* owner for not smiling enough. I don't think I've ever seen a black FOH employee there since. There has never been anyone black in their leadership ranks either, to my knowledge.
Once when a position was open (and one always is), a gentleman who worked in a resaturant across the street came in to apply. He is gay and Mexican and has a very good reputation for being incredible at his job. When he left I overheard management saying his "personality is just...to much" (which really sounded like code for "he's too flamboyantly gay" to me). They have since hired many employees from that same restaurant with less stellar records, who have all been white and straight. I often saw women who were considered "butch" and men who were considered "femme" in their presentations denied the opportunity to even apply.
I regularly overheard managers and staff mocking customers who asked to have their pronouns respected. I had a very nice regular who was a trans woman and came in for a beer during lunch hours who was visibly uncomfortable with this behavior. She stopped coming shortly before I left.
At a meeting, after the woman who was the GM at the time (and now oversees catering) gave us some speech about how Kuma's stands for "being different" and wants to be considered a "home for misfits," I asked her if there were plans for policies that ensure their bathrooms are transgender-friendly. She LAUGHED OUT LOUD, said "no" and walked away. This woman is incredibly verbally abusive to staff and makes no apologies for it. She regularly stalks and harasses people and uses her cop boyfriend to intimidate people she doesn't like.
This establishment is VERY pro-police. They get a 30% discount and often have their meals comped entirely. For this reason, one location of theirs in particular is FULL of police and detectives during lunch hours. Of course, the BLM pin I wore on my jacket while serving them was made a fuss over, and I was told that I "really don't need to be wearing a jacket while working"
On one occasion, a group of bikers came in to dine who had white supremacist patches on their jackets. A server voiced her opposition to waiting on them, and the open-window kitchen seemed very uncomfortable with them. The server was told that they would not be turned away and were to be treated like any other customer. The manager wound up waiting on them instead.
On their Facebook, Kuma's posted an apology and said they'd be putting someone different in charge of management and operations going forward. They write:
The ownership/leadership of Kuma's Corner recognizes that in some cases it has failed to foster a safe, non-threatening, and inclusive work environment.
First, we owe many an apology.
We apologize to the people we have hurt by failing to address the many issues fostered within the culture of our company.
We are sorry and we hope to be given the opportunity to prove we are serious about doing everything we can to make it right.
We are committed to rebuilding the operational culture of our company from the ground up.
Beginning immediately and from here on out, we are taking a number of steps to ensure that as a company we provide a diverse, safe, and positive environment for everyone on our team at all of our stores.
Kuma's has always prided itself on its diverse and multicultural staff, which includes racial and religious minorities, and the LGBTQ community. In addition, Kuma's is and always has been unequivocally opposed to all forms of discrimination and inequality.
Moving forward, Kuma’s leadership team will be making several immediate changes to our culture which include:
Engaging mandatory third-party led diversity and interpersonal sensitivity training for all staff and managers
Establishing a safe, neutral space and consistent time with staff and managers to come together and communicate openly about all topics
Through open and encouraged discussions, we will identify areas for improvement and establish recommendations and protocol for resolution to better our culture. We will continue to take more positive measures as we learn what is important to provide a well-balanced, supportive and safe working environment.
To make sure our plans are properly implemented, Luke Tobias will take over all aspects of management and operations of Kuma's Corner from here on.
Luke has been with Kuma’s since 2008, starting as a line cook at our original location to eventually become an operator and partner in Kuma's Indianapolis location.
Together, we are committed to making Kuma’s Corner a leader of equality in the industry.
Thank you for giving us the opportunity to prove ourselves.