Atheists Pay Full Price at Restaurant While Churchgoers Get Discount June 27, 2007

Atheists Pay Full Price at Restaurant While Churchgoers Get Discount

An atheist friend from Texas recently went to his local Pancho’s Mexican Buffet in Euless, Texas.

Pancho’s is a chain with nearly 40 restaurants in the Southwest.

When he walked in, he saw a sign on the door that read:

Get 10% off on Sunday!

Bring in your Church Bulletin and receive a 10% discount on your meal

When he asked if there was something atheists could do to get the discount, he was told there wasn’t.

I’m pretty sure if I opened an Indian restaurant and gave discounts to brown people but not white people, there would be problems. So why this policy is allowed at this particular Poncho’s baffles me.

My first assumption was that people at Poncho’s headquarters just don’t know about it. So I wrote to them a few days ago via email. They haven’t responded yet.

As for the bulletin policy, I am wondering if only certain types of churches get a discount.

Or if Muslim mosque bulletins (do they even have those?) are accepted.

My friend is going to go back there with a bulletin of some sort — one from an “atheist church,” perhaps? — to see if they take it.

I’ll keep you updated in any case.

Incidentally, when he left the restaurant, there was another sign that read “Muchas Gracias! Vaya con Dios.” which translates to “Thank you very much! Go with God.” It’s not much of a concern, but apparently, the business from atheists is unwanted at that particular Poncho’s.

[tags]atheist, atheism, religion, God, Pancho’s Mexican Buffet, Euless, Church Bulletin, Muslim[/tags]

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  • Mriana

    This practice is done in many resturants here where I live too, Hemant. Christians get 10% off with their chruch bulletin every Sunday here at most resturants- unless it’s McD’s or something like that. There isn’t much that can be done, unfortunately. However, you can go to the U.U. and bring that church bulletin. They will accept that. 🙄

    You know, we could start a resturant chain and give 10% discounts (after 11) to people who say they are atheists and there is no God- early Sunday morning brunch specials 15% off (from 9-11 during church hours). 😆 I serious doubt a Christian or Islamics would go as far as to say, “There is no God.” So that would be exclusive too.

  • Maybe they are trying to get atheists to go to church. Kind of like some restaurants will give kids a free dessert if they bring in a good report card.

    Anyway, don’t you have a stack of bulletins laying around from Ebay experiment? Or didn’t you save those? 🙂

  • Mriana

    Oh my 18 y.o. son said, “Burn a Bible and get a free meal.” 😆 That was good.

  • Anyway, don’t you have a stack of bulletins laying around from Ebay experiment? Or didn’t you save those? 🙂

    Oh, I have them all saved. What I don’t have is the ticket to fly to Texas 🙂 But if you want to take care of that…

  • Huw

    I’m not 100% certain, but isn’t “Vaya con Dios” just a very formal way to say goodbye in Mexican Spanish? Even the less formal “Adios” means “to God”. Is there another way to say Goodbye in that culture?

  • Miko

    It does sort of make sense to form a de facto partnership of that sort. If you know there’s a large church market that’s looking for a place to eat, you’re going to want to convince them to patronize your business. Since secular organizations set up such relationships with each other all the time (bring your ticket stub to get a discount on dinner afterward, etc.), I can’t become too upset by the idea of the same thing happening with a religious organization.

  • Kaleena

    I guess I really don’t see the problem… It is interesting, but restaurant owners have the right to serve whomever they please and it is just their loss that they might potentially lose customers due to their faulty business practices.

  • Darryl

    Ah, Texas just keeps giving. Anyone notice the humor in the name? Euless = No Good

  • Adam Falkofske

    I live ten minutes from this location. I’m going tomorrow morning to ask them about it, I’ll keep you posted.

  • Umm.. tomorrow’s Thursday.

  • HappyNat

    I’d just make up and print off a bulletin for a FSM service. who cares what it looked like or what it said. If they don’t give me 10% it is religious discrimination, plus the lawsuit would be great press for Pastafarians everywhere.

    I’m just kidding, I’d never eat at a Mexican restaurant chain.

  • TXatheist

    You sound surprised that this happens in the south. It’s why I don’t eat at Chik-fil-A. A xian fast food chain restaurant that does the same thing. There was a Poncho’s just 3 miles from my house in Round Rock Texas. They went under and I ate there a dozen times and never saw that sign. Had I seen it I wouldn’t have gone there.

  • Laura M.

    Would my North Texas Church of Freethought bulletin count?


    There’s “que te vayas bien”, “regresas pronto”, “hasta la vista”, and “hasta luego”, just to list a few.

  • Desert Son

    Also “Hasta pronto” (until soon), “Hasta mañana” (until tomorrow/until the morning), “Buenos días” (good day), “Buenas tardes” (good afternoon), “Buenas noches” (good night), “Bién viaje” (good journey), and so forth.

    Mexico and numerous other Latin American countries have an indelible link to Spain and Portugal, from whence came many explorers/merchants/conquerors/imperialists/soldiers/citizens/clergy over the years, and both Spain and Portugal have (or had, the numbers have been declining in recent years, but certainly not in the 16th century) majority populations that declare a Christian (more specifically Roman Catholic) faith, so much of the cultural memes that have informed the development of the Spanish and Portuguese languages throughout the centuries tie closely to ecclesiastical terminology.

