MFHA confab examines disparity of diversity in industry’s executive ranks

MFHA confab examines disparity of diversity in industry’s executive ranks

SAN FRANCISCO —The restaurant industry is approaching racial, ethnic and gender parity to national demographics in the makeup of its hourly workforce, but it has yet to bridge the diversity gap at the management level and in reaching minority customers, experts told foodservice leaders this month.

Speakers at the sixth annual conference of the Multicultural Foodservice & Hospitality Alliance, held here at the Palace Hotel, focused on the disparity in minority representation in the industry’s executive ranks and how that might affect restaurants’ marketing and brand image. —The restaurant industry is approaching racial, ethnic and gender parity to national demographics in the makeup of its hourly workforce, but it has yet to bridge the diversity gap at the management level and in reaching minority customers, experts told foodservice leaders this month.

The numbers of minority employees taper off as they move up into the executive suites of companies, observed Joni Doolin, founder and chief executive of People Report, a Dallas-based human resources measurement firm that tracks restaurant operators. —The restaurant industry is approaching racial, ethnic and gender parity to national demographics in the makeup of its hourly workforce, but it has yet to bridge the diversity gap at the management level and in reaching minority customers, experts told foodservice leaders this month.

“At the hourly level and entry level [for] corporate managers we have almost total parity [between men and] women…but look what happens when you go up the ladder,” Doolin said during a slide show presentation. “Assistant manager, general manager, corporate directors and executives—the percentage of women gets smaller.” —The restaurant industry is approaching racial, ethnic and gender parity to national demographics in the makeup of its hourly workforce, but it has yet to bridge the diversity gap at the management level and in reaching minority customers, experts told foodservice leaders this month.

In giving her update to the MFHA conference about the industry’s diversity progress, Doolin addressed the nearly 500 restaurant and hotel executives who attended the two-day event. It included speakers and workshop sessions on strategies to improve diversity in four areas: workforce, customers, community and suppliers. —The restaurant industry is approaching racial, ethnic and gender parity to national demographics in the makeup of its hourly workforce, but it has yet to bridge the diversity gap at the management level and in reaching minority customers, experts told foodservice leaders this month.

The MFHA is a nonprofit group created 11 years ago to improve the representation of women and minorities in the industry’s workforce and to increase the use of minority-owned suppliers and improve relations with minority customers and communities. —The restaurant industry is approaching racial, ethnic and gender parity to national demographics in the makeup of its hourly workforce, but it has yet to bridge the diversity gap at the management level and in reaching minority customers, experts told foodservice leaders this month.

In an effort to better measure the industry’s progress on diversity, the MFHA has partnered with People Report and with CorVirtus, a Colorado Springs, Colo.-based human resources consulting firm, explained Gerry Fernandez, the MFHA’s president and founder. —The restaurant industry is approaching racial, ethnic and gender parity to national demographics in the makeup of its hourly workforce, but it has yet to bridge the diversity gap at the management level and in reaching minority customers, experts told foodservice leaders this month.

At last year’s conference, estimates on the industry’s diversity were largely anecdotal, Fernandez said. This year, the organization has begun surveying members on diversity issues. —The restaurant industry is approaching racial, ethnic and gender parity to national demographics in the makeup of its hourly workforce, but it has yet to bridge the diversity gap at the management level and in reaching minority customers, experts told foodservice leaders this month.

An initial report from MFHA members who were diversity officers or responsible for diversity initiatives gave the industry an average to poor grade in diversity improvement, said Bobby Baker, vice president of research and measurement for CorVirtus. —The restaurant industry is approaching racial, ethnic and gender parity to national demographics in the makeup of its hourly workforce, but it has yet to bridge the diversity gap at the management level and in reaching minority customers, experts told foodservice leaders this month.

Fifty members from companies with more than 500 employees took the survey online. Their compiled answers graded the industry with a C+ with regard to workforce diversity, a C in minority-community relations, a C in supplier diversity and a D+in serving minority customers. —The restaurant industry is approaching racial, ethnic and gender parity to national demographics in the makeup of its hourly workforce, but it has yet to bridge the diversity gap at the management level and in reaching minority customers, experts told foodservice leaders this month.

Respondents ranked their companies poorly on such questions as whether senior executive compensation was linked to diversity recruitment and retention, whether a company had clearly defined goals for budget allocations to minority-owned suppliers or whether an operation provided multicultural customer service training to employees. —The restaurant industry is approaching racial, ethnic and gender parity to national demographics in the makeup of its hourly workforce, but it has yet to bridge the diversity gap at the management level and in reaching minority customers, experts told foodservice leaders this month.

“Companies have policies and well-articulated statements,” Baker said. “They are talking the talk but not necessarily walking the walk.” —The restaurant industry is approaching racial, ethnic and gender parity to national demographics in the makeup of its hourly workforce, but it has yet to bridge the diversity gap at the management level and in reaching minority customers, experts told foodservice leaders this month.

The survey is ongoing, and when more members participate in it, the MFHA will get a more accurate perception and understanding of what is happening in the industry, he added. —The restaurant industry is approaching racial, ethnic and gender parity to national demographics in the makeup of its hourly workforce, but it has yet to bridge the diversity gap at the management level and in reaching minority customers, experts told foodservice leaders this month.

Keynote speaker Alexis Herman, former U.S. Secretary of Labor, told the conference’s attendees that leaders of companies are the ones who can really create a culture of diversity and inclusion in their organizations. —The restaurant industry is approaching racial, ethnic and gender parity to national demographics in the makeup of its hourly workforce, but it has yet to bridge the diversity gap at the management level and in reaching minority customers, experts told foodservice leaders this month.

