Iconic Regency Cafe hits back at 'racism' claims as customer says waiter 'shouted at her and an Asian family' – My London

Exclusive: A London university student claims the staff at Pimlico’s Regency Café exhibited ‘racist’ and verbally abusive behaviour – but the owners have said they’ve been “misunderstood”
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Iconic London institution Regency Cafe has hit back at a recent allegation from a customer who accused a male staff member of racist and "aggressive" language toward her and an Asian family. The London university student accused the café of “racist” treatment in a video uploaded to social media.
After returning home from a holiday, Karen, partner of Regency Cafe's owner, Marco Schiavetta, noticed a spate of negative Google reviews posted about the establishment. The institution has been running since 1986 and has a system where customers wait in a queue to order their food before taking a seat.
Karen explained there is a sign at the entrance which reads, "ATTENTION! ALL CUSTOMERS MUST PLACE THEIR ORDERS BEFORE TAKING A SEAT. THANK YOU FOR YOUR PATIENCE. WE ARE CASH ONLY" – a method which has been in place for years.
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The student explained they and their girlfriend decided to visit the Regency Café in Pimlico after hearing “the service is rude but it’s probably really good”. She then went on to allege she experienced her “first racist public incident”. The student claimed whilst she was in the queue, an Asian family was also waiting and that one of the wait staff kept “telling them to move” and telling them “they were in the way” before shaking their head at them.
According to her claim, one of the family members asked if their mum could sit down because she was “old and had a walking stick”, before the waiter took them over to a sign indicating customers had to order before taking a seat. She said: “But then the waiter took her to the sign which said, ‘you have to order before sitting down and stuff,’. And then she was so rude about it to the people behind her and said, ‘oh, can they not read?’”
She then claimed when it was their turn to order, another waiter put her drink down on the counter before she went to take it, alleging: “When he put my coke down on the counter, I just went to grab it because, you know like, he’d put it down. And then he shouted at me in front of the whole café, like everyone heard.
“I can’t even remember exactly what he said to me ‘cause I was in shock. But he was like, ‘There’s no rush, can you not wait?’ Then he turned to [her girlfriend] and started being really nice to her and completely blanked me. It was obvious he was being rude to me because I’m Asian.”
Another incident followed, she claimed, where a member of the Asian family was carrying two plates of food while looking for cutlery. She said it wasn’t obvious where the utensils were. While the customer was looking, a staff member allegedly yelled at him, "You only have two hands, go put your plates down and then go get the cutlery!"
She explained after the incident the staff member proceeded to call the customer “useless” and a “pr***”. The student said: “I’ve never seen such aggressive language, or, just behaviour, like blatant racist behaviour to someone’s face. So I literally had a breakdown, I’ve never had that experience before, like witnessing it.”
In a follow up video, she addressed a few comments left in her initial video. She said: “I feel very disappointed and upset that people think that just because I didn’t get HP sauce thrown at me and called a racial slur, doesn’t mean I didn’t experience anything bad.”
She explained the reason she posted the TikTok was because she wanted “minorities to avoid this place” as she doesn’t want “anything to happen to anyone else”. The university student explained she only detailed a few comments made toward her and the other Asian family at the café, but there were “way more”.
One thing which stumped her, she explained: “The main thing for me was the fact that they treated me and my girlfriend so different.”
Karen said her partner would be "absolutely devastated" to think the comment about reading the sign had been interpreted as racist. She said: "We’re always welcoming. My partner would be absolutely devastated to think this is how it’s been interpreted. I cannot stress enough it is not the intention at all.
"Well, he’d say that about anybody who walks in and sits down, doesn’t matter where they come from, because he gets annoyed that there are people sitting down despite there being a sign specifically telling you not to sit down before you place your order. And that’s a real bug bear. He’d say that about anybody."
The TikToker's initial video has been watched over 102,800 times, racking up over 12,900 likes and hundreds of comments. A few viewers in the comments shared their findings about the Regency Cafe, as one said: “Gurl go on Google and look at their 1 star reviews. There’s a pattern,”
Another said: “Heard so many people talk about their racism experience at this cafe.”
Among some of the recent reviews left on Tripadvisor and Google Reviews, customers noted the “aggressive, verbally abusive staff”. One previous customer wrote: “The wait staff are extremely rude to tourists from other countries. Openly verbally aggressive and name calling to customers.”
Another said: “Living around the corner – Been coming here for many many years 20+ and always loved my TikTok tea, well done bacon and a short natter about golf but today's experience was of a cold windy environment and lots of shouting AT the customers rather than about the order. After a hasty retreat Found a warm calm environment around the corner in Ravello!”
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Karen explained the wave of negative reviews was not only impacting them professionally, but also personally. She said: "I came back and got a load of Google Reviews, and sometimes you know what they’re talking about it, and they’ve got completely the wrong end of the stick.
"I see it with other restaurants as well, and you’re like, ‘well I can’t do anything about this’. I’m not going to spend my time replying to each and every single one, I just don’t engage in that. I just think you’re asking for more trouble when you start doing these things. So we just have to ignore it."
Karen believed the backlash from the video is an example about how businesses are completely at the mercy of social media. She said: "We don’t have any control, somebody could come in here, get the hump about something that is absolutely unintentionally mean it to be like that in any way, shape or form. They’ve not even had an argument, they’ve not even had a discussion, nothing, and then they go away and you’re at the mercy of social media.
"They write what they want, say what they want, do what they want, and there’s nothing you can do about it. And it’s a very serious thing to fling at somebody. One person can say one thing, it goes out, everyone believes it, and then it’s completely 'true'. You haven’t got a leg to stand on, you can’t go around and say that’s not how it was.
"That is the problem. It’s very difficult really, sometimes it feels like you’re damned if you are and damned if you don’t. We just try our best to make sure everybody doesn’t have that experience.
"What can you do? The more you bleat about it, the worse it looks. You just have to hope and pray it does blow over, and the people who do come in don’t have that experience, and therefore the know it’s not correct, it could be a one off or just be a complete misunderstanding."
Karen acknowledged one of the cafe's driving forces is the flurry of tourists who've kept coming into the Regency over the years, and said they wouldn't be where they are today without them, or even be there themselves. She said: "You know we’ve been in this business for thirty years, we’re all children of immigrants ourselves, it’s completely ridiculous. We’ve had this café since 1986, if we had this reputation there is no way that the amount of tourists who keep coming in this café would be coming.
"I can only apologise on his behalf if he comes across brunt, I can only say there’s a reason behind these things, he certainly wouldn’t treat people like this off the cuff. It’s something we absolutely don’t tolerate."
Regency Café expressed their hope the backlash from the video would blow over soon, explaining they've never had to deal with an allegation as serious as this before. Karen said: "The amount of tourists we serve, we just cannot act in a racist manner, it’s completely unacceptable, and there’s nothing ever been thrown at us like this before.
"I think it’s really difficult because he might act like everybody knows the system and everybody knows what’s going on, and why don’t they understand it. In the heat of the moment you’re like, ‘oh for goodness sake, why can’t you read?’. We do everything we can to try and make it run as smooth as possible. You can put notices all over this shop and people won’t read them."
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