Aretha Franklin claims she was seriously disrespected by an employee during a recent visit to a restaurant in Niagara Falls, Ont.
As reported by the Associated Press, the 72-year-old singer says the unpleasant incident occurred last week at a Johnny Rockets fast-food eatery on the Canadian side of the Falls.
In an interview with the New York Daily News, Franklin said she had just finished performing a concert in nearby Lewiston, N.Y., and went for a bite at Johnny Rockets with her nephew. Franklin said she ordered her standard post-show repast to go – a hamburger and a cherry coke – and then sat down at an empty table to wait for her food. At which point a female Johnny Rockets staffer suddenly appeared and allegedly informed Franklin, "You can't sit there."
The staffer told Franklin the seating area was reserved for customers who are eating in the restaurant, which was located in a food court. Franklin's response: "I said, 'Okay, I'll have it here'," she told the Daily News. But Franklin was taken aback by the staffer's curt reply: "'You can't have it here because we've already rang you up as a takeout customer."
The Johnny Rockets staffer then allegedly ordered Franklin to get up and stand outside the perimeter of the restaurant. That was the breaking point for the music legend. "I got up and walked out," said Franklin. "I said, 'You should eat it yourself and you pay for it'." Added Franklin: "My nephew mentioned to her who I was, and she said she didn't care who I was."
Of course, all customers, regardless of who they are, should receive courteous service. But, for the record, Franklin, more commonly known as the Queen of Soul, has won 18 Grammys and sold more than 75-million records , including the chart-topping hits Respect and (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.
Franklin says the encounter with the "rude and nasty" Johnny Rockets employee left her steaming. "She's a public servant and she shouldn't speak that way to anybody, celebrities or non-celebrities," said the singer.
A spokesperson for Johnny Rockets told the Associated Press that the owner of the Niagara Falls location is sorry for the actions of "a new and very young employee." The spokesperson added that the owner has already spoken to the employee.
To her credit, Franklin never demanded the staffer's dismissal, just that she would be "spoken to." And perhaps the most surprising part of the story: Franklin intends to remain a loyal customer of the food chain. "I like Johnny Rockets and I'll go on liking Johnny Rockets," she said. "But not that one."
Of course, Franklin is all about forgiveness and second chances. Remember when U.S. President Barack Obama misspelled the title of her 1967 hit single Respect during a speech at the White House last March? Franklin's response to the gaffe: "I'm sure the President had much on his agenda and was just a little tired."
Now that's R-E-S-P-E-C-T.