Pizza Hut in row over turned-down booking of severely disabled children
A big chain pizza restaurant turned down a booking for a group of severely disabled children after being told their carers would not be spending any money, it is claimed.
Charity boss Jean Wilson said that when she went to Pizza Hut and tried to book 14 youngsters and their care workers for two lunch outings in both April and May she was told the eaterie did not take group bookings at peak times.
In a later phone call, Ms Wilson spoke to the manager who re-stated the bookings policy, but when told the carers would not be eating is said to have replied: "I can't have people in the restaurant that aren't paying money."
Pizza Hut has since apologised for making what it said was "the wrong decision with this booking".
The company, which has restaurants up and down the UK, added the issue had nothing to do with the group being youngsters with disabilities.
However, Ms Wilson said she could not understand why her business had been turned away, when she had spotted a separate group booking for eight children when enquiring at the Worcester Shrub Hill diner on Saturday.
Her group's party, all of whom have learning difficulties and other physical disabilities, would have included 10 children who need each one-to-one carers.
Ms Wilson, whose own 12-year-old daughter has complex needs, has spent the last five years establishing the New Hope Worcester Children's Charity, catering for parents of disabled youngsters by offering them specialist respite care.
She said a key part of New Hope's ethos was to make sure the 90 or so children the charity looks after have the same experiences other young people take for granted, such as being able to eat out with their friends.
Ms Wilson said: "I think that the issue here is it's disabled kids, but also them being greedy for money and realising they'd also have 14 adults clogging up chairs that could be used for paying customers.
"Either they take group bookings, or they don't - you don't pick and choose.
"When they do pick and choose, as they have, then what conclusion does that leave me to make."
If the April booking had gone ahead, the children were going to carry on into the city and enjoy a live music performance but that plan had now been cancelled, Ms Wilson added.
The company had initially offered to send a gift voucher when Ms Wilson complained but she turned it down, saying: "Why would we want to eat there now?"
Pizza Hut has since apologised and said in a statement: "We think we have made the wrong decision with this booking.
"It is our policy not to take large bookings at peak times, but we should have done so in this instance.
"We have apologised to the customer directly."
Elliot Dunster, head of policy, research and public affairs at disability charity Scope, said: "Twenty years on from the Disability Discrimination Act, disabled people tell us that they are fed up of battling to do everyday things like going to a restaurant.
"Cafes, restaurants and shops should be looking at ways to improve access and open their doors to disabled consumers.
"There are 11 million disabled people in Britain and their spending power is worth over £200 billion.
"Every company in the country should be looking at ways to get a slice of this market."