Looking Ahead with Confidence
By: Alex Schrecengost, AVP Wilson Daniels
Sharing food and wine is, at its heart, a celebration of culture and history. As an industry, we believe that we can make a lasting difference by focusing on the people we work with and how we choose to respond to national and international crises like the protests in support of racial injustice awareness, and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Black employees in the restaurant industry have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic during a time of national reckoning, and we stand unequivocally by their side in the fight for permanent, lasting reform during this exceptionally challenging time. Addressing these deficiencies is the foundation of my commitment. And while quarantine measures continue to impact hospitality operations around the country, we have many reasons to look ahead with confidence.
On an objective level, diversity is quantifiable, achieved when individuals with a broad variety of life experiences and perspectives form a community. This on its own, however, is insufficient for meaningful change. Leaders within the hospitality industry have shown admirable resolve to use this time in history to reflect and improve not only their own capacities for compassion and understanding, but the way their businesses operate — not limited to wine buyback programs during restaurant closures, and increased charitable giving. They’ve also made the most of online communication and sales, digital advertising and marketing, and video conferencing to maximize at-home efforts, and establish efficient new best practices for the future.
We especially commend those who have reassessed their personnel practices, from conducting more inclusive recruitment outreach and actively monitoring opportunities through an equitable lens to mandatory sensitivity training. These tangible efforts will provide a more equitable professional environment for all, and I personally welcome the change.
On a subjective level, a diverse community also amplifies and hears voices that are silenced or marginalized. It considers the intent or impact of words, policies and individual actions as it works toward eliminating the causes of discrimination. The outpouring of support for Black chefs and restaurateurs as well as mixologists, food stylists, photographers, journalists and wine and spirit professionals is long-overdue, and is laying a strong foundation for supporting these talented, dedicated members of the family that makes up the larger hospitality industry. Heartfelt digital and social campaigns seek to share helpful resources and communicate a collective pledge to see these measures through, and affect change that will outlast our own generations.
All of us are looking forward to getting back to work, reconnecting with our colleagues, and continuing to bring food and wine enthusiasts together to make new memories. We’re up against challenges that many of us have not yet encountered during our careers, or even lifetimes, but we hope the strength, resilience, and above response of the hospitality industry will serve as a bellwether for other sectors entering the first stages of reopening. In the meantime, it’s essential that we all continue to seek out and support local Black and minority-owned businesses to keep them operational until we’re able to resume our normal routines, and remain steadfast in our commitment to be catalysts for lasting change as we all rebuild.