January 11, 2024

How to succeed in business? Increase your commitment to DEI

MFHA shares tips on how to embrace diversity at your restaurant business.
Minority Restaurant Owner

Research finds companies engaging in racial and ethnic diversity are more likely to report above-average financial returns, win the battle for talent acquisition, and create loyalty among consumers.

As the restaurant and hospitality industry continues to wrestle with economic, labor, and supply chain challenges, embracing diversity, engagement and inclusion can not only help improve profitability, but assist in recruiting and retaining talent as well as maintaining customer loyalty.

Gerry Fernandez, president emeritus and founder of the Multicultural Foodservice & Hospitality Alliance, says adopting a more involved DEI approach to business is not only smart, it’s essential to success. 

“Research shows us that companies engaging in racial and ethnic diversity are more likely to report above-average financial returns, win the battle for talent acquisition, and create loyalty among consumers who claim they’re more likely to support brands that demonstrate a commitment to DEI,” he says. “That’s why taking a more involved approach is so important. Diversity of thought, perspective, and experience produce the best results. If you manage things right, everyone wins.”

Take the ‘dinner table approach’

Fernandez advises business leaders to take what he calls the “dinner table approach,” in which the four seats at the table: workforce, customers, community, and suppliers are the focus of your business’ cultural diversity efforts. 

There are several best practices operators can use to improve DEI in the workplace. Apply these tips to each of the four seats.
  1. Workforce: Know the current demographics of your workforce. Then, be able to identify where there are gaps and develop an action plan to address them. Make sure DEI training is available for hourly and salaried employees. In addition, provide inclusive/DEI training for your recruiting team, management staff, and executive team members. Furthermore, find out how your company engages in multicultural recruitment efforts and what they are. For example, during the hiring process, does it use diverse sourcing strategies, such as historically black colleges and universities and referrals from employees of color and difference?
  2. Customers: It’s critical to know your traditional customers and the new ones impacting your marketplace. Conduct surveys and exit evaluations to understand the needs and satisfaction of the markets you seek to attract or maintain. Use minority marketing and branding firms to help identify and attract potential and relevant emerging markets and avoid offending those you hope to attract through advertising. When advertising, target at least 25% of the spend in diverse markets. Deploy traditional advertising methods along with social and digital media to communicate your DEI commitment. Also, highlight an inclusive creed declaring that all customers are treated with dignity and respect. Last, but not least, promote campaigns featuring key multicultural events, like Black History, Hispanic Heritage, and Asian Pacific American months.
  3. Community: Educate yourself in and understand the important issues affecting your community. Then, determine the best ways to address them and achieve successful outcomes. Align yourself with community-based organizations representing the community, contribute support, offer your facilities for meetings, and volunteer your services when and where possible. CBOs can also act as a key source for talent referrals. Meet with them and provide job descriptions and explanations of key attributes for successful staff members.
  4. Suppliers: By contracting with minority suppliers, you can provide jobs that help the local economy and create financial resources for those companies. But, because they sometimes lack experience, they might need assistance getting through the procurement process. To that end, several companies, like Denny’s, Cracker Barrel, and Marriott, have developed training and mentoring programs to assist vendors. Restaurateurs who partner with minority suppliers can show their commitment to DEI by meeting the supplier diversity goals they set for themselves and accomplish.

“We must give people equal and fair opportunity to participate in and access opportunity,” Fernandez says. “When people feel included, they can rise to the level of their own discipline and talent.”

Learn more about ELEVATE, the MFHA’s framework to drive positive change in DEI strategies. Download it today!