St. Francisville, LA – The Assumption Parish Sheriff’s Office received a visit, and an apology, on Friday night from a representative of Burger King’s corporate offices in the wake of a firestorm created when two uniformed Assumption Parish sheriff’s deputies were denied service at the St. Francisville restaurant.
“I believe that [Burger King’s] corporate office saw that there was an issue,” Assumption Parish Sheriff’s Office Public Information Director Lonny Cavalier told Blue Lives Matter. “They came down here and did extend their deepest apologies. We’ve accepted their apologies and hope to move on from here.”
“There was a meeting late yesterday evening into the night, and we were very pleased with the outcome. And the sheriff is very pleased with the outcome, and that’s that,” Director Cavalier said.
“We feel we’ve been up front [about what happened] all along, and that our guys deserved an apology, and we got it,” he said.
The hand-delivered apology stood in sharp contrast to the manner in which the local store owner had initially responded the complaint, when he demanded that the sheriff’s office issue a press release absolving his business of wrongdoing.
The incident occurred after two deputies had just completed a long day of SWAT training in Zachary on May 17, and were on their way home.
They decided to stop off at the Burger King restaurant in St. Francisville for a meal, Director Cavalier told Blue Lives Matter.
The deputies saw employees working inside the store, and pulled around the back of the business to the drive-thru lane in their marked patrol vehicle.
“They sat there for an extended period of time before someone finally let them order,” Director Cavalier explained.
But when one of the deputies ordered a chicken sandwich, the female inside cut him off.
“We’re out of chicken,” she said sarcastically.
The deputy began to order a Whopper instead, but was interrupted by a male’s voice.
“We’re out of burgers, too,” the employee said.
The deputies then asked the employees if the items were out of stock, or if they just didn’t serve police officers.
“The only response was laughter,” Director Cavalier said.
The shocked deputies waited at the drive-thru speaker, but when the employees continued to ignore them, they pulled ahead to the payment window.
They parked for a moment, then one of the deputies exited the patrol vehicle and stuck his head inside the window to speak with someone.
“He could hear them inside laughing, but no one would come to the window,” Director Cavalier explained.
The deputies then left the restaurant, and later told their supervisors about the encounter.
“They were embarrassed and humiliated,” Director Cavalier told Blue Lives Matter. “This is new for us. We’ve not had that kind of relationship with any vendors, ever.”
He reached to Burger King’s corporate headquarters several times, but didn’t hear back. So he wrote a letter to the editor of The Bayou Pioneer and outlined the treatment the deputies had received at the Burger King restaurant.
“What is troubling is that these same Burger King employees, in the event a robbery was occurring at the time, would have expected these two deputies to take a bullet for them, and those deputies would have,” Director Cavalier wrote in the published letter. “Now we’ll wait and see how the Burger King Corporate Office responds.”
Director Cavalier received a call from the St. Francisville store owner approximately one week after The Bayou Pioneer printed his letter, he said.
“He was very angry. Very upset,” the director recalled. “He said, ‘My employees never refused to serve any police officers.’”
The store owner then alleged that Director Cavalier’s story was an “outright lie,” and that the employees had only refused to serve “people who just happened to be police,” he said.
“So, I asked him if they refused to serve those specific officers, and he admitted that they did,” Director Cavalier told Blue Lives Matter.
The director noted that the store owner’s “play on words” was “virtually laughable.”
“All we were looking for was a fair shake,” he said. “Not an excuse – just an explanation.”
Despite the delay, it appeared that the fast-food store’s corporate executives got Director Cavalier’s message and eventually intervened.
Director Cavalier said that a representative from corporate Burger King suddenly showed up with the local franchise owner, Joe Clements, for an unscheduled visit with Assumption Parish Sheriff Leland Falcon late on Friday evening.
He said they addressed the matter and “acknowledged that their employees had not done right.”
During his initial conversation with the Burger King franchise owner, Director Cavalier said Clements told him that he had already fired the employees involved and that he had other problems with the same workers in the past.
Director Cavalier said that the department never asked for the employees to be fired, but that they simply didn’t want to see other officers treated in the same manner.
In addition to the store owner’s admissions about the events that transpired, Clements also confirmed during that discussion that he had store surveillance of what occurred, the director said.
“He said he won’t show it,” he added.
The franchisee claimed he had attempted to contact Sheriff Falcon “multiple times” since the allegations surfaced, but the sheriff had no missed calls or voice messages from him, the director said.
According to Director Cavalier, instead of apologizing, the Burger King franchisee demanded that the Assumption Parish Sheriff’s Office issue a press release to retract the allegations against his business.
He also wanted the agency to apologize to his store.
“I told him, “Don’t wait, because there will be no retraction,” Director Cavalier vowed. “I was dumbfounded.”
He said that the owner assured him he would be calling back to discuss the issue further, but that he hadn’t heard from him again before he turned up at the sheriff’s department with the person from Burger King corporate.
“If the employees were actually terminated, that’s fine, but [the company] needs to make amends to their own community,” Director Cavalier told Blue Lives Matter in an earlier interview. “It’s a very nice town and we don’t blame the town – we blame Burger King as a whole.”
He’s glad that Burger King’s corporate offices intervened and said they consider the matter closed, but allowed that “it took corporate to get the local store to do the right thing,” he said.
There was no answer when Blue Lives Matter attempted to call the restaurant; however, the store owner issued a press statement after his meeting with the sheriff and the Burger King corporate representative.
“I am aware of the incident at the Burger King in St. Francisville involving two Assumption Parish Sheriff’s Deputies not being served. Unfortunately, it also involved other Guests not being served,” Clements wrote in an email sent to the media. “The actions of these team members do not reflect the values and beliefs of our organization, nor do they reflect the values and beliefs of the Burger King Brand.”
“I have investigated the incident and have determined that certain team members refused service to multiple Guests in our drive thru, including the two Deputies, on that day. As a result, these individuals no longer works for our organization,” he continued.
“I have met with Sheriff Falcon of Assumption Parish and expressed my sincere apology for the incident, and I have asked that he extend my apology to the two Deputies. We also extend our apology to any Guests that were inconvenienced as a result of the performance of these employees. Our goal is to provide friendly customer service to all of our customers,” Clements finished.
Director Cavalier didn’t sound entirely pleased with the statement the restaurant released.
“Sad part about it is they did not want to acknowledge that they refused service to police officers,” he explained. “Unfortunately, it is what it is. They were in uniform, in SWAT clothing. They’re cops.”
Blue Lives Matter reached out to Burger King's corporate office for comment, but we have not received a response by press time.