Re-imagining Restaurant Culture

The James Beard Foundation recently featured an article by Caitlin Corcoran, a restaurant owner in Missouri and a 2018 Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership fellow on building safety within the food and beverage industry.

#MeToo has helped foster a reckoning in Hollywood as well as other cultural institutions like the music and restaurant industries.

Corcoran describes how her experiences as a restaurant owner and a survivor with non-supportive and dismissive managers inspired her to re-imagine hospitality. Much of the issue was having tools for staff to address boundary-pushing behaviors. But the Corcoran also saw the potential in change restaurant culture more broadly. Restaurants have long been an offshoot of our local communities – a space where we gather socially and communally – and she saw an opportunity to improve restaurant culture more broadly.  

“I realized it was not enough just to intervene in a given moment at my establishment. I needed to go a step further and re-evaluate my business’s policies on safety for both staff and guests,” Corcoran said in the article.

She highlights how important it is to foster an organizational culture where respect and civility are promoted and harassment is swiftly and proportionally addressed. All too often, organizations focus too much on targets, harassers, and legal compliance. As outlined in RALIANCE’s open letter to CEOs and Boards, best practice is investing in staff so that all employees, regardless of position, are empowered to change their workplace culture.

Corcoran also worked directly with the Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault (MOCSA) in Kansas City to create a training program to change the culture in restaurants. SAFE (Sexual Assault Free Environment) empowers participants to prioritize a culture where everyone feels safe.

Everyone plays a role in building safer workplaces and communities, and Corcoran’s work is an example of how companies and their leaders can partner with sexual violence prevention advocates to stamp out sexual harassment, misconduct and abuse one and for all.