Hillstone Restaurants Workers Claim Restaurants Won't Let Them Wear Masks

Who isn't wearing a face mask these days? Really.
Who isn't wearing a face mask these days? Really. Alex Gonzalez
According to an anonymous tip sent to us over the weekend, Hillstone Restaurant Group, while complying with state orders limiting their restaurants to 25% capacity, was threatening to fire employees who opted to wear personal protective equipment. The tipster, who supposedly has close ties with the restaurant group, shared screenshots of what appeared to be a conversation between himself and one of Hillstone Restaurant Group’s employees.

The employee, who prefers to be anonymous, says she declined to work without PPE. She also mentioned she heard that other employees showed up and were told that they couldn’t work.

In a separate conversation with her, she expressed disappointment toward Hillstone.

“I understand the desire to open and start making money again as soon as possible,” she said. “I really do. But doing so without consideration for public health and safety, much less your own employees' health and safety, is wrong. ... They've shown us that their employees and the community we serve matter less to them than maintaining their sense of style.”

“When I said that I was uncomfortable with the policy, I was informed that I would be removed from the schedule." – anonymous Hillstone employee

tweet this
Hillstone Restaurant Group’s decision was confirmed when a restaurant manager, who identified herself as Emily, told Preston Hollow People they weren’t allowing their employees to wear masks.

When we called Houston's, Hillstone's restaurant on Belt Line Road, we were able to get a manager, Emily, and asked her if she would comment on the issue.

"No, thank you," she said.

Another Hillstone employee, who also wishes to be anonymous, says that while she is disappointed in a no-mask policy, she harbors no resentment or anger toward her managers, as this was a corporate decision.

She was informed of the policy via phone call days before Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced that restaurants would be allowed to reopen at no more than 25% capacity beginning May 1.

“When I said that I was uncomfortable with the policy, I was informed that I would be removed from the schedule,” she says. “In our working environment, even on the skeleton crew that we have been operating with the past few weeks, it is impossible to maintain the proper 6-foot social distance recommended by the CDC. I feel like the company has shown its true colors in putting the bottom line above the safety of their employees and guests.”

While many people disagree with this practice, some believe this is simply a matter of business owners choosing to operate as they wish. Some frequenters of R+D Kitchen, one of Hillstone’s restaurants, are not letting the policy deter them from dining in.

“These 1-star reviews are written by a troupe of people who are angry that the restaurant doesn't have their staff wear masks,” says Yelp user Lynne L., “despite the fact that our governor's order doesn't require masks to be worn. ... They are following the law as well as health and safety standards.”

According to HIllstone's website, guests of their restaurants can “be assured [they] are diligent in [their] practices with respect to health, sanitization and other requirements.” Although they are not requiring their employees to wear masks during this time, they encourage guests who are concerned about their safety to “join [them] at a later date.”

While guests are still allowed to wear masks, many are still uncomfortable with Hillstone’s policy. Several Dallas diners have taken to social media to share their disdain toward the restaurant group, many vowing to never return to any of their restaurants again.

“I can choose from all kinds of good restaurants in Dallas who will make the extra effort to give me good food, good service, [and] a safe experience,” says Yelp user Linda R. “I don't have to choose R+D, and I won't.”
KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Alex Gonzalez has been a contributor to the Dallas Observer since 2018. He is a Dallas native whose work has appeared in Local Profile, MTV News and the Austin American-Statesman. He has eclectic taste in music and enjoys writing about art, food and culture.
Contact: Alex Gonzalez