• Home
    Home We Serve America's Restaurants Representing nearly 500,000 restaurant businesses, we advocate for restaurant and foodservice industry interests and provide tools and systems that help members of all sizes achieve success.
  • Foundation
    Foundation Building & Retaining Talent The NRAEF is focused on developing a stronger workforce and building the next generation of industry leaders through education, scholarships and community engagement.
  • Show
    Show May 18-21, 2019 As the international foodservice marketplace, the National Restaurant Association Show provides unparalleled opportunities for buyers and sellers to come together, conduct business and learn from each other.
  • ServSafe
    ServSafe Minimize Risk. Maximize Protection. For over 40 years, ServSafe® training programs have delivered the knowledge, leadership and protection that have earned the trust and confidence of business leaders everywhere.

National Restaurant Association - Celebrating LGBTQ leadership in restaurants

Skip to navigation Skip to content

News & Research

Share:
Email Print
News RSS

Celebrating LGBTQ leadership in restaurants

By Dawn Sweeney

June is Pride Month, and an important time to recognize the impact the LGBTQ community is making on the restaurant and foodservice industry. Both restaurant employees and customers will be celebrating pre-Pride parade brunches, a quick bite before a festival or dinner and a cold drink after a concert. Restaurants across the country play a key part of the experience—and our industry welcomes everyone to the table.

The LGBTQ community brings incredible talent, innovative concepts and fresh perspectives to restaurants. As the nation’s second-largest employer, the restaurant and foodservice industry is comprised of nearly 15 million Americans — many of whom are part of the LGBTQ community. They represent hardworking restaurant owners, entrepreneurs, managers, chefs, bartenders and service staff who are helping our industry grow. According to the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, LGBTQ entrepreneurs own 1.4 million businesses and contribute more than $1.7 trillion to the United States economy annually.

Although this month is a time for celebration, we must also recognize that there is still more work to be done to ensure our industry is diverse, inclusive, and a place where people from all backgrounds feel welcome and accepted. The National Center for Transgender Equality reports that transgender Americans are three times more likely to be unemployed and twice as likely to live in poverty than the general population. Nationwide, more than 1.4 million people identify as transgender and nearly 90 percent have experienced employment discrimination, harassment or mistreatment.



Michaela Mendelsohn accepts one of this year's NRAEF Faces of Diverstiy Award for her extensive work in the LGBTQ community

Employment discrimination has sadly become the norm for many transgender people. That is why the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation, along with the California Restaurant Association, is proud to recognize Michaela Mendelsohn as one of our 2018 Faces of Diversity award winners, honoring champions of diversity and inclusion in the restaurant industry.

A successful transgender business woman and community activist, Michaela has worked tirelessly to break down barriers within our industry. She knows first-hand what it feels like to hide her identity to be successful, facing resistance, but never choosing to walk away from the challenge. Michaela has devoted her life and her livelihood to help eliminate those barriers for others.

As owner and chief executive of the Pollo West Corporation, an El Pollo Loco franchisee, Michaela has ensured that her company is a welcome environment for transgender people to work and thrive. In the past several years, she has hired over 40 transgender employees in her restaurants with 25 percent making the pathway to management. She is also the founder of TransCanWork, the first large-scale program of its kind that trains employers to create more transgender-friendly work environments and helps connect transgender employees to jobs. Michaela is on the board of The Trevor Project, which works to eliminate suicide in LGBTQ youth ages 13 to 25 years old, and has been recognized by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and more for her amazing work to educate and inspire the restaurant community.

Stories like Michaela’s make us hopeful that we are making progress, not just as an industry, but also as a society. We encourage every restaurant to be supportive of the LGBTQ community and provide resources that help foster safe work and dining environments. It is our goal that both employees and customers feel comfortable being and expressing who they are when they go to work or sit down for a meal in a restaurant.

As we celebrate this month, we need to remember that Pride extends beyond parades and festivals. It is about embracing one another through genuine love, care, and respect. We have nothing to lose by being more inclusive, and everything to gain.

To learn more about Michaela’s powerful story and how you can integrate diversity into your restaurants, visit TransCanWork.org.

Dawn Sweeney is the President and CEO of the National Restaurant Association and the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation

Conserve RSS Healthcare RSS Conserve RSS

▲ Back to Top

New report

Spot Ad right

We're glad you're here!®

® 2012-2017 National Restaurant Association. All rights reserved.

2055 L St. NW, Suite 700, Washington, DC 20036
(202) 331-5900 | (800) 424-5156