A California-based restaurant chain that agreed to drop the name "Sambo's" from its Reston outlet amid charges it was perpetuating racial sterotypes announced yesterday it will rename the restaurant there Sambo's.
The switch brought immediate complaints from leaders of the Reston Community Association and the Fairfax County NAACP, which had pressed the chain to call the restaurant there the "Jolly Tiger."
"It's ridiculous," said Vera Swann, president of the county's NAACP chapter, after restaurant officials announced their decision to name all outlets in the chain "Sambo's." Swann said her group was "absolutely not going to accept" the name change.
She was joined by Robert L. Secundy of Reston, president of the Countywide Black Citizens Association, who called the switch "inflammatory."
The Sambo's name has been opposed in several parts of the country by blacks and community leaders who say the name Sambo comes from the 87-year old children's story, "Little Black Sambo," and is racially offensive.
Company officials say the name was taken from a combination of the nicknames of the two founders of the chain and point out that the company has won five court decisions upholding its right to operate under the corporate name.
The company's decision to drop the Jolly Tiger name came despite community agreements and was made so all of the chain's 1,100 restaurants could take advantage of national advertising under the Sambo's name, George McKaig, a senior vice president of the company, said yesterday.
"We found out we were losing on national advertising, and the local people, those we were attempting to mollify, knew we were really a 'Sambo's, anway," McKaig said. "In retrospect, we should have taken the approach in Reston of going in with the Sambo's name from the start."
The company had announced its intention to open its second Northern Virginia outlet, on Lee Highway in Fairfax City, under the Sambo's name despite opposition from the local city government.
But Martha V. Pennino, (D-Centreville), vice chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, questioned whether the latest move by Sambo's "is some kind of game the owners are playing with us?" She said, it was "not only bad public relations, but bad for business, too."