National Restaurant Association: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Report

The National Restaurant Association recently released a landmark diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) report measuring the awareness and perceived effectiveness of DEI practices among employers and employees in the restaurant industry. The research, conducted in collaboration between the National Restaurant Association(Opens in a new window), the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation(Opens in a new window) (NRAEF), the Multicultural Foodservice & Hospitality Alliance(Opens in a new window) (MFHA), and Cornell University Nolan School of Hotel Administration(Opens in a new window), found an association between the impact of DEI strategies and foodservice workers’ job satisfaction. The study also highlighted differences between a company’s perceptions about its DEI effectiveness and its employees’ experiences. Ultimately, the report reinforces the critical importance of effective DEI policies in driving employee engagement and retention within the restaurant industry.

To support the development of effective DEI programs across the industry, MFHA created ELEVATE – A Menu for Change. The framework provides restaurant operators with proactive business strategies and plans for building a more diverse, inclusive, and engaged workforce.

Key Findings of the Report

Employer reporting of employee demographics over-estimates the number of historically marginalized communities in the restaurant industry, especially at the mid- and upper levels of management, compared with how employees self-report.

Employee and employer perceptions of current DEI initiatives differed on the effectiveness and awareness of the policies.

When restaurant employees leave the industry, many do not return. Respect and a culture of belonging are associated with job satisfaction and intent to stay in the industry.

ELEVATE – A Menu for Change Framework: A Proven Guide to Creating Successful DEI Programs

To drive positive change in DEI initiatives for enterprises and employees, the MFHA created ELEVATE – A Menu for Change – a step-by-step toolkit with proven best practices and proactive business strategies. Each step reflects actions to be taken by company management to create and foster effective DEI programs. The framework includes tools to help enterprises assess DEI throughout its organization, identify stakeholders, examine what it currently offers, and establish a strong foundation for meaningful change. It also covers topics such as fostering stakeholder communication, establishing goals and success metrics, conveying value to employees, and resources for building successful training and measurement practices.

MFHA plans to support industry execution of the ELEVATE framework by providing a range of supplemental resources, including expert-led DEI sessions among stakeholders, employers and employees, management coaching, and ongoing support for groups of similar organizations moving through the framework together.

“The restaurant workforce is the most diverse across the U.S. economy. The new insight provided by our research and the MFHA’s ELEVATE framework creates an opportunity to develop a standard for meaningful DEI programs across the industry,” said Michelle Korsmo, President & CEO of the National Restaurant Association and CEO of the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. “Our industry historically has welcomed all people looking to chase their American dream with a solid career and ownership potential. As our current and future workforces focus on new goals and change their expectations, we want the industry to continue to be a place that welcomes all and supports personal and professional growth.”

The research survey was conducted in August and September 2021 in two tracks: An online survey of 200 enterprise representatives from a population representative of the U.S. restaurant and foodservice industry; and an online survey of current and former employees, and individuals who have never worked in the industry. The combined 5,180 individual respondents were representative of the U.S. restaurant and foodservice industry workforce.

Find more information about the DEI Report on the Restaurant Industry 2022 and ELEVATE – A Menu for Change framework here(Opens in a new window).

About the National Restaurant Association