The Important Roles Immigrants Play in Food Service
Immigrants Are All Over the Restaurant Industry
If you look at food service overall, you’ll see immigrants baked into the fabric of the industry. They’re front of house workers, back of house workers, managerial staff, business owners and every role in between. They make up 2.1M jobs in the food supply chain, which equals 22% of workers despite encompassing only 17% of American employees overall. Immigrants are…
- 34% of all bakery workers
- 37% of the meat processing industry
- 26% of the seafood processing industry
- 31% of those involved in fruit and vegetable preservation, and
- 69% of California agriculture workers.
They’re entrenched all throughout the food service supply chain. Despite this, immigrants face unique problems at work. They have a high risk of harassment and discrimination from customers and employers. Because of their precarious positions, and how many are undocumented, they don’t always have the power or safety to fight workplace injustice. Hence many immigrants, at least those who work at the lower-end jobs in the industry, are underpaid and mistreated.
So Why the Restaurant Industry?
Immigrants also make up a huge portion of small business owners, including 37% of small restaurants owners. One of the reasons that some immigrants are drawn to hospitality is because it really is one of the few places where hard work pays off. Though many professions require rigorous degrees, expensive educations and networking connections, people can and do regularly rise through the ranks in food service.
It’s also a great entry point into the local community. What better way to get to know the neighbors than providing them a cozy place to dine out? Plus this way, immigrants can introduce their home country’s cuisine to a new market. More diners are choosing to explore foods from all over the world, and it’s a great way to connect their two worlds.
What You Can Do for Immigrants
Restaurant owners and managers can do their part by providing a safe and nondiscriminatory workplace for all employees. You might support local immigrant-run businesses, too. Competition is healthy, and protecting your neighbors will create a stronger sense of community for everyone. The food service industry is a family. Thus, connecting with other businesses keeps you up to date on industry news, provides a safety net in hard times, and creates publicity opportunities when you collaborate to host events. It also means protecting vulnerable food service workers when the time comes. That time is now.
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