From restaurants claiming sanctuary status to voices in foodservice showing support through ads and social media, the plight of the immigrant worker courses deep in the industry. Celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain has even said that "every restaurant would shut down" without these workers who play a key role in the survival of restaurants and their success — especially in a turbulent, volatile industry with a labor turnover rate of more than 72 percent.
But restaurants and businesses are taking it to another level today for a "Day Without Immigrants." Whether in Boston, D.C., Houston, New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia, or other cities, establishments across the United States are joining together in protest and shutting down to reflect how their businesses and operations would not be able to run without all of their staff and team members. Will consumer restaurant favorites going dark be enough of a tough pill to swallow that people will want to make a change?
sweetgreen — a popular brand, indeed, considering that it ranked high as No. 11 in Foodable's Top 100 Most Loved Brands report — is one of the many who made their stand. Eighteen of their D.C. locations will close their doors today.
"Without the hard work and grit of our team, our stores do not run, and that means we can't make good on our promise to you, our guest," co-founders and co-CEOs, Jonathan Neman, Nicolas Jammet, and Nathaniel Ru stated in a release. "Our members are the face of the brand, from the front lines to our kitchen — they're the backbone of this company and what makes sweetgreen special. And that's exactly why we stand with them, today and every day."
High-profile chef José Andrés, heralded as the man who brought the small-plate-dining concept to the U.S. and who became the James Beard Award-winning Outstanding Chef of 2011, has been vocal in this movement, as well, despite all the buzz about his lawsuit with Donald Trump, as a result of the president's rhetoric and the administration's enforcement policies that advocate the opposite of the chef's views on immigrant rights.
"From doctors to dishwashers, immigrants are integral to daily life in the U.S.," National Council of La Raza President and CEO Janet Murguia said in a tweet, commending Chef José Andrés' move to close all of his D.C. locations today.
Five-time James Beard Award semifinalist Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza had similar sentiments.
"You know what, my restaurants don’t function without immigrants. That starts in the field, people who pick our food, the processing plants, the slaughterhouse, I could go on," she said, adding that she would close three of her Phoenix-based restaurants for the day.
The protest surged through word-of-mouth and social media, rallying and rippling enough that even some schools have cancelled classes for the day. Although this may not transform the state of the nation in 24 hours, this protest is at the very least calling attention to new possible conversations in the discussion of immigration reform, one that could lead to the better livelihood for the many men and women who support the restaurant industry.