IHOP Discriminated Against Son With No Arms, Mother Claims

An Arkansas IHOP says it will be retraining its employees after a mother accused a manager at the restaurant of discriminating against her 3-year-old son, William, who was born without arms.

Alexis Bancroft told Newsweek her son has always eaten with his feet, as he was born without arms.

Three-year-old William Bancroft is used to eating his meals with his feet, as he was born with no arms. Alexis Bancroft

Bancroft said that had never been an issue until Saturday, when her family visited an IHOP location in Hot Springs, Arkansas, for breakfast because William wanted pancakes.

William had been sitting on the table—where he usually eats—and was coloring and waiting for his food when Bancroft said the general manager of the restaurant came to the table and told them William could not sit on the table due to "health department issues."

The manager also said she didn't want William to touch the syrup dispensers with his feet, claiming it would be a sanitary issue.

"I asked her what's the difference between hands and feet?" Bancroft said.

The mother told the general manager that she had taken William to the bathroom to wash his feet so they would be clean, but the manager said she had not seen that.

"I asked, 'Do you ask all your customers if they've washed their hands before they touch the syrup dispensers first?'" Bancroft said.

She said the manager later came back to the table and apologized for the incident, saying she did not mean to offend Bancroft's family.

However, Bancroft said the damage was already done and said her family "chose to leave for the way my child was treated."

"Everybody was staring at us and everything," she said. "They were going to give us our food, but we decided to leave because of the way he was treated. He was discriminated against for not having arms."

The mother said other customers at the restaurant were also upset by the way her son was treated, with one family choosing to leave at the same time over the incident and another urging kids at the table to touch syrup dispensers with their hands after claiming they had not washed them.

Bancroft said she is still surprised by how her family was treated at the restaurant, saying: "We go to multiple restaurants around our area, and no one has ever said anything about him. Most people are just amazed that he can even feed himself with his feet."

IHOP says one of its franchises in Hot Springs, Arkansas will be retraining staff after a mother claimed a general manager discriminated against her three-year-old son who was born without arms. Scott Olson/Getty

Bancroft said she received a message over Facebook from the general manager once again apologizing for the incident after she wrote a post about her experience at IHOP, which went viral and was shared more than 2,500 times.

She said the owner of the IHOP location also reached out and offered to discuss the situation over a meal at the restaurant, an offer Bancroft declined.

She said that while she understands the manager's concerns, she does not feel there would be any sanitary issue "if tables are cleaned and sanitized as they should be."

"Some people say it's unsanitary for a kid to be seated on the table, but that's how stuff happens in our household. My son sits on the table every single meal throughout the day," Bancroft said.

IHOP has since put the manager involved in the incident on leave, KARK has reported.

In a statement, IHOP told Newsweek the company and its franchisees "do not tolerate actions that are or allude to discrimination of any type" and vowed to ensure that the franchisee "retrain" his staff "to ensure IHOP's level of service, particularly regarding guests with disabilities, is provided to all."

"The franchisee at this location has been in touch with the guest to express his sincerest apologies and will continue to be in communication with her to resolve the issue," the statement added.

This story has been updated with a statement from IHOP.