What Immigrant Restaurant Workers Bring to the Table
Immigrant workers are an imperative force in the United States job market. As of 2018, they made up 17% of the American workforce. In addition, many Americans work in the foodservice industry, which means many immigrants work in this sector. Why is this important to know?
Immigrant restaurant workers bring a lot to the table – literally. In fact, they’re changing the face of the U.S. food industry for the better, bringing in fresh ideas, filling necessary jobs, and providing an accurate representation of what America ostensibly stands for. There are so many benefits to hiring immigrant workers, and yet, many still find themselves looking for employment. Is your restaurant in need of more diversity? Have you been on the fence about bringing in immigrant workers?
It’s time to understand the facts and recognize the incredible benefits that accepting the “melting pot” can bring.
Diversity Brings Productivity
Innovation is the lifeblood of any successful restaurant. Bringing creativity to your dishes will keep patrons coming back for more. In a competitive market, dishes can quickly get stale, or and your staff can grow to feel uninspired. Hiring workers from diverse cultural backgrounds can freshen your menu with those ideas.
Immigrants help with productivity in multiple ways. First, they can provide critical insights. No matter the position you’re hiring them for, listen to what they have to say from a cultural perspective. Different perspectives under one roof are key for developing new dishes, a more upbeat and positive work environment, and better productivity. Brainstorming sessions are often more successful the more diverse they are, and including your immigrant workers in your sessions contributes to this.
Additionally, the diverse influence of someone from another country can change the way you think about food.
Think about the growth of food fusion over the last decade. From tacos and tortas to sushi and shawarma, foods from other countries have become popular with little Americanization, largely thanks to the cultures that introduced them. That’s really nothing new, though. We’re a country founded by immigrants, each bringing over cooking techniques and recipes from their home countries. Today, that continues and can give your own business a boost when you’re willing to think outside the box and empower immigrant workers to add something new to the menu.
Filling in Skill Gaps
In addition to bringing new perspectives to the foodservice industry, immigrants tend to fill in gaps – both physically and with their skills. They have diverse skill sets that can certainly come in handy in a variety of restaurant positions. For example, many immigrants are skilled in:
- Agricultural practices
- Construction and repair
- Animal farming
From fixing things on the fly to helping you source the best local produce and meat, it may not be hard to think of the gaps your restaurant faces that an immigrant could help with.
Additionally, it’s been shown that immigrant workers are filling in the labor market. Many of them are willing to work longer hours and nontraditional shifts. In the restaurant industry, you know how important that is.
If you’re having a hard time finding good talent or even struggling to find workers willing to do the job with which they’ve been tasked, chances are you’re not putting enough of your focus on non-native individuals.
What Challenges Do Immigrant Workers Face?
As crucial as immigrant restaurant workers are to the industry, that doesn’t mean they don’t face an uphill battle. Many immigrants still encounter multiple forms of discrimination daily, no matter where they’re from.
For starters, they’re at risk for the same types of discrimination anyone can face, including:
- Disability discrimination
- Religious discrimination
- Status as a parent
They can also experience ageism, especially when the restaurant industry is so full of young people, employers might assume that older individuals can’t keep up.
In addition to these common forms of discrimination, however, immigrant workers often face so much more. As hard as it is to talk about, racism is still alive and well. There will always be people — whether customers or workers — who won’t see immigrants as equals. When you have someone like that working for you, setting up some discrimination policies is key to avoid fostering a toxic work environment. This is also why it’s important to have people trained in cultural sensitivity to immigrants’ multiple identities and complex experiences, so they can anticipate problems before they arise.
Policies should also be in place to provide equal pay. Unfortunately, not all immigrant restaurant workers make what they’re worth. Many of them send money back to their families in their native countries, so equal pay is crucial and should be the only acceptable option in your business.
If you haven’t yet considered it, creating a diverse environment in your restaurant could be the perfect solution to move forward, grow, and appeal to a wider audience. The right employees from other countries could be just what your restaurant needs to thrive.
Read more about building a winning restaurant team in our article below
About the Author
Beau Peters is a creative professional with a lifetime of experience in service and care. As a manager, he’s learned a slew of tricks of the trade that he enjoys sharing with others who have the same passion and dedication that he brings to his work. When he is not writing, he enjoys reading and trying new things.