Applying your DEI principles into business operation
Diversity, equity and inclusion, or DEI as it is commonly referred to, is a practice that welcomes employees of all backgrounds to an open and equitable workplace. The restaurant industry has long been a leader in this practice. This industry is one that has always been a true welcoming melting pot of people from a variety of different backgrounds.
Unfortunately, in today’s world some have fallen off track a bit and a review of some of the best guiding principles can help keep our industry as an example in the forefront. It is imperative for employers take an active roll in creating and enforcing policies that promote an environment of equity and inclusion. Over the course of time some operators may have fallen victim to a generational disconnect that they use as an excuse to forgive themselves for not having a strong DEI understanding. But using that as an excuse is only enabling an environment of complicity that can unknowingly marginalize some staff members. Rather than let that happen it behooves owners, management and industry leaders to enact policies to ensure a great DEI environment.
As leaders it is important to set the bar for others. This means having a willingness to hold each other
accountable for behavior that does not meet certain standards. In setting those standards, a good place to begin is exploring and identifying the areas in which change can be made within the workplace.
First and foremost, it is imperative that equity be a pillar of all policies. Regardless of a person’s background, the playing field of life has not been equal to all. Owners need to be certain that when an employee walks through their doors they feel comfortable in knowing that those societal inequities have been left behind. Restaurant owners often use terms such as “team” and “family” to refer to their staff. This is the opportunity to put your money where your mouth is and prove just that. Owners expect the staff to care about their restaurant. Show them that it is a two-way street and that you care about them too.
When it comes to diversity let’s remember that our customers come from a wide variety of races, genders, ages and ethnicity. Wisdom would dictate that if our staff has that same diverse makeup then our customers will have a much more welcome feel when patronizing us.
Diversity is also a wonderful opportunity for growth among the staff. Diversity is a way to promote open dialogue with the intention of educating one another. Nobody is expected to know what it is like to live in the shoes of everyone else on the planet. You are an owner because you’ve always done things your way in your business. Now learn to listen for a change. Take the time to get to know each other. Ask questions. Learn from someone’s firsthand perspective as to what some of the challenges are that they see in society. Barriers between each other will be broken down once the communication is there. This will not only help you to grow and strengthen your DEI policy, but it will help form a caring bond of communication between employer and employee. Building such bonds and continually educating yourself will help you to set clear policy goals.
Put yourself in the position of others. Sometimes an employee who may not be “like” you might feel that you are not open to giving them direction, education or opportunity. Be the example by which others will learn. Prove by your actions that you do not let any unconscious biases dictate the direction of staff in your restaurant. Your staff will see how you act on a daily basis. Use this opportunity to showcase your devotion to a great DEI practice.
Inclusivity is a key attribute to strong and successful leadership. Any individual policy enacted must be rooted in the belief that the biases seen in society do not walk in the doors of your workplace. Jobs and tasks need to be given equal weight amongst qualified staff. Every employee must feel that they are included as part of your “family” or “team”. The idea that certain jobs or tasks are only for certain people should never enter your restaurant. This does not mean that the 16-year-old inexperienced dishwasher should be considered for a General Manager position. It does, however, mean that a certain employee can not only be considered for a prep cook position and nothing else. We have all seen examples of this in the past and it is our responsibility to our industry to make sure that we lead the way in exemplifying inclusivity in all aspects of our business.
Everyone will have their own individual policies, but the example set by an owner or operator is priceless. By leading the way, you will be able to pave the road for others to follow your direction of DEI.
Forming your own DEI policies based off these principles will give employees the opportunity to see how they fit into the discussion of DEI in your restaurant.
Today’s labor market can be challenging, to say the least. Attracting and retaining employees is more difficult now than it has ever been. This is where a great DEI practice in your restaurant can pay huge dividends. Make sure your current and potential future employees see you as a beacon of good. Your reputation as an owner and employer is what will define you. Good news travels fast and prospective employees will know of your stellar reputation if you develop and enact a strong DEI policy and environment. When this results in a broader labor pool for you to hire from you will be thankful. Not only that, but you will help continue to keep our beloved industry as the example for which others can learn.
Michael Androw owns E & D Pizza Company in Avon, Connecticut.