The world is changing. The consumer is changing. The food we eat is becoming more diverse. It only makes sense that the leaders who run the restaurant industry also have a more diverse profile. Fast casual and the restaurant industry in general have always welcomed diversity. Food inherently is very diverse and brings all cultures and walks of life together. We should continue to think about globalization and have the restaurant industry always on the forefront of diversity as a result.
Meet the game changers:
TAVA KITCHEN Hasnain Zaidi FOUNDER AND COO. “At Tava, we believe deeply in the power of diversity—of ethnicity, of gender, of background, all of it. Having people who look at the world differently, who see things differently, who have their own unique spin on things helps spur creativity and push the envelope.” www.tavakitchen.com/
POTBELLY. Aylwin Lewis CEO. “Diversity must be more than words: You have to live it, just like your company’s other values. Having diverse people present with their thoughts and ideas adds a richness to the conversation. When you embrace diversity, your company will be better and your customers will be better served.” www.potbelly.com/
BILLY SIMS BARBECUE. Billy Sims- FOUNDER. “Diversity offers a productive environment that cultivates success. If everyone brings the same ideas to the table, then we become stale. At the C-suite level, we must be progressive in our forward thinking.” www.billysimsbbq.com/
CHI’LANTRO BBQ. Jae Kim FOUNDER & CEO. “The Original Kimchi Fries. Today, we are globally known for our Original Kimchi Fries, and we go through over 100,000 pounds of fries per year with our homemade kimchi. ” www.chilantrobbq.com
PICA PICA. Arepas. Adriana Lopez Vermut OWNER AND COFOUNDER. A lot of people who open ethnic restaurants seek to serve their own group. We have focused on using Venezuelan cookery, but we’ve taken liberties with how we present it. Probably 95 percent of my guests are not Latin, let alone Venezuelan. picapica.com
SEOUL TACO. David Choi FOUNDER. Food is about diversity and exposing a wider audience to a specific culture.
LOLO’S SEAFOOD SHACK Leticia Skai Young-Mohan CO-OWNER & CEO. People are at the core of what we do in the restaurant industry and diversity creates more meaningful and deeper connections by drawing on our collective experiences. This benefits both consumer as well as the company. http://www.lolosseafoodshack.com
NUM PANG. Ratha Chaupoly. COFOUNDER. Fast-casual properties are designed to feed more people and, therefore, expose more people to different cultures through food. http://www.numpangnyc.com/
PINCHO FACTORY. Otto Othman, Nedal Ahmad, and Nizam Ahmad- PARTNERS. Diversity breeds originality. It is vital that in today’s world, organizations have the tools needed to adapt to the ever-changing market. And diversity gives the C-suite team various perspectives that truly help understand consumers better. A diverse group will solve a problem in a much different manner than a group of individuals with the same background. pinchofactory.com
GARBANZO MEDITERRANEAN FRESH. James Park CEO. “a diverse workforce is tantamount to creating a great culture. But “diversity” isn’t something one learns in a book or at a seminar, in a day or in a semester. You have to be deliberate about keeping it out front in your recruitment and selection process, making it a stated priority. I believe the best thinking comes from our personal experiences, coupled with a desire to continuously learn and educate ourselves.” www.eatgarbanzo.com/
CHALAK MITRA GROUP. Al Bhakti MANAGING PARTNER. http://www.genghisgrill.com/ chalakmitragroup.com
While diversity is an important issue across all facets of the restaurant industry, it’s especially critical to build a diverse framework in an emerging market like fast casual. As fast-casual concepts evolve from regional players with a handful of units to national brands with dozens of locations and multiple management levels, they have the opportunity to cultivate a powerful system-wide commitment to inclusion and diversity.
So how can a multicultural population play a bigger role the industry’s future success? We asked fast-casual leaders of Asian, Hispanic, and black heritage to share their stories—and their insights on what must be done to improve diversity in fast casual.