    There are obviously similar constructs in English. As some noted in a previous thread, many people in this country say, “Bless you” in response to someone sneezing. I do that, even though when I do I’m not internally invoking some supernatural force to guard the individual against some unhealthy occurrence; I’m just trying to be polite based on lessons I was taught as a child (so in some sense, my saying so may be more robotic than anything else, in which case I’m probably not even being polite, but that’s another issue). In the case of Pancho’s, it may be religiously motivated to tie in with the promotion. It may also just be a cultural meme like saying, “Bless you.”

    The question also raised is, “Is Pancho’s engaging in discrimination?” I don’t have an answer on this one, as I’m not a lawyer. There was a case of a coffee shop (in Chicago or New York, can’t remember) that asked parents not to bring their children, as the coffee shop was often a place for people to go to enjoy quiet, read the paper, so forth, and they didn’t want a lot of kids disrupting the atmosphere. Some parents were outraged. At the same time, those parents have a right to go elsewhere where kids are welcome.

    In the case of Pancho’s, one option is to take your business elsewhere. Ultimately, Pancho’s is a business, and whatever sky spirit they may or may not believe in, they’ve done regional market research that has determined that Sunday church promotions generate sales. If they could get more people in the door with a sign that read, “Bring in something that shows you participated in the big Zeus worship over the weekend and get 10% off,” they would.

    No kings,


  • Mriana

    “Buenos días” (good day)

    Is it just me or has no one ever noticed that dias for day is the feminine form of dios = god? Day is there for a goddess, which makes since if your ancestors were sun worshippers or alike. If one knows the Spanish language it would seem they would notice this.

  • Mriana

    Oh GEEZE! No hablo ingles! I butchered my English badly. 🙄 That should read: Day is therefore a goddess, which makes sense if your ancestors were sun worshippers or alike.

  • Desert Son


    dias for day is the feminine form of dios

    Except día is a masculine noun in Spanish. El día, the “el” denoting masculinity. If it were feminine, it would be La día. While it is true that many nouns in Spanish that end in “a” are feminine, that’s not the case with día.

    No kings,


  • Mriana

    Well, I am a gringo. I try though. 😆

  • I’ll have to try it this Sunday with my North Texas Church of Freethought bulletin.

  • Jen

    Wouldn’t this not count as religious discrimination because they aren’t discounting because of what the people’s religion is, but what they do on their Sundays? Technically, atheists can get the discount, they just have to go against what they believe and go to a a place that teaches them something they don’t believe in? I am not saying it isn’t crap, but I think that could be why a lawsuit wouldn’t go far.

  • Miko

    I am not saying it isn’t crap, but I think that could be why a lawsuit wouldn’t go far.

    Also, private businesses are arguably allowed to discriminate on religious grounds anyway. The courts have weakened such rights with a broad interpretation of the Interstate Commerce Clause as it relates to racial discrimination, but it’s never been tested in a religious discrimination case, as far as I know. It’s also only been tested regarding providing service and not (again, AFAIK) regarding pricing.

  • North Texas Church of Freethought has their bulletins in PDF format here, so you can try one out on ’em.

    Or if you wanted to make sure you got the message across, you could try to get the discount with a copy of the Metroplex Atheists newsletter here.

  • Vincent

    It doesn’t say you have to attend church, just drive by one on the way, grab a bulletin and get your discount.

    I remember Poncho’s in Oklahoma City when I was in high school. It was all you can eat mediocre mexican food. For a tean boy, that’s heaven.
    I don’t think it’s all you can eat, and I never saw a notice about worshiper discounts.

    I like the idea of a rational responder restaurant.
    Just tell the server “I deny the holy spirit” and get 10% off your meal!

  • There’s no sense in getting your knickers all knotted up about “vaya con dios” having religious overtones. After all, even “goodbye” is a contraction of “god be with ye”: that’s no reason to stop using it, any more than you should stop using the names for the days of the week because they’re all named after gods.

  • For those of you in the DFW area:

    The Freethinkers of UTA, along with other non-religious organizations in the area, will be protesting Pancho’s in Euless on Sunday, July 15th from 11:00 – 1:00.

    We will also be contacting various places of worship that hold their services on a day other than Sunday to invite them to participate.

    We can proudly wear our Atheist, Humanist, Freethinker, etc. t-shirts and let Pancho’s know that we find their practice of favoring Sunday church-goers unacceptable.

    If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at

    Becky Robinson

  • This blog post was referenced in my recent blog post:

  • Funny I just ran into that same restaurant last Sunday. I just wrote them an email complaint that I didn’t receive the 10% even when I asked for it and spoke to the manager on duty and the cashier and informed them that it violated the civil rights acts of 1964. I didn’t realize this was an on-going problem with that business. =/

  • I saw the same sign at a Pancho’s in NW Houston. I assumed it was a chain thing since it was on a professional looking sign that matched the rest of the deco.
    And if it did violate the cra of 1964, then they should take it down.

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