This article appeared in The Caterer magazine. A few decades ago, caterers just needed a good idea, the ability to cook and a good supplier to get them going.
There was no complex health and safety legislation, little requirement for thorough HR process and procedures, and absolutely no reason to look at how diverse your workforce could be.
How times change.
In our world, 20+ years ago, you probably wouldn’t see much diversity in hospitality; be it a female CEO, be it a disabled person in our sector, be it a black person at senior level, an openly LGBTQ+ person, or even many working mums.
Fast forward two decades and people are still making the same argument about all strands of diversity – some to a greater or lesser degree.
But the natural churn of time means society has evolved. Industry has moved too and our multi-cultural, multi-faceted society needs businesses that reflect this – not least because the benefits of having a diverse workforce have long been proven.
According to a recent report by The Pipeline, London-listed companies with no women at executive committee level have a net profit of 1.5 per cent, and those with more than one in three women at that level reach a 15.2 per cent net profit margin.
In the context of ethnicity, a 2018 study by the Boston Consulting Group found that businesses with more diverse senior management achieve 19% higher revenues, largely driven through innovation.
Further analysis from McKinsey found that of 366 companies audited, businesses in the top quartile for racial/ethnic diversity were 30% more likely to have financial returns above their national industry median.
Striving for more diversity isn’t just about doing what’s right by society, it actually helps improve business performance.
Business need to evolve as society has. What we did before no longer works.
And it’s not just about our workforces, it’s about our customers too.
If you were a chef working in Mayfair, your menu and produce would be very different now compared to what you might have had in the past.
Today, for example, the large influx of Middle Eastern clientele during the summer months means you may need to look differently at your meat supplier. This just wasn’t a consideration before.
The modern chef or caterer needs to be across this because being more aware of diversity not only leads to happy customers, it can also give you a competitive advantage.
Encouraging diversity is as much about the micro as it is about the macro. And we all have our part to play.
I’ve spent more than 20 years in a sector that has changed dramatically. As a partner to companies in the catering, restaurants and wholesale sectors, I’ve witnessed a lot of change. We are improving, and the sector looks very different now compared to when I first started, but more can be done to help us kick on.
While still a minority, there are plenty of talented and diverse people within our sector and beyond. We all need to make sure their voices are heard – not just about issues concerning their gender, race, sexually etc. They will offer invaluable insight into the world of business and what our sector can do to continue to grow.
I spend a lot of time in communities and with organisations trying to understand how we can all do more to encourage positive change.
For me, in the context of hospitality, it is as much about grassroots as it is at the very top. More needs to be done to create a culture where diversity is encouraged at entry-level, as well as looking at how we can support more diversity in the board room.
Our sector needs to continue working hard in the battle for talent.
While some may argue that the current COVID19 crisis means it’s an ‘employers’ market’, the onus is still on us as leaders to find ways to get the best out of people. We need to focus on the long-term strategy of retaining and attracting talent.
More profile can be given to what we do in our sector in diverse communities to help attract talent. Equally, more awareness of the business benefits of diversity need to be profiled at the very top.
One cannot succeed without the other.