Restaurants and The Great Diversity Divide

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For years, diversity has been both a pride and a source of frustration for the restaurant industry. According to 2015 data from the National Restaurant Association, people of color held 47% of all restaurant jobs, compared to the overall American workforce in which minorities made up just 36% of all restaurant jobs. jobs. Four in 10 managers and supervisors and almost six in 10 leaders are people of color. Minorities also own about 40 percent of all restaurants. Despite these encouraging figures, the senior management of multi-unit chains is still largely homogeneous.

And if anything, it looks like the big brands have taken a backseat in recent years. In 2014, the industry had six black CEOs (all male) at the biggest chains, including McDonald’s, Darden, Jack in the Box, Bob Evans, Potbelly, and Jamba Juice. Right now, there is one – Damola Adamolekun at PF Chang’s – although it should be noted that more women, as well as Latinos and other people of color, are now in top positions in the industry. brands like BurgerFi, RBI, Panera and Bojangles.

But recent events have shifted the conversation about diversity, equity and inclusion (dei) and brought a new urgency. George Floyd’s murder has sparked protests across the country as anti-Asian hate crimes have shown just how deeply ingrained – and potentially violent – prejudice can be. Amid the counts, many restaurants have come out in favor of these communities, and some have even put their money where their mouth is, including two of the biggest fast-service brands.

“The cultural changes and injustices of 2020 have encouraged a more open dialogue on sharing our internal and external inclusion efforts. Our employees enjoy seeing real-life examples of how the business is changing and actively have a voice in those changes, ”said Marissa Andrada, Head of Diversity, Inclusion and Human Resources for Chipotle.

In 2018, under the leadership of then-new CEO Brian Niccol, Chipotle began a top-down transformation; reorganizing both its internal culture and the way the company manages and invests in its people was a top priority. Last March, Chipotle finally put the spotlight on these employee-related initiatives and also upped the stake by allocating 10% of annual executive incentives to environmental, social and corporate governance measures. Under the social umbrella are concrete goals such as maintaining racial and gender pay equity, as well as accelerating the development of Chipotle field and support center employees for promotion beyond the level of the workplace. store. And with 90 percent of the company’s leadership positions coming from internal promotions, the company has already laid the groundwork.

“The goal is for our team members to see leaders at all levels of the organization who are like them, essentially seeing themselves at all levels of Chipotle, and we are focused on our efforts to achieve that,” said Andrada.

When it comes to fast food, McDonald’s takes a similar approach. In February, the fast-service titan announced two key benchmarks it would pursue over the next decade. First, he aims for people of color from historically under-represented groups to make up more than a third of his senior and executive director positions (35%) by 2025, which is an increase. 6% from 2020 levels. It also targets full gender parity by 2030.

While setting these kinds of goals is not a new practice in the corporate world, financial incentives are. From this year, 15% of executive bonuses will be determined by meeting targets related to its workforce. It also extends the push for greater diversity beyond McDonald’s proper. The company has committed to increasing its purchases of goods and services from minority and female-owned suppliers by 10% by 2025 (compared to 2020 levels).

These bold plans and announcements come at a time when society grapples with race and gender issues. Despite inclusive rhetoric, many sectors still lack real diversity, whether at all levels or specifically at the top, such as in catering. The question now is why are diversity bottlenecks in the restaurant industry and whether corporate initiatives are enough to change the dynamics.


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