The saying goes to never mix business and politics, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to remain neutral in the restaurant business — especially because it is the business of people and a business founded on hospitality and diverse cuisines.
We’ve seen political involvement backfire in the case of Grubhub’s stock dropping after CEO Matt Maloney released a message against Trump, and we’ve seen others rise and come together, like in the case of nearly 100 D.C. restaurants during Inauguration weekend that committed to donating toward causes that could be at risk by Trump’s administration.
And if the saying is to never bring up politics at the dinner table, then when it comes to the debate on immigration policies, you’ll often find that both sides will choose to sit at very, very opposite ends of the dinner table.
Immigration reform is not a new discussion to the restaurant industry. The layers in this dialogue, whether it is about wages or political views, run deep. Some may argue that the immigrant workforce is the bloodline of the restaurant business, key players who help drive the industry and keep it alive. In an effort to protect their staff members, roughly 80 businesses and counting have begun seeking sanctuary status to show solidarity. Celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain even once said that “every restaurant in America would shut down” without them. Others are concerned about the issues regarding hires who are undocumented and how that could affect those in the workforce who are documented. With both viewpoints so polarized, what is the solution?
“Today’s immigration system is broken. It makes sense to fix it. Restaurants embody the American Dream like no other industry,” the National Restaurant Association, which supports sensible, meaningful steps to immigration reform, stated on its website. “The relationship benefits both sides: Immigrants gain valuable job experience and immediate access to opportunities, and restaurants can fill positions at every level.”
And there are a lot of positions to fill. With the restaurant industry expected to add 1.8 million jobs over the next decade, the NRA reported that more jobs will be created than the U.S.-born workforce can take responsibility for. Regardless of which side of the spectrum restaurant owners fall, there are a few things that almost everyone can agree on: deportation doesn’t have to be the answer if the more than 11 million undocumented workers who abide by the law and contribute economically to their communities had a clear path to legalization; and that, yes, the United States needs stronger border security, but travel and tourism should still be facilitated because tourism drives about a fifth of all restaurant sales.
From the subtle to the bold, here are how different voices in foodservice have decided to show support for immigrant workers.
1. Budweiser’s Super Bowl Ad a Touchdown for the Immigrant Struggle
This weekend will be a big one for football fans, but the Super Bowl isn’t the only super thing going on. Budweiser’s 2017 Super Bowl ad, titled “Born the Hard Way”, tells a story that many in the immigrant workforce are familiar with, a story that hits close to home with the major beer brand’s co-founder, Adolphus Busch.
“You don’t look like you’re from around here,” the video kicks off, those words jarring the driven, strapping Busch in his youth as he traverses his way from Germany to the United States. Curses of “You’re not wanted here! Go back home!” were slung his way, too, as he endured grueling challenge after challenge. From diving off of burning boats to slugging through freezing cold swamps, his dreams fueled him and eventually he arrived at the shores of St. Louis where his famous brewery came to life.
In a press release, Budweiser said its hopes for the video were to “resonate with today’s entrepreneurial generation” and that this ad was not a response to the latest of President Donald Trump’s executive orders on immigration, although it seems that way. Budweiser’s team actually first began developing the commercial eight months ago. Still, the beer giant admitted ot is relevant today.
“It’s true. Adolphus Busch made an incredible journey to this country, and that’s really what this is about. It’s about his vision, his dream, everything he does to achieve that,” Budweiser Vice President and Executive Ricardo Marques said to Adweek. “Even though it happened in the 1850s, it’s a story that is super relevant today. That’s what we’re honing in on. It’s the pursuit, the effort, the passion, the drive, the hard work, the ambition. That’s really what this is about more than anything else.”
Political statement or not (unlike Kia’s Super Bowl spot, which was clearly backed environmental protection), this ad struck a chord with many of its viewers, instantly making headlines across numerous publications.
“This is the story of the original self-made man, one of the founders of the American Dream, making it the hard way, and his path that all came after him followed,” Laura Rowan of the brand’s creative branch said, according to Adweek. ”We then see the words appear: ‘When nothing will stop your dream, this is the beer you’ll drink.’ We end with the Budweiser logo…‘This Bud’s for you.’”
2. Honey Butter Fried Chicken Is Hatching Up More for the Sanctuary Restaurant Movement
Chicago is a famous culinary destination, and Chicago’s Honey Butter Fried Chicken is a famous fast casual that blows away many diners in the Windy City. (We even got to “peck” their minds on this Foodable episode.) Now, Honey Butter Fried Chicken is one of the dozens of restaurants promising a place of understanding to immigrants and other communities who feel at risk in the current political climate.
Sanctuary restaurants, which do not allow people to be harassed because of their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or refugee or immigrant status, also promise to protect targeted workers and “a place at the table for everyone” at their businesses — which is the core of hospitality.
