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Paris restaurant 'keeps ugly diners hidden'

Published: 07 Nov 2013 11:19 GMT+01:00

The former hostess at the swanky restaurant Georges in the world-famous Pompidou Centre, told print-only French satirical and investigative newspaper Le Canard Enchainé on Wednesday that her bosses enforced a policy of seating “handsome and beautiful” customers by the front of the establishment, and keeping ugly ones hidden away.

Indeed, the unnamed ex-employee claimed that if she ever happened to make a mistake in guiding insufficiently attractive clients to the front of the restaurant, she would land herself in trouble with management, who told her “it’s bad for the image of the place.”

The restaurant Georges, which is located on the sixth floor of the Pompidou Centre in the fourth arrondissement of Paris, has a very open layout, in keeping with the building's famous "inside-out" structure, and diners enjoying their meal are visible to passing museum visitors.

'Beautiful people go here, not-beautiful people go there'

The establishment is one of a few dozen in the City of Light run by French brothers Gilbert and Jean-Louis Costes.

Far from keeping the looks-based discrimination hidden, Gilbert Costes was proud of it, she claimed, personally coming to the restaurant Georges to emphasise the importance of the policy to staff.

“He drummed these house rules into us, and he was very proud of them because he came up with them,” she claimed, recalling that Costes emphasised a very simple classification system for his charges.

"There are beautiful people, you put them here. There are not-beautiful people, you put them there - it's really not that complicated," the former hostess quoted him as saying.

What did complicate this simple division, however, was telephone reservations, though the staff were taught to look for certain "linguistic clues" which might give away whether the voice on the other end of the phone belonged to one of the "beautiful people" or not.

According to the former worker, the staff would usually tell callers they would "do their best" to find them a table, then decide if they were "fully-booked" or not, after taking a look at the would-be diners when they arrived.

It seems there were exceptions to the “pretty in the front, ugly in the back” policy, however.

If a customer arriving for dinner was physically unappealing, according to the former hostess, it was acceptable to seat them in public view if, and only if, they were celebrities, she claimed.

Contacted by The Local on Thursday, a spokesman for the Costes group refused to deny or confirm the claims.


The terrace of the Georges restaurant at the Pompidou Centre in Paris. Photo: Sporkist/Flickr

This isn't the first time in recent months that a French business has been criticized for discrimination when it comes to both their staff and clientele.

In July, US clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch came under fire for recruiting only "good-looking people" at their flagship Paris store on the Champs Elysées.

Slimane Laoufi from Defenseur des Droits (Defender of Rights), a body which fights discrimination and promotes equality told The Local: "Discriminating against someone’s looks is just the same as discriminating against someone on the grounds of health or whether they are handicapped.  They are all forbidden."

And in March, there was outrage in France after a blind man was refused entry to a restaurant in the north of France because his guide dog was not allowed in for "hygiene reasons", despite a law specifying the animals must be welcomed in all public places.

“It was an act of contempt, an exclusion, and a nasty piece of discrimination,” said Sylvain Syllebranque, after he, his wife and his guide dog were told they were not welcome at the restaurant.

Would you eat at an establishment where you were seated according to your looks? Join the conversation in the comments section below.

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Dan MacGuill (dan.macguill@thelocal.com)

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