Multicultural Foodservice & Hospitality Alliance Celebrates 25 Years of Standing Up for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

n 1996, 17 companies came together in Chicago to create the Multicultural Foodservice & Hospitality Alliance (MFHA), an organization that promotes opportunities for people of color in the restaurant, foodservice, and lodging industry. Last month, MFHA, with its affiliates the National Restaurant Association and the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF), celebrated 25 years of building bridges of opportunity and providing solutions that empower and advance people from all backgrounds.

Since its founding, MFHA has been making the business case for diversity and inclusion in the restaurant, foodservice and hospitality industries. The MFHA mission has evolved from advocating for career opportunities for people of color, to building cultural intelligence for companies and organizations across the nation.

People of racial and ethnic minorities represent approximately 47% of the restaurant and foodservice industry workforce, and 4 in 10 restaurant managers and supervisors are minorities – more multicultural managers than any other industry.*

“For 25 years, it has been our goal to provide the information, tools, and resources necessary to elevate diversity, equity, inclusion, and cultural competency across our industry,” said Gerry Fernandez, President and Founder of MFHA. “As we look to the future, our hope is to make a positive impact on our industry, create opportunity, spark real change in our society, and make our communities better places to work and live for everyone.”

Key MFHA accomplishments include:

  • 1997: MFHA published its first “Report to the Industry,” outlining the business case and benefits of building a diverse, inclusive, and culturally competent organization.
  • 1998: First national conference highlighting The Dinner Table approach for building a diverse and inclusive organization.
  • 2000-on: Published research reports including The Diverse Executive Development Guide, Pocket Translations Guides, MFHA’s first ever Diverse Workforce Survey and Inclusive Website Assessment tool.
  • 2007: A new focus on cultural intelligence in alignment and partnership with the National Restaurant Association.
  • 2020: A new strategic plan focused on leadership development, community engagement, as well as Board and C-Suite diversity.

As part of the 25th anniversary celebration, industry leaders convened in Chicago at the National Restaurant Association headquarters to recognize MFHA milestones and announce future goals.

During the event, Max Langenkamp, chief diversity officer and senior vice president of Human Resources at Cintas, was named incoming chair of the MFHA Board of Advisors, and James Fripp, chief equity and inclusion officer, Yum! Brands, and outgoing chair of MFHA, was recognized. Tom Bené, President & CEO of the National Restaurant Association and CEO, NRAEF, gave remarks.

Fernandez also highlighted several key MFHA and NRAEF joint initiatives to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the industry:

  • Pathways to Black Franchise Ownership – a new innovative franchising initiative sponsored by PepsiCo that is designed to equip aspiring entrepreneurs to operate high-performing businesses, with a goal of creating 100 Black-owned franchise restaurants by the end of 2023.
  • Roadmap to Inclusion – a ready-to-implement best practices guidance for integrating DEI into a successful business strategy that is sustainable and measurable. 
  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Industry Survey – in partnership with the National Restaurant Association, NRAEF, and Cornell University, MFHA is conducting the first comprehensive DEI survey since 2014. The results from the survey will provide restaurant and foodservice companies information on how to better engage, grow, and empower a diverse workforce at all levels. The survey is currently planned to be released in early 2022.

“Congratulations to Gerry and the MFHA team for 25 years of success and integral work improving diversity, equity and inclusion and cultural competency in our industry,” said Rob Gifford, President, NRAEF. “The Association and Educational Foundation are proud to collaborate with MFHA as we continue the ongoing work to rebuild our industry and set even higher standards for diversity, equity, and inclusion from entry-level to the C-suite.”

* Source – U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 American Community Survey – National Restaurant Association