“You can spend millions of dollars and be engaged in a lot of programmatic activities as it relates to diversity and not have it embedded in the culture of the organization,” said Herman, who also served on the Human Resources Task Force of The Coca-Cola Co. and is now chairwoman and chief executive of New Ventures Inc. —The restaurant industry is approaching racial, ethnic and gender parity to national demographics in the makeup of its hourly workforce, but it has yet to bridge the diversity gap at the management level and in reaching minority customers, experts told foodservice leaders this month.

Executives on a panel moderated by Terrian Barnes, global diversity and inclusion officer at Yum! Brands Inc., [3] echoed Herman’s sentiment on their roles in leading diversity efforts in their companies. —The restaurant industry is approaching racial, ethnic and gender parity to national demographics in the makeup of its hourly workforce, but it has yet to bridge the diversity gap at the management level and in reaching minority customers, experts told foodservice leaders this month.

And Renee West, president and chief operating officer of the Excalibur Hotel-Casino, a 3,991-room megaresort in Las Vegas, made a similar observation. —The restaurant industry is approaching racial, ethnic and gender parity to national demographics in the makeup of its hourly workforce, but it has yet to bridge the diversity gap at the management level and in reaching minority customers, experts told foodservice leaders this month.

“It’s up to you who have the responsibilities to make a change and tear down the barriers on the path to inclusion,” she told the MFHA conference attendees. —The restaurant industry is approaching racial, ethnic and gender parity to national demographics in the makeup of its hourly workforce, but it has yet to bridge the diversity gap at the management level and in reaching minority customers, experts told foodservice leaders this month.

Rilous Carter, general manager of Epcot Food and Beverage at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., agreed that industry leaders must be genuine in their diversity efforts. —The restaurant industry is approaching racial, ethnic and gender parity to national demographics in the makeup of its hourly workforce, but it has yet to bridge the diversity gap at the management level and in reaching minority customers, experts told foodservice leaders this month.

“It does your company and your customer base little good to hire only people who look like top management,” Carter said. “Diversity is about engagement and talking to people. Even Disney lightened up on its grooming rules to allow folks to have piercings, more facial hair, because that is what some of our customers look like.” —The restaurant industry is approaching racial, ethnic and gender parity to national demographics in the makeup of its hourly workforce, but it has yet to bridge the diversity gap at the management level and in reaching minority customers, experts told foodservice leaders this month.

Also on the panel was Mario Lee, divisional president of Buffets Inc. [4], parent of the Old Country Buffet and HomeTown Buffet chains; Clyde Rucker, executive vice president of operations for Quiznos Sub [5]; and Tony Mitchell, chief financial officer of Morrison Management [6] Specialists. —The restaurant industry is approaching racial, ethnic and gender parity to national demographics in the makeup of its hourly workforce, but it has yet to bridge the diversity gap at the management level and in reaching minority customers, experts told foodservice leaders this month.

Members of a presidents’ panel, moderated by Curtis Wilson, vice president and general manager of American Express, discussed the importance of immigration reform for the industry. The panelists agreed immigrants play a critical role in foodservice. —The restaurant industry is approaching racial, ethnic and gender parity to national demographics in the makeup of its hourly workforce, but it has yet to bridge the diversity gap at the management level and in reaching minority customers, experts told foodservice leaders this month.

However, Herman Li, chairman of C&L Restaurant Group, a franchisee of Burger King and Denny’s restaurants, said he resented the increasing law enforcement role that employers are being asked to follow when hiring immigrants. —The restaurant industry is approaching racial, ethnic and gender parity to national demographics in the makeup of its hourly workforce, but it has yet to bridge the diversity gap at the management level and in reaching minority customers, experts told foodservice leaders this month.

“I don’t want to be the INS,” he said. He drew a laugh when he added: “I’d rather people think I work for the CIA: the Chinese Intelligence Agency.” —The restaurant industry is approaching racial, ethnic and gender parity to national demographics in the makeup of its hourly workforce, but it has yet to bridge the diversity gap at the management level and in reaching minority customers, experts told foodservice leaders this month.

Other members of the panel were Gene Lee, president and chief operating officer of Rare Hospitality; George Le Mener, chief executive of Accor Hotels North America; Jean Birch, president of Romano’s Macaroni Grill; Ulysses Bridgeman, president and chief executive of Bridge Foods, a Wendy’s and Chili’s franchisee; and John Bettin, president of Buca Inc. [7] —The restaurant industry is approaching racial, ethnic and gender parity to national demographics in the makeup of its hourly workforce, but it has yet to bridge the diversity gap at the management level and in reaching minority customers, experts told foodservice leaders this month.

Also during the conference, the MFHA honored Philadelphia-based contract foodservice operator Aramark Corp. [8] with the Corporate Champion Award, which is presented annually to a company that has demonstrated outstanding commitment and leadership in support of the MFHA. —The restaurant industry is approaching racial, ethnic and gender parity to national demographics in the makeup of its hourly workforce, but it has yet to bridge the diversity gap at the management level and in reaching minority customers, experts told foodservice leaders this month.

Lina Lu, founder and president of the Clipper Corp., a Carson, Calif.-based supplier of kitchenware and uniforms, received the MFHA’s Ernest Royal Pioneer Award. That honor recognizes individuals who exemplify restaurateur Royal’s pioneering spirit and commitment to leadership in promoting diversity. —The restaurant industry is approaching racial, ethnic and gender parity to national demographics in the makeup of its hourly workforce, but it has yet to bridge the diversity gap at the management level and in reaching minority customers, experts told foodservice leaders this month.