This is for all the blowhards who pontificate that restaurants are a graveyard of ambition. I know that for a certainty, they confidently enlighten us, because I (take your pick here) waited tables, bussed dishes, worked a fast-food counter, delivered pizzas, valet-parked cars—all for minimum wage. It’s a bust.
There’s no doubt that restaurants are a tough slog. The hours are long, the work is intense, and there are more moving parts than a Lady GaGa dance outfit. But for those who view the dining room as a Broadway stage with napkins, who vibrate with delight every time a guest walks out with a smile, there’s no better opportunity. This is where they’re striving to make their mark—with all the relish of an aspiring rock star.
That’s borne out by new research from the National Restaurant Association. Elsewhere in the economy, minorities are hamstrung by systematic disadvantage that's hard to spot because it's so ingrained. The NRA data proves that restaurants have given minorities more management jobs than they’ve found anywhere else.
The ownership findings are even more impressive. The number of Hispanic restaurant proprietors has soared by 42% in five years, according to the NRA.
Women have also made dizzying strides. In 2002, women owned only 25.8% of independent restaurants, and just 13.2% of franchised outlets, according to a study released at the time by the International Franchise Association. Currently, according to the NRA data, women pay the taxes and manage the P&L’s of nearly half of all U.S. restaurants, which number nearly 1 million in total.
Clearly the restaurant industry has its challenges. Indeed, its unparalleled opportunities often land a young person in a management position that requires 110% of their people skills, a situation the business is constantly addressing.
But lack of opportunity is not one of its shortcomings.