Senior procurement leader at restaurant operator Corbin & King, who has previously worked for the likes of Shake Shack and Gordon Ramsay, Lorraine Copes founded BAME in Hospitality in late 2019 to address the sector’s lack of diversity in managerial and leadership positions.
The organisation sets out to address the lack of black, Asian and other minority professionals in the sector, and has recently announced that its Elevate Mentorship Scheme will launch in autumn.
“I felt compelled to take action as throughout my 18 years within the sector, I have always been the only person of colour around any decision-making table, and there is a very visible barrier for career progression for people of black, Asian and other minorities within the hospitality sector, which needs to be confronted and addressed,” Copes said of the launch of BAME in Hospitality’s mentor programme.
While the organisation is calling for mentors from diverse backgrounds and mentees from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds across the hospitality sector to get in touch, Copes explains that since founding BAME in Hospitality there has been “no involvement to-date” from the pub sector.
Copes, however, believes issues around diversity should be tackled on a company-by-company basis rather than offering up broad, single solutions for the sector.
“I have observed far more diverse workforces within contract catering, casual dining and fine dining than I ever did within the pub sector,” she tells The Morning Advertiser. “It is important to recognise that there is no single solution to a sector, this must be tackled on a company-by-company basis.”
Smashing glass ceilings
According to Copes, attracting talent from diverse backgrounds into the hospitality industry is not the key issue, rather it is what happens when they arrive that needs to be addressed.
“Diversity can be mandated, but inclusion is behaviours and attitudes that live throughout company culture,” she explains. “Change will not happen overnight, but through building partnerships with organisations such as BAME in Hospitality, making a change is possible.
“For people to progress in the industry, this needs to be an agenda set from the leaders of hospitality companies and similar to the movement towards gender equality, we want to create an inclusive industry where there are no glass ceilings for anyone.
“BAME in Hospitality take a different approach to the conventional method of creating and implementing diversity and inclusion strategy, as what is currently in place is not working. We overlay research with narrative, we tailor workshops and equality framework, and we champion learning and development initiatives.
“All of this is underpinned by amplifying the voices of the previously unheard,” Copes continues. “We have a rapidly growing community of individuals of black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds, at all career levels.”
Lack of diversity in leadership
Though Copes explains the UK's black, Asian and minority ethnic population is 14% and that hospitality representation has remained ahead of this for many years – hitting 16.78% in 2011/2012 and more recently 17.83% in 2018/2019 – there is a glaring lack of diversity in what she refers to as "positions of influence", such as head chef, managerial and leadership roles.
“The problem of inequality is born out of the society that we live within, and so the hospitality sector is by no means alone on its journey or need for change,” she says.
“According to the official labour market statistics (NOMIS) for the ‘accommodation and food services category’ 17.83% of all employees are from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds. The roadblocks affect promotion, career advancement, and feelings of belonging.
“This is happening to a range of degrees dependent upon ethnicity, though what is visible is the lack of ethnic minorities within senior or leadership positions.
“The mentorship programme is one part of our learning and development aims, and will contribute to the development of our mentees, through knowledge and skills sharing.
“The other fundamental parts of our mission are working with organisations to create and implement equality strategies and amplifying previously unheard voices.”