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National Restaurant Association - Industry better at diversity, hiring exec says

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Industry better at diversity, hiring exec says

Diversity and inclusion aren’t just buzzwords anymore. They’re integral to the way businesses hire, and that’s particularly true of the restaurant industry.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that currently, more than one out of 10, or 1.2 million, of all eating-and-drinking-place employees in the United States are African American, and that number is expected to grow.

Restaurant companies are more intentional and better at recruiting minorities into their corporate ranks as the U.S. workforce is becoming more multicultural, says Kevin Williams, director of people excellence at casual-dining company Brinker International. But, he notes, there’s room for improvement.

Tips on improving inclusion

Williams suggests companies do the following to increase diversity:

  1. Make more connections with potential employees in diverse communities
  2. Form better relationships with black colleges and recruit the best students
  3. Develop and promote more hourly employees into leadership roles

It’s important to look deeper, peel back a layer of the onion, and develop stars with potential to move up, he says.

The 35-year-old, who’s been with Brinker for four years and promoted twice, says his path to the executive suite has been easy, but as a black man, he’s felt there’ve been times when he’s had to work harder at being heard. The results, however, have been worth it.

“I’ve had a successful career,” he says, but I think, as a person of color and because of my culture and what folks of my culture have gone through, it makes me interpret things a little differently.”

How to succeed in business

Williams shared some thoughts on how people of color can make success easier to achieve:

  • Find a mentor and a sponsor. Find both and know the difference between them. A sponsor advocates for you even when you’re not in the room. A mentor helps grow your career.
  • Don’t let your voice be silenced. Different perspectives are necessary. Even when it seems challenging or slow-moving, know that your voice is important to making an impact.
  • Don’t be intimidated. There will be times when you’re the only person who looks like you in the room. Don’t let being different hold you back. Continue to be yourself and provide your perspective.

Pictured at top: African-American chef; above: Brinker's Kevin Williams

February is Black History Month. Learn about diversity in the restaurant industry with our partner, the Multicultural Foodservice & Hospitality Alliance.

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