“It’s a positive response to what at times has been not so productive or positive rhetoric in our national politics,” Honey Butter co-owner Josh Kulp said to the Chicago Tribune. He and his team offer his employees paid sick and parental leave, as well as advocate for pro-worker policies.
“...What we’re trying to say to them and to our customers is that we’re a safe haven, and we’re a restaurant committed to putting our neighborhood and our community and our staff first,” he continued. “I hope that good businesses all over the country already do these things. ...Sometimes it’s important to make it clear, especially in times when you feel that not everyone is on the same page.”
3. Corona Says America Has Always Been Great
Budweiser wasn’t the only beer company brewing up a compelling story, except Corona packed a bigger punch in its video. As it seems that Trump is further progressing with his plans to build a wall and due to the economic decisions he’s made affecting Mexican trade, Corona launched its “Make America Great Again?” commercial, which called for the celebration of diversity and end of division in America — the continent — as a whole.
“America is the land of opportunity. A land of more than a billion people. Wild America. Multicultural America. United America. Enough of using our name to create division. That’s not who we are. We are a diverse land and we are proud of our colors,” the ad says. “We are poetry, art, and song. We are a constant revolution, an undeniable celebration. We are all. ...We are all Americans and that’s why America has always been great.”
4. Starbucks Coffee in Boiling Water for Stance on Immigration
The immigration debate is incendiary, and Starbucks willingly put itself in hot water to make its stance on Trump’s immigration views known. The coffee giant had its name plastered across headlines when CEO Howard Schultz penned a letter to employees promising to hire 10,000 refugees across 75 countries over a period of five years. This decision came only days after Trump’s executive order barring refugee entry into the United States, as well as his 90-day ban by citizens in seven predominantly Muslim nations.
“...We will neither stand by, nor stand silent, as the uncertainty around the new administration’s actions grows with each passing day. ...Starbucks has and will always stand for opportunity — opportunity for our young people who are working to land their first job in the 75 countries where we do business, opportunity for our farmers who care so deeply for the highest of quality coffee we offer to customers all around the globe, and yes, opportunity for those who come to America in search of their own fresh start,” Schultz wrote.
“We are in the business to inspire and nurture the human spirit, one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time — whether that neighborhood is a Red State or Blue State; a Christian or a Muslim country; a divided nation or a united nation. That will not change. You have my word on that,” he continued.
Schultz stated that hiring would begin with those who served in the U.S. troops as support personnel and interpreters, and he also offered support to Mexican customers and partners as the Trump administration’s trade intentions and proposed sanctions come to light.
5. King of Pop Coca-Cola Believes Travel Ban Should Fizz Out
Coca-Cola isn’t the first King of Pop who had something to say about the new administration, as PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi urged for unity post-election but also showed concerns about “locker room” language. Now, according to The Wall Street Journal, Coca-Cola Co. CEO Muhtar Kent expressed his criticisms of the U.S. travel ban.
“Coca-Cola Co. is resolute in its commitment to diversity, fairness, and inclusion, and we do not support this travel ban or any policy that is contrary to our core values and beliefs,” Kent wrote in an email.
As the largest soft drink seller worldwide, the company is reviewing any effects the ban could have on its employees and vowed to respond accordingly. Kent, who is Turkish-American, is also first-generation American and was born in New York while his father served as Turkey’s general consul.
“As a U.S. company that has operations in more than 200 countries and territories, we respect people from all backgrounds and greatly value the diversity of our global system’s more than 700,000 associates,” Kent said. “We are continuing to assess any potential impact to our employees, and will provide them with appropriate support as needed.”
6. The Food Fight: Celebrity Chef José Andres Says “Food Is Politics”
You may recognize the name José Andrés, the award-winning chef who became the James Beard Foundation Outstanding Chef of 2011, one of Time’s Most Influential 100 People in 2012, and the Spanish-American chef often known as the man who brought the small-plate-dining concept to the United States. You may also know him as the man who works to reduce food waste, provide increasing access to healthy food, an advocate for job training, and the winner of the 2016 National Humanities Award.
You may also know him as the man Donald Trump is suing. Why? He made a contract to open a new restaurant in a Trump D.C. hotel, but after Trump’s latest anti-immigrant statements, Andrés felt that the deal could not be honored and the promise was nullified. He backed out and called for foodies to stand up because the nature of food is politics. He himself is a champion of the immigrant struggle. Before he became a citizen in 2013, he made his way to New York in 1990 with nothing but $50 and a set of knives.
“We cannot just [make] a law that implies everybody is bad,” he said to Washington Post, acknowledging that, yes, being undocumented is not a solution, but that there are remedies besides citizenship and that this status does not make them inherently the bad, ill-intentioned criminals most are painted to be. “Get them work visas. ...Give them a path to citizenship.”
Where do you stand in the restaurant industry? How do you think we can show support for our immigrant workforce while still progressing reform in the United States?