How the