“There’s an over-representation of people of colour – but boardrooms are mostly white”: Lorraine Copes is named game-changer in The UK’s Top New Restaurants Awards

Written by Travel Adventures

Be Inclusive Hospitality was founded off the back of my lived experience. For the last two decades, I have worked in the hospitality sector. I was a ‘unicorn’ in having moved upwards within the industry, but at any event, boardroom or award ceremony I attended, there was never anyone who looked like me.

In hospitality, there’s technically an over-representation of people of colour, so 17.8 per cent of the industry identify as Black, Asian or Ethnic Minority, which is in keeping with census data across the UK. But if you go to any restaurant or hotel in central London, you’ll find the back-of-house teams are largely ethnically diverse, but the boardrooms are mostly white. So hospitality is often celebrated as an industry that supports people’s career progression, but the question I posed at the beginning of this journey was, Why are none of those Black and brown people who start in junior positions progressing their careers?

There are a lot of people of colour whose views and experiences were not being heard or amplified – people who are exceptionally talented, doing brilliant things but who also seemed to be invisible. And importantly, no one within the sector was having the conversation, especially around race. So, during the pandemic, I felt compelled to do so. I no longer wanted to return to that pre-pandemic life. I wanted to work with people who share my values and who care about the same things I do. So I took voluntary redundancy in 2020. I had already gained a life coaching diploma – people development and my own personal development have always been important to me – and upon doing that, I became very clear about having a career with a sense of purpose.

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Sophie Knight

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Sophie Knight

“Before BIH existed, there wasn’t a single business in the industry that was having conversations around equity, diversity and inclusion from a race perspective without centreing its leaders. At BIH we centre the community, therefore it’s their experiences that drive change. We don’t convince businesses to be diverse. That’s not our approach. Each year we conduct research for our Inside Hospitality Report, which examines the industry through a race lens. The topics we cover include career progression and barriers to progress; we also examine racism and discrimination, education, and diversity and inclusion in an organisational sense, i.e. what businesses are doing to advance change; what the perception is, and how that’s been received.

Our report is available as a free download. One of the key pillars is professional development. We support ethnically diverse founders and help hospitality employees move forward and thrive in their careers. We use the report findings to inform the initiatives that we deliver. Hospitality leaders use those findings to see how they can bring about change within their own organisations. We also have partnerships with a number of global businesses, including Uber Eats and Ben’s Original, who always use our research as a starting point.

We support people in business with grant funding, as well as funding qualifications and trips. Then there’s our mentorship scheme, which is one way – but not the only way – of removing barriers to people’s progress. For example, a lady called Sting Khumalo joined our scheme three years ago. At the time she was an HR manager, and now she’s an HR director in Mayfair. So we’ve seen her career move upwards as a result of mentoring support as well as her hard work. And now she’s signed up as a mentor herself, so that’s an example of how we’ve positively impacted and shaped someone’s career.


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