Americans witness this national phenomenon on average four or five times a week. While we’re enjoying a meal at our favorite restaurant, we simultaneously observe a demographic microcosm of the United States in action. Restaurants, the largest private employer in the country, mimic America’s inclusive, diverse and multicultural character that has evolved during 241 years.
I was reminded of this by NRA President Dawn Sweeney’s recent article (https://www.fastcasual.com/blogs/nra-president/), in which she emphatically stated “there is no other industry in America as diverse and inclusive as the restaurant industry.”
Dawn cited a battery of well-known statistics to substantiate her position: “Thirty-three percent of restaurant businesses are majority-owned by women and another 15 percent of restaurant businesses are equally owned by women and men. Nearly 60 percent of all front-line supervisors in restaurants today are women. Consumer decision makers are often women in the family. Restaurants are flexible workplaces and offer an enormous range of career options — not just in kitchens or in the front of the house — but also in the ‘business’ of restaurants, from finance professionals to graphic designers to human resources leaders and food safety and nutrition experts. The industry is full of employment opportunities that are vital to our economy.”
Her observations underscore the major role played by women in restaurants. These numbers speak to the operator side of the industry but, surely, similar trends can be seen among distributorships and manufacturers. The Women’s Foodservice Forum and the Multicultural Foodservice and Hospitality Alliance are examples of the industry’s diversity and inclusivity.
Multiculturalism and inclusivity aren’t leftover fads from a bygone era that should now be cast onto the ash heap of history.
Contrary to other countries such as Belgium, American diversity is not geographical but rather it is idealistic. We are cognizant – or at least have been – that it has taken many peoples of many backgrounds to bring to fruition the historical experiment called the United States. We, the people, have defied the false illusion of being a melting pot in favor of being a salad bowl, in which every ingredient is savored – how typical of foodservice.
By embracing multiculturalism, we, Americans, recognize the potential of all our fellow citizens, our neighbors, and encourage them to integrate – not assimilate – into this society and take an active part in its social, cultural, economic and political affairs.
Our diversity is an American asset. Americans who speak many languages and understand many cultures make it easier for America as a whole to participate locally as well as globally in areas of education, commerce and diplomacy.
Our citizenship gives us equal rights as well as equal responsibilities. By taking an active part in our civic affairs, we affirm these rights and strengthen America’s democracy, ensuring that a multicultural, integrated and inclusive citizenship will be every American’s inheritance.
Even though our track record of tolerance is tarnished, America is still the only place on earth were inclusivity and multiculturalism have to work if they’re going to succeed anywhere.
With such a diverse legacy as restaurants enjoy, it is incumbent on the foodservice industry to become the national leaders in celebrating this multicultural, inclusive and diverse agenda for the benefit of future generations.