September 17, 2021

MFHA marks 25 years championing diversity in foodservice

Gerry Fernandez
Co-founder Fernandez said the “MFHA has always been about adding value to business,” and that “being inclusive is morally and economically the right thing to do.”

The Multicultural Foodservice & Hospitality Alliance marked its 25th anniversary promoting diversity, inclusion and career opportunities for minorities in the foodservice industry.

Co-founded in 1996 by Gerry Fernandez during a Women’s Foodservice Forum meeting, the MFHA provides the information, tools and resources necessary to elevate diversity, equity, inclusion, and cultural competency in the industry.

In 2018, the organization joined the National Restaurant Association to help it establish a more equitable playing field for businesses.

“Our goal was and is to create opportunity for everyone, spark real change in our society, and make our communities better places to work and live in,” said Fernandez, MFHA president.

It’s still hard for him to believe it’s been 25 years since that day representatives from 17 companies came together to “create an organization that would promote opportunities for people of color in the restaurant, foodservice, and lodging industry,” he said.

Fernandez noted that the MFHA’s original mission statement included two tenets:

  1. To focus on developing opportunities for people of color
  2. To ensure its work would benefit the industry morally and economically

“The MFHA has always been about adding value to business,” he said. “Being inclusive is morally the right thing to do, but it’s always been the smart thing to do for business and the bottom line. I’m very proud of this distinction.”

“We conceived this organization to expand people’s awareness of diversity, and show the economic opportunity that diversity, equity and inclusion, and minority business development could create,” he said. “We also wanted to convince communities of color that this industry is a good place to grow a career, a place where success can happen.”

Over the last 18 months, the MFHA has conducted several town hall meetings, listening sessions, unconscious bias workshops, and webinars to help the industry manage the cultural aspects of both COVID-19 and racial divide in America.

Operating under the umbrella of the Association’s Educational Foundation, the MFHA is committed to setting even higher standards for diversity, equity and inclusion at all levels of the industry’s workforce: from entry-level employees to C-suite executives.

As it prepares for the next 25 years, the MFHA is working on a number of initiatives to help educate businesses and organizations on DEI issues, and provide more guidance and solutions:

  • A breakthrough study on the state of DEI in the foodservice industry, conducted in partnership with the Association, the Educational Foundation, and Cornell University. Its insights and information will be critical to businesses, organizations and state restaurant associations working to better understand the industry’s workforce from a racial, ethnic, and gender perspective.
  • Work with the Foundation on creating a “Roadmap” to help hospitality companies fully integrate DEI into a successful business model that’s effective, sustainable, and measurable.

Fernandez said the new study, expected to come out in the first quarter of 2022, would give companies new DEI benchmarks to help them baseline and then compare their progress year over year. It also marks the first time MFHA, Cornell University, the Association and Foundation are collaborating on a DEI research project.

“It will be the industry’s most comprehensive DEI survey since 2014, and will cover a broad range of topics to give us a clear picture of how we can better engage, grow and empower a diverse workforce at all levels,” he said.

To learn more about diversity, equity and inclusion in the restaurant industry, visit the MFHA’s website