"I'm sorry, but we just don't have anything for you."
Those are hard words for a waiter, someone who makes their living by providing for others and by winning their good graces. Unfortunately, it was what I had to say.
This family was of middle-eastern descent. The mother wore a hijab. They asked polite but in-depth questions about how our kitchen was kept. They were clearly Muslim and devoutly so.
"Do you take issue with food that is fried in the same oil or cooked on the same surface as haram?" I asked.
"No, we can't have any of that, I'm afraid," the father said.
"Then, I'm sorry, but we don't have anything for you. The pork sandwich and the burgers are cooked on the same flat-top. The pork ribs and the steaks are cooked on the same grill. We cook the pork egg rolls in the same fryer as the chicken and everything else. You could, perhaps, have a green salad, but I have to warn you that we have chopped bacon on that kitchen station. I'm really very sorry."
The father started to get up and his family followed suit. He shook my hand and said, "No, don't be sorry at all. Thank you for letting us know. I'm sorry we can't eat at your restaurant."
They left smiling, albeit without having a meal.
The general manager saw them leaving and pulled me aside. I explained what had happened and he took me back to the office and admonished me never to do such a thing again, indeed that I would be written up if I ever told customers to leave the restaurant.
Their religious proclivities do not matter, he told me. If I hadn't told them the configuration of our kitchen, they would never have known. They're being overly sensitive and I'm costing the store money by coddling them. According to him, we're there to make a profit and not to cater to "every religious fringe crackpot that walks into the place."
I'm glad I don't work there anymore.