Restaurants have been in the news recently for playing both active and passive roles in political discourse.
In Oregon, workers at a restaurant chain wore “Abolish ICE” and “No one is illegal” pins on their uniforms. Fox News reported that the restaurant sent 10 employees home once they refused to take off their pins, saying the items violated the company’s policy that bans controversial pins.
There was the incident at the Red Hen in Virginia involving protesters and White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee-Sanders. Then, Texas Senator Ted Cruz and his wife were harassed by demonstrators who oppose the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court at a D.C. restaurant which caused the restaurant to hire security staff in the wake.
All of this begs the question, when should a restaurant take a political stand and when should restaurants stay out of the political limelight?
Answering this question is ultimately predicated on one’s understanding of the hospitality industry, and what financial price one is willing to pay for standing up for personal politics.
As for the financial side, remember that restaurants such as Papa John’s, In-N-Out, Starbucks, and Keurig all took financial hits this year after being caught up in different political fracas. Even Hardees faced scrutiny after its CEO, Andy Pudzer, was nominated by President Trump for the Secretary of Labor, even though Pudzer faced allegations of domestic violence and labor violations in his restaurants.
That being said, restaurant owners should not shy away from standing up for what they believe in. You can voice your displeasure with a multitude of policies at local town hall meetings, or meeting with your representatives in Congress. Doing so can be a sign to your community that you care about more than just serving food and beverages.
It’s also important to remember that your restaurant is a part of the hospitality industry. That means you need to offer all of your customers a hospitable place to come and enjoy a meal. You will surely encounter customers with whom you do not agree, but that doesn’t mean they deserve to be treated as inferior to the customers with whom you agree.
Simply put: your restaurant should take a political stand for any matter you perceive as vital to maintaining the well-being of your business and the community it serves. However, you need to be aware of how your actions will affect your company’s perception in the eyes of your customers. Be sure to open your mind to dialogue with those you disagree with. This will ensure you don’t alienate any part of your customer base.