Lorraine Copes: “Diversity drives businesses”

By Stefan Chomka

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Lorraine Copes BAME in Hospitality Corbin and King Chefs Fine dining Casual dining

The founder of BAME in Hospitality on what the hospitality sector can do to be more inclusive, and how her organisation can help.

Late last year Lorraine Copes founded BAME in Hospitality, a not-for-profit organisation that addresses the absence of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people within positions of influence or seniority in the hospitality sector and which works to accelerate racial equality within the sector.

Tell us about BAME in Hospitality
BAME in Hospitality is a social enterprise. Our mission is to drive education, amplify voices, build a community and accelerate racial equality. By building community, it’s made up of black, Asian, and minority ethnic professionals in the sector but also the allies to that.

Why did you form it?
I’ve worked in hospitality for 18 years as a procurement leader for multi-site restaurant groups in various pockets in the sector - pubs, contract catering, casual dining and fine dining. A consistent and common thread that I don’t believe has really changed throughout my 18-year career is representation at all levels. But not only that, visibility of those role models that do exist in a fair and equal way.

Do you think racial inequality is a problem in hospitality?
We have a diverse sector, but I want to help change representation at all levels. There’s diversity [in hospitality]; If you go in any kitchen in London the KPs are generally black and Asian, that’s diversity, but my question is where are all these black and Asian professionals at mid, senior and board level? Why are they not able to progress forward and upwards?

“If you go in any kitchen in London the KPs are generally
black and Asian, but where are all these black and
Asian professionals at mid, senior and board level?”

How does BAME in Hospitality operate?
Our mission is delivered in three pillars. The first is around partnerships. We work with organisations or individuals to support them with training and workshops and also deliver a framework which helps to accelerate racial equality. That framework is around auditing the business, upskilling and training the individuals within the business at all levels and then implementing solutions. The second pillar is learning and development and the lead initiative on that is our elevate mentorship scheme. We offer both junior to senior mentorship as well as peer-to-peer mentorship, which is super powerful in term so of the development of individuals from a personal and professional skill perspective. In order to really drive change marginalised communities will need to be helped to move forward. The third pillar is around events. The purpose of them is to be able to affect change, driving understanding at all levels through food and drink. There is no other business in the sector committed to driving change like we are. It’s really a multi-pronged approach to accelerating racial equality.

How are you different to other groups promoting racial equality?
Where we are unique in many ways is that that framework will be overlayed with data and insights. When you look at gender equality there have been various studies conducted on the female experience within the workplace, but there are no insights at the moment that exist, especially within our sector, around the BAME experience. The reason why data is super important is because BAME as a term is used and in some ways weaponised and it assumes homogeny, and what I do know for sure is that whilst there are commonalities in the experiences of ethnic minorities within the sector there are stark differences as well. In order for businesses to build inclusive environments and places of belonging there needs to be a level of understanding which I don’t believe is there yet. We’re hoping to conduct studies on a regular basis to provide insights for our partners.

How can business work with you?
There are many ways businesses can get involved with BAME in Hospitality. Businesses can work with us on any one of the three pillars, but we are really open and receptive. We recognise it will be a collective effort to drive change.

Why should they?
There are numerous studies that suggest that diversity drives high performance businesses to outperform those that are not diverse. And it is ethically and morally the right thing to do. The hospitality sector is not alone on its journey. In the month of June, we obviously saw what happened with the Black Lives Matter movement and there was an awakening within the UK. I’ve seen a will and want to understand in a way I’ve never seen before in my life.

To find out more about BAME in Hospitality and to watch previous events, including its Thursday Night Takeaway, The Colour of Wine, and Black in Hospitality series, visit its website here.

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