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New UK Study Finds a Third of Hospitality Employees Experience Discrimination

Shedding light on widespread discrimination within the hospitality sector, a new survey of more than 3,000 UK employees by Be Inclusive Hospitality, reveals troubling discoveries. Findings from the Inside Hospitality Report 2023, were shared yesterday along with panel discussions led by Be Inclusive Hospitality founder and CEO, Lorraine Copes.

Lorraine Copes, founder and CEO, Be Inclusive Hospitality announcing results of the 2023 survey at the Four Seasons Park Lane in London
Lorraine Copes, founder and CEO, Be Inclusive Hospitality announcing results of the 2023 survey at the Four Seasons Park Lane in London

Largest Survey to Date


Designed by Be Inclusive Hospitality in collaboration with Ulster University and the University of West London, this survey drew the largest sample to date––3,120 respondents––which was collected between 31 January to 31 March 2023. The topics explored within the report include Careers in Hospitality, Culture & Leadership, Lived Experience, and Training & Education––essential indicators of workplace Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.


“Over the last three years, we have seen the number of respondents increase from over 300 in 2020 to over 3,000 today," said Copes in her opening remarks. “I believe that this increase positively marks a growth in awareness and support for the work that we do. What is concerning is that the results surrounding discrimination, education at all levels, and the building of trust have remained stagnant. With this robust data set, my hope is that leaders now take heed and take action.”

What is concerning is that the results surrounding discrimination, education at all levels, and the building of trust have remained stagnant. With this robust data set, my hope is that leaders now take heed and take action. –– Lorraine Copes

Widespread Discrimination


According to the Inside Hospitality Report, one in three hospitality professionals surveyed reported experiencing discrimination in the workplace. Equally concerning, discriminatory behaviors were witnessed by over 84% of respondents at the director level, highlighting the presence of systemic biases across various levels of management. Only 52.4% of the respondents who encountered discriminatory behavior in their workplace had the opportunity to report this.


source: 2023 Inside Hospitality Report
source: 2023 Inside Hospitality Report

Racial Bias as a Prevalent Issue


Among those who reported witnessing discrimination, both Black and Asian respondents identified racial bias as the most common form of discrimination, with 62.6% of Black respondents and 62.4% of Asian respondents highlighting this issue. The findings suggest a pressing need to address racial inequities within the industry and foster an environment that promotes diversity and inclusion.

Contract Disparities and Career Advancement


The report revealed disparities in contract types and career advancement opportunities based on ethnicity. Black respondents were more likely to be on zero-hour contracts, while Asian workers were predominantly on part-time contracts. Ethnic minority groups were also more likely to hold entry-level positions and earn lower wages compared to their white counterparts. These findings underscore the importance of addressing systemic barriers to career progression and ensuring equal opportunities for all employees.


Building Trust and Addressing Discrimination


The Inside Hospitality Report also uncovered challenges related to trust and transparency in the workplace. Approximately 40% of respondents expressed a lack of complete trust in their employers' ability to effectively address different forms of discrimination. Furthermore, more than half of the participants were unaware of any equity, diversity, and inclusion initiatives undertaken by their respective companies in the past year. This highlights the urgent need for organizations to prioritize these issues and take concrete actions to foster a more inclusive workplace culture.


Call for Action to the Industry


Be Inclusive Hospitality founder, Lorraine Copes, emphasized the need for industry leaders to acknowledge the stagnant progress in combating discrimination and take decisive action. The robust dataset provided by the report serves as a powerful tool for raising awareness and implementing meaningful changes. Collaborative efforts among industry stakeholders, including employers, employees, and educational institutions, are essential to create a more inclusive and equitable hospitality industry.


Along with sharing highlights of findings from the report, Lorraine led three-panel discussions.


Bharti Radix, founder of BloomsYard; Keiron Bailey, co-founder and director, Otolo; Sting Khumalo, director of HR at Biltmore Mayfair Hotel; and Michelle Moreno, founder of QAB Leadership.
Lorraine with Michelle Moreno, Bharti Radix, Sting Khumalo, and Keiron Bailey

Leadership, Cultures and Careers with Bharti Radix, founder of BloomsYard; Keiron Bailey, co-founder and director, Otolo; Sting Khumalo, director of HR at Biltmore Mayfair Hotel; and Michelle Moreno, founder of QAB Leadership.


Eva Arnalz, MD of the Village People Pub Group; Gillian Jackson, director of engagement at House of St Barnabas; Resh Sonchhalta, founder of Chapati Club; and Theo-Lee Houston, founder + CEO of Slinger.
Lorraine with Gillian Jackson, Resh Sonchhalta, Theo-Lee Houston, and Eva Arnalz.

The Role of Education to Advance Change with Eva Arnalz, MD of the Village People Pub Group; Gillian Jackson, director of engagement at House of St Barnabas; Resh Sonchhalta, founder of Chapati Club; and Theo-Lee Houston, founder + CEO of Slinger.

Dorothea Jones, EDI lead at the Institute of Hospitality; Lisa Wang, consultant at Recipes for Inclusion; Olajide Alabi; EDI partner at Turtle Bay Restaurants; and Raj Markanadoo, operations manager at Bubula.
Lorraine with Olajide Alabi, Dorothea Jones, Lisa Wang, and Raj Markanadoo

Combatting Discrimination at Work with Dorothea Jones, EDI lead at the Institute of Hospitality; Lisa Wang, consultant at Recipes for Inclusion; Olajide Alabi; EDI partner at Turtle Bay Restaurants; and Raj Markanadoo, operations manager at Bubula.


Top 7 takeaways from those conversations and the Q&A:

  1. Stark contrast between the back of house and boardrooms. Hospitality prides itself on having employees from many different countries, the classic "We have team members from 80 different nationalities!" yet people of color are not seen in the C-suite, and there are rarely effective programs in place to include diverse backgrounds.

  2. Tokenism is also an issue. Directors and managers face discrimination at a higher rate, there is less diversity you rise. In order to help rising leaders, more support is needed. Companies need to unpack internalized discrimination and take notice of microaggressions, and find ways to open the doors for more diverse leadership.

  3. Measure what you treasure, transparency is key. Companies need to hold themselves accountable in order to build a culture of trust. This can be done through ongoing employee surveys, studying, and learning from data is key to this and most importantly making changes.

  4. Shift the mindset to one of "cultural humility," where we are openly curious about other cultures. Learning about new cultures can be uncomfortable and nobody likes to feel shame about ignorance. If you celebrate learning about other cultures it allows for growth, open conversations and acceptance.

  5. Diverse companies are profitable and DEI makes good business sense, but companies need to invest in training and education. When you keep people longer, you save money, there is no debating that especially with the current labor challenges.

  6. Diversity targets are important but not a stand-alone solution.

  7. Ongoing education and training is the key to moving forward. Consistency is key to making progress toward a more equitable future.

Be Inclusive Hospitality is a not-for-profit social enterprise open to corporate collaborations and offers resources including training, education, mentorships, awards, events, and more. To learn more or get involved, email Lorraine Copes. Click here for the full Inside Hospitality Report.

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