Lorraine Copes is the founder of Be Inclusive Hospitality in addition to her roles as head of procurement at Corbin & King and as a life coach. Here she explains the problems in our industry and how she intends to affect change. Plus, a starting point for essential resources.
“Throughout my 18 years in hospitality, my procurement career has broadly included pubs, contract catering, casual dining and, for the past four years, fine dining. I have not only worked within hospitality, I have lived and breathed the industry, from dining out for lunch and dinner, to consuming food literature and media, yet in my eyes there has been a glaring and consistent absence.
On the surface, hospitality appears to be a diverse sector, and there is not a cuisine type – particularly in London – that is not accessible at any time of the day or night. With that in mind, the closer I began to look, the more I felt that diversity was reserved for certain ‘pockets’ of the sector, and where it was pretty much absent was, food press, media or the upper echelons of leadership roles within the sector. Diversity seemed to be reserved for mostly junior operational roles, with very few exceptions.
This is supported by 2018/19 ONS data for the food service and accommodation category, which reports that 17.83% of the sector identifies as non-white, way ahead of the 14% non-white within the UK population. Comparing these figures with industry awards, events, exhibitions, and restaurant reviews, this 17.83% is a rarity to see, and for me these spaces have felt neither diverse or inclusive.
I am personally an optimist, pragmatist, and a firm believer that both honesty and education are the cornerstones of progress, and so at the end of 2019, I started to explore in ways in which I was personally able to support change within the industry.
This eventually led to me officially launching Be Inclusive Hospitality as a not-for-profit organisation in the summer of 2020 with a mission to drive education, build community, amplify voices and accelerate racial equality within the sector.
The mission of Be Inclusive Hospitality will be delivered through three key pillars: partnerships allowing us to collaborate with business leaders for change; learning and development initiatives in order to level the playing field; and events, which I believe is essential to ensure that the industry is able to come on the journey of education and understanding, whilst amplifying the voices of the previously unheard.
At the root of our partnerships is being able to provide data and insights in order to better inform decision-making on matters of inclusion and belonging. I view it as critical for businesses to make a clear distinction between the experiences and challenges faced and felt by different ethnic minorities within the sector. This gap in education being filled will mean that diversity targets will be sustained through retained talent and attracting more diverse talent.
Alongside these insights, we provide a framework for delivering real change, at all levels, that can be tailored in accordance to the size of the business.
The leading initiative for learning and development is the Elevate Mentorship scheme (see below), and this will be soon followed by coaching, scholarships, and training to level the playing field, and advance marginalised communities. We will also be hosting a variety of events throughout the calendar year to celebrate and champion the community, along with educational workshops, talks and webinars.
We are adopting a multipronged approach to driving racial equality to ensure that no part of the organisational structure is left behind on the journey.
Our priority since launch this summer has been to build the community, which is growing at pace, and the community is made of employees from Black, Asian and Minority ethnic backgrounds, but also individuals and organisations who champion change through action.
Having built a community of more than 300 Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic individuals working throughout the sector, there is a huge appetite for growth and advancement, though disappointingly I have heard countless stories of being overlooked.
Appreciating that the hospitality sector is going through a tremendously difficult time at the moment, and as the resilient sector that it is, it will absolutely recover. What I believe that this time presents, is an opportunity for businesses to re-build a better business to prior Covid-19. Gender equality has unwaveringly sat at the top table along with all business priorities for a long time, my hope is the racial equality can now sit beside it.”
The Elevate Mentorship Scheme is due to commence this autumn. The programme has been created to elevate career development for BAME employees and entrepreneurs within the hospitality sector. We will offer both junior to senior and peer to peer mentoring using a cloud-based platform because making a notable change within the lives of our members, and the sector itself is crucial, and we want to measure success. Peer to peer is valuable, because it allows individuals from very different walks of life being able to connect with one another, with a sector and occupation in common.
We have a diverse group of amazing and talented role models, including James Cochran, Ben Chapman, Rukmini Iyer, Jimi Famurewa and Nokx Majozi.
Black Book is a global representation platform for Black and non-white people working within hospitality and food media. Founded in June 2020, the team now includes Eileen Twum – Head of Business Strategy. Black Book stands for Visibility, Equality, Equity and Wealth Creation.
Through panel discussions available online, a podcast launching in November, events such as the upcoming Black History Month series, Black Book is looking to engage in meaningful conversations to change the systemic inequalities and erasure that has been in hospitality for a long time.
The ultimate aim is to support these communities in achieving personal and career growth objectives whilst advocating for appropriate recognition, visibility and rewards for their work. This is achieved through representing emerging and existing talent through PR and Talent Management services, offering consultancy services to companies and brands wanting to align better with a vision for a more inclusive industry, and facilitating brand partnerships around our content, which will help to build our holistic mentorship programme launching in 2021.
Gurd Loyal writes: “As a second generation British-Indian, my own cooking unites my birth-born Britishness, the flavours of my Indian heritage, and global cuisines I’ve been fortunate enough to experience first-hand throughout my career.
This proclaiming of identity through food is why I started Mother Tongue – an online platform that celebrates and connects food stories of migration, race, (in)authenticity and second generation culinary identity around the world.
Each person profiled joyfully, shares the epicurean creativity that is unique to their own heritage, migration story and racial identity – true to their individual narrative and completely authentic to them. The common thread that unites them all, is that each person has – at some point in their lives – had to navigate the experience of being perceived as ‘other’ by majority communities wherever they live in the world today.
The lived experiences of these individuals shape the food that they create in their restaurants, the words that they put into their writing and the values that they attach to the incredible brands they are establishing. In doing so, they each loudly bring their stories to the table to be heard – challenging ‘otherness’ and re-centering the global food conversation in the most delicious of ways.”
@mothertonguetv / mothertonguetv.com
Sourced is a public research project whose founders are both are writers and academics with experience in the restaurant industry. They believe that food and drink are biological and cultural rights and want the global food and drink systems to reflect that through empathetic, transparent and inclusive practices; and are seeking to decolonise culinary experiences. They are dividing the year up into ‘seasons’ to focus research on specific ingredients, with reading lists, monthly tutorials, articles and commissioned research so others can have access to the learning. You can support this project and the research through their paid-for newsletters at £3.50 a month.