Autumn is in full swing in central Ohio. Fall foliage is creating picturesque moments along the Scioto Mile, college and professional football is back and restaurants are beginning to roll out their patio heaters.
While new seasons bring about a sense of change, the next time you dine at a local restaurant, take a moment to notice a constant within the hospitality industry: diversity in the variety of foods and people and inclusion among its staff and with its community.
The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation recently released findings from a survey regarding awareness and effectiveness of diversity, equity and inclusion practices in the restaurant industry. The findings reaffirm how the industry is a true reflection of the diversity of the American population. Foodservice employees are 56% female, 42% male and 1% gender nonconforming.
Moreover, 26% of industry employees are Hispanic, 17% are African American and the remaining identify as Caucasian. Additionally, 16% of employees self-report having a disability.
As restaurants face an ongoing labor crisis – more than 1.3 million jobs are unfilled in foodservice and accommodations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics – it is vital the industry further opens our doors to everyone, invests in total rewards packages for employees and trains people for a rewarding career in the hospitality industry.
Currently, restaurant owners and operators are establishing and maintaining equitable workplaces to retain and attract talent to the industry. Of the restaurants surveyed, 92% of enterprises report having resources dedicated to DEI initiatives in the form of committees, designated individuals or both, and 73% of respondents strongly agree having a diverse workforce improves a company’s innovation.
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Innovation will be key in an industry where technology is rapidly moving forward. Companies are turning to robotics to reimagine the industry, like Ohio Restaurant Association member White Castle, which unveiled Flippy in its restaurants to perform fry-cook tasks.
Restaurateurs are testing and using artificial intelligence for consumer interaction and research. Early adopters are establishing concepts with non-fungible tokens to build their community, awareness and ongoing revenues. And many eateries already are utilizing mobile apps for ordering as they grow their “digital” sales.
Innovation is born from a diverse workforce, which provides unique perspectives, creative ideas and limitless possibilities. Although inclusion leads to important innovation, it also leads to employee job satisfaction.
The NRAEF report, completed in cooperation with our Multicultural Foodservice & Hospitality Alliance, found 70% of restaurant employees are satisfied with their job, 5 percentage points higher than the national average across all professions.
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The restaurant community remains a wonderful career path ready to welcome all who are passionate about culinary expertise, food, beverages and hospitality. Diversity is a longstanding characteristic of restaurants, and it helps to create the essence and magic of the industry that keeps us coming back for more.
So as you enjoy the changing of the season, the crisp air, fall flavors and Buckeye football, take a moment to enjoy the diversity reflected in the type and variety of cuisines and people visiting and working in your local restaurants.
John Barker is the president and CEO of the Ohio Restaurant Association.
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