A Georgia mother walked out of a Panera Bread earlier this month after an assistant manager asked her to take off her developmentally disabled daughter’s squeaking orthopedic shoes because they were “bothering someone.”
Catherine Duke’s daughter Emma wears prescription orthopedic shoes in order to help her walk.
“We weren’t welcome with the shoes. It was very blatant,” Catherine Duke told WTOC on Jan. 4.
“It was very hurtful, and I left the store crying, not a very good thing for a mom to feel like her child is being discriminated against,” the Savannah mother added.
Last weekend, Duke reported she received an apology from Panera Bread’s corporate office.
“They formally apologized to Emma for saying something about her shoes,” Duke said.
She said the franchisee met with her personally and said “that she and her family are always welcome at Panera and her concerns have been addressed.”
The franchise wants to hold a fundraiser to help the Dukes pay Emma’s medical bills.
“They’re very for children,” Duke said. “This is just one of those things that happened in one of their cafes that they’re not proud of it.”
Panera Bread said in a statement that “the last thing we would want to do is make anyone feel unwelcome.”
The restaurant said the assistant manager who approached Duke was new to her job.
“I don’t think she quite knew how to handle customers complaining about it,” Duke said.