Diversity Must Be Main Course, Industry Leader Says

As Hispanic Heritage Month continues, Gerry Fernandez explains the importance of diversity and the impact the Latino community has on our industry.

In recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month, we asked Gerry Fernandez, president and CEO of the MultiCultural Foodservice & Hospitality Alliance to talk about the influence of the Latino community on the restaurant industry. Here is what he said:

Why is diversity so important to our industry and business in general?
As we become more multigenerational, multicultural and more immigrant-influenced, companies must learn to engage with and manage diversity to be successful.

What impact have Latinos had on our industry?
The Latino community has made a huge impact on our businesses in many ways. We’ve made a lot of inroads, too, in terms of providing employment opportunities. Nevertheless, there’s still work to do. Here’s what we know now: 

  • 50.4 percent of hourly employees represent racial or ethnic minorities
  • 28.5 percent of hourly employees are Hispanic
  • 34 percent of unit level managers represent racial or ethnic minorities
  • 21.6 percent of managers are Latino

What does the future look for Latino executives?
Companies need to realize they can improve business results by having board representation from the fastest-growing consumer segment in this country. And, by the way, the Hispanic community currently represents $1.3 trillion in purchasing power. That number is only going to continue to grow.

How do we attract the next generation of Latinos to our industry?
We must develop young leaders to become the executives of tomorrow. It’s essential for us to continue planting seeds in their minds that they can have successful corporate careers or own their own businesses.

Where do you see the impact of Latinos headed?
I think, especially in the restaurant industry, their impact will continue to grow. But, we also must increase educational opportunities for Hispanic employees, offer more options to learn English and help them earn college degrees. An educated workforce is a competitive workforce. The restaurant industry must become a champion for education at all levels. We also must do a better job of recruiting top Latino students from the best schools so that we have Latino representation at all levels of the industry.

National Hispanic Heritage Month is held Sept. 15 to Oct.15. Celebrate the achievements of the Latino community on business, culture and food. The MFHA is a strategic partner of the National Restaurant Association