Chip Wade was named CEO of the New York-based restaurant group last year./Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.
Chip Wade would like to see more people at the top that look like him.
In a LinkedIn post for Black History Month, the CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group in New York challenged restaurant industry leaders to do more to make the hospitality industry, frankly, more hospitable to all by actively promoting more diversity in the C-suite.
“What’s been on my mind recently is the disconnect between what hospitality, at its core, is—fostering inclusive, welcoming spaces for people to come together in comfort—and what the field looks like from where I stand as an executive,” Wade wrote on Tuesday.
In 2014, the restaurant industry had only six Black CEOs, said Wade, who before joining USHG spent 17 years as an executive with Red Lobster and Darden Restaurants.
Today there are even fewer, he said.
That’s a problem that is not unique to the restaurant industry, he notes. But it’s a particular problem for an industry with hospitality at its very core.
People feel comfortable in places where they see themselves in others, he said.
“When you see yourself represented—in the waitstaff, the bartender, the maître d, and, yes, the owner—the message is unmistakable: you belong, you are welcome here,” he wrote.
And that’s what many miss in the ongoing conversation about growing more diverse businesses, he said.
“All of this has to start at the top. More diverse guests won’t come if they can’t see themselves in the employees, but more diverse employees won’t come if they can’t see themselves in senior management,” he wrote.
Wade encouraged white executives to deliberately invest in a bench of managers from underrepresented groups who can rise through the ranks.
To senior leaders of color, he called for more mentorship, urging them to coach and guide the next generation.
He also challenged business leaders to embrace transparency and set goals for equitable hiring and advancement.
Union Square Hospitality Group, for example, which is parent to restaurant brands that include Union Square Café and Gramercy Tavern, as well as concepts like Marta, Manhatta, Blue Smoke and the more casual Daily Provisions, offers quarterly updates on equity and opportunity within the company.
The group has a goal of reaching a balance of being 50% male/female, for example. At the end of the third quarter last year, the balance between 1,971 employees overall was 60% male to 40% female.
USHG met its goals on race, however, as the company works toward people of color making up at least 50% of the overall workforce, though the senior leadership team was still 82% white, 9% Black and 9% Asian. “There’s always room to grow and improve,” wrote Wade.
To young people climbing the ranks, Wade said, “Stay curious and learn … and deliver superior results in your area of responsibility.”
“The best thing you can do is to perform. To be indispensable at your job. Because you can’t drive meaningful change if you get fired,” wrote Wade, quoting Gerry Fernandez, founder of the Multicultural Foodservice & Hospitality Alliance.
It’s not the first time Wade has waded into bigger-picture issues. Last year, he took on gun reform in the wake of mass shootings in New York and Texas, for example.
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