Race Forward Unveils Racial Equity Toolkit to Help Restaurateurs Address Long-Existing Racial Disparities Across Industry


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Xakota Espinoza
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Race Forward Unveils Racial Equity Toolkit to Help Restaurateurs Address Long-Existing Racial Disparities Across Industry

Adding Racial Equity to the Menu is part of a nationwide movement led by ROC United to better the conditions of restaurant employees 

November 6, 2017 (Oakland, CA) - Leading multiracial justice nonprofit Race Forward: The Center for Racial Justice Innovation has partnered with Restaurant Opportunities Center United (ROC United), Homeroom, and the Alta Restaurant Group to unveil Adding Racial Equity to the Menu: An Equity Toolkit for Restaurant Owners, for restaurateurs committed to equity in their establishments.

Adding Racial Equity to the Menu was designed to assist restaurant owners across the nation who are now recognizing the long-held pattern of occupational segregation in the industry and are taking immediate steps to address it, while encouraging other restaurants to follow in suit. 

Years of research have found that increasing racial equity can benefit businesses’ bottom lines, particularly in the form of higher retention rates, employee morale, and productivity. The toolkit provides restaurateurs with strategies and tools for assessing race and gender bias in everyday operations, and recommendations for advancing just outcomes for their employees in the realms of recruitment, hiring, and promotions.  The goal is to ensure that the policies, practices, and culture of a restaurant create equitable opportunities and outcomes for workers of all races and genders.

“Race Forward has a near 40-year history of conducting cutting edge research on the intersection of race and the economy,”  said Glenn Harris, President of Race Forward. “A critical component of our research involves identifying race-explicit, systemic solutions for advancing economic equity and improving outcomes for workers of color. This requires an examination of the root causes of racial inequities in the restaurant industry, including the conscious and unconscious policies and practices that foster systemic racism.”

In part driven by a rising social consciousness and the commitment of consumers to choose venues that align with their values, a growing number of restaurants are exploring making the fair treatment and compensation of employees a prominent part of their mission, operations, customer appeal, and overall brand.

Essential to this transformative process is the need for employers to interrupt the implicit biases that may unknowingly be embedded in their hiring and promotions processes. 

“Occupational segregation and inequality are rampant in every facet of America’s restaurant industry, impacting worker compensation, benefits, work hours, workplace safety, hiring, promotion and workers rights,” said ROC United Co-Founder and Co-Director Saru Jayaraman. “Rooting out implicit bias at restaurants and across the industry requires a deep and active commitment to equity, but it is not out of reach. We hope this toolkit can help courageous employers learn and lead amidst the growing appetite for equity across the nation.”

Within the restaurant industry, White males dominate the more lucrative and external-facing positions, as well as managerial roles. White workers are more likely to be interviewed, and twice as likely to be hired over equally or better-qualified workers of color applying to the same fine-dining establishments. Adding Racial Equity to the Menu is an attempt to forge a stronger, fairer restaurant industry where everyone has a seat at the table.

"Racial equity is a part of doing responsible and ethical business. Diversity makes us a stronger team, and we are proud to be united in our shared values and common goals," said Rikki Thompson, People and Culture Manager at Homeroom. "We strive to embody our values by ensuring that our employees of color feel valued, that their voices are heard, and that their talents are recognized and rewarded."

To download Adding Racial Equity to the Menu: An Equity Toolkit for Restaurant Owners visit: www.raceforward.org/research/reports/adding-racial-equity-menu-equity-toolkit-restaurant-employers.


Racial Equity Assessment for Restaurants

  • Track Your Numbers Worksheet, to calculate restaurants’ current rate of occupational segregation.
  • Analyze Your Choice Points, a self-assessment tool for examining policies and practices in recruitment, hiring, and advertising
  • Racial Equity Planning and Implementation Guide

Racial Equity Planning and Implementation Guide

  • Six Principles of Good Racial Equity Practice
  • Key Tactics to Successfully Overcome Implicit Bias 


Research over many years has proven a focus on racial equity can benefit businesses financially in the following ways:

  • Racially diverse leadership incorporates a wider range of skills and experiences into overall business operations that can more easily spot trouble areas and innovate into new territory, increasing sales.
  • Along those same lines, diverse managers and supervisors who have experience in back-of-the house as well as front-of-the-house positions will better understand all employees’ needs and therefore increase productivity.
  • Failing to eliminate barriers to the recruitment and advancement of people of color means missing out on talent, leading to loss in productivity.
  • Employees feel valued and proud to be working in a restaurant that prioritizes racial equity, leading to an increase in retention and a decrease in the costs of staff turnover.
  • Customers want to support a business that values its workers by providing an equitable pay and benefits scale, increasing sales.



Race Forward: The Center for Racial Justice Innovation united with Center for Social Inclusion in 2017 to become the new Race Forward.

Founded in 1981, Race Forward brings systemic analysis and an innovative approach to complex race issues to help people take effective action toward racial equity. Founded in 2002, CSI catalyzes community, government, and other institutions to dismantle structural racial inequity and create equitable outcomes for all.

The new Race Forward is home to the Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE), a national network of government working to achieve racial equity and advance opportunities for all. Race Forward publishes the daily news site Colorlines and presents Facing Race, the country’s largest multiracial conference on racial justice.


Co-founded by leading workers’ rights advocates Fekkak Mamdouh and Saru Jayaraman (“One of the top 50 most influential people in the restaurant industry” – Nation’s Restaurant News), ROC United has nearly 25,000 worker members, more than 200 restaurant employer members, and several thousand consumer members nationwide, winning over 20 worker-led campaigns, and recovering over $10 million in stolen tips and wages.