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Unconscious bias can impact your business

A new online training suite developed by the National Restaurant Association aims to help employees and managers interact more mindfully with guests and one another.
Photograph: Shutterstock

A server asks a poorly dressed guest for ID to verify his signature when it doesn’t seem to match the signature on his credit card. He angrily accuses the server of judging him.

A hotel front desk agent informs two African-American women that they cannot check in to their room early, then provides rooms for a group of white men who approach the desk after them. The men are part of a conference that has a room block. When the women ask for an explanation, the front desk agent realizes that her actions came across as racist, even though they weren’t.

New restaurant owners seat a group of older “regulars” in the back corner of the restaurant, making them feel they don’t “fit” the new image of the establishment. They decide to take their business elsewhere.

Unconscious bias—inadvertently stereotyping based on race, gender, orientation, economic status, education level, etc.—happens across all sectors, including the restaurant industry. When you weigh the viral nature of social media in our sector, including customer reviews, comments and videos on sites that reach thousands of potential customers, you understand that unconscious-bias incidents can have an enormous impact on business.

Understanding Unconscious Biasis a new online training suite developed by the National Restaurant Association in conjunction with the Multicultural Foodservice & Hospitality Alliance (MFHA). As part of the Association’s ServSafe Workplace platform, this training shines a light on the topic of unconscious bias with industry-specific examples presented through modules for employees and managers.

The training serves as a springboard to heighten awareness of unconscious bias, which will help employees and managers interact more mindfully with guests and one another. Topics include:

• Defining unconscious bias and the many forms it can take.

• Understanding the impact that bias can have on interactions with guests and fellow employees.

• Understanding how to conduct oneself with a greater awareness of others’ perspectives.

The managers’ training also includes information on:

• Proactively and reactively managing situations in which bias occurs.

• Managing employee interactions to promote a more respectful and inclusive workplace.

 • Learning how to deal with difficult situations to minimize impact on the business.

In an interview about unconscious bias with Forbes magazine, MFHA president Gerry Fernandez noted that restaurants must welcome all guests.

“We are now living in a multicultural world and you’re going to find areas where you need to be more sensitive to the diversity of your customers,” he said. 

However, increased diversity provides more potential for unconscious bias to occur. Training that focuses on recognizing and acknowledging one’s biases can help foodservice professionals be aware of bias and to change the way they interact with others. Understanding Unconscious Bias presents scenario-based learning specific to foodservice settings, which provides learners with realistic context. Because the scenarios include both employee-to-guest interactions and employee-to-employee interactions, learners get a deeper understanding of the scope of unconscious bias in the workplace.

In addition to the Understanding Unconscious Bias online training content, managers will have access to a variety of resources to help them continue training through preshift lessons.

Understanding Unconscious Bias offers multiple solutions for businesses, including versions for managers or employees, restaurants or hospitality, English or Spanish, volume pricing and bundling with other programs in the ServSafe Workplace suite, such as Sexual Harassment Prevention training.

For more information, visit ServSafe.com/ServSafe-Workplace.

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