Celebrating Black History Month in the Service Industry

Celebrating Black History Month in the Service Industry

During Black History Month, Path Forward is highlighting the growing number of African Americans working in the restaurant and retail industries. The service sector is one of the most diverse industries in the country, and provides work opportunities to people of all backgrounds and ages, allowing millions of Americans a chance to succeed as both employees and business owners. Below are some key facts about how African Americans are finding opportunity and making an impact on restaurants and retail stores.

  • Restaurants employ more minority managers than any other industry. In 2014, 15 percent of first-line supervisors/managers in food preparation and service employees were African American.
  • According to U.S. Census Data, the number of African American owned restaurants has grown 49 percent between 2007 and 2012.
  • In November 2016, the National Restaurant Association welcomed the Multicultural Foodservice and Hospitality Alliance (MFHA) reinforcing their collective commitment to promoting and elevating diversity in the restaurant industry.
  • The Black Retail Action Group (BRAG), is a group of retail executives who focus on securing a place for young African Americans in the retail and fashion industry. BRAG has helped more than 1,100 students work at different retail companies, such as Bloomingdale’s, Foot Locker and American Eagle Outfitters, through its summer internship program.

Diverse Opportunities

Pamela Patton, Founder of Patton’s Restaurant & Catering in Des Moines, Iowa

Patton found her passion for food early in life, learning to cook with her grandmother at the age of nine. She was the first of her family to graduate from college. Years later, Patton began cooking meals for Drake students after church at her home. This is when she decided to start her own company, continuing to feed college students and offering them employment at her restaurant post-graduation, “It’s more than just coming to work. We want everyone who works here to become a better person and go on to bigger things. We nurture them and then send them out into the world.”

Marvin Ellison, CEO Of JC Penney

Ellison’s retail career began during college, when he worked as a part-time security officer at Target to pay for books. He then spent 15 years climbing the ranks to his current role as a Fortune 500 CEO, which has provided him with a firsthand view of how retail operations work at the store level. From inventory checks, to the cadence of markdowns, and how shelves remain stocked, Ellison’s retail experience not only shaped his perspective of the industry, but also influenced his management style that he uses today.

Cory Booker, Senator From New Jersey  

Growing up in New Jersey, Senator Booker worked in his father’s restaurant, waiting tables and serving and talking with customers. Senator Booker says he values the time he spent learning and working in the restaurant industry, “It was a great experience for me. Everyone in America should have to wait tables, should have a direct service job.” Through his job he was able to learn key skills and meet and interact with “lots of folks from all different kinds of backgrounds.”

Tim Scott, Senator From South Carolina

In a 2016 Senate floor speech, Senator Scott recalled how working part-time at Chick-fil-A during high school helped him to turn his life around. “I’m a kid who grew up in a single-parent household, mired in poverty, disillusioned at times, who nearly flunked out of high school, whose life was changed by a strong, powerful African-American model and an optimistic, visionary Chick fil-A operator named John Moniz…” he said. “My life story is a story of second chances, a love story of sorts.”