While they may be few in number, hospitality groups, restaurants, and kitchens run by people of color are helping shift the existing paradigm.
Businessman Warren Thompson is one such example of a leader in the industry who is creating a more equitable work environment. He founded Thompson Hospitality in 1992, which encompasses nearly a dozen restaurants throughout the mid-Atlantic and Florida. Restaurants like Milk & Honey in Charlottesville, Virginia, The Delegate in Washington, D.C., and Yot Bar & Kitchen in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, all fall under the Thompson Hospitality umbrella.
Thompson knew he wanted to be in the restaurant world before he could drive. At 12 years old, he told his parents he wanted to own a Shoney’s after eating dinner there one night.
“They said you can do anything if you’re willing to work hard. So, from that point on, I was focused on getting a business degree from college, going to grad school, getting an MBA, and then starting out in the restaurant business,” he says.
He would eventually enroll in the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia where he was the only African-American in his MBA program of 13 students. After graduating, he got his start working as an assistant manager at Roy Rogers, which was owned by the Marriott Corporation at the time. After nine years with Marriott, he struck out on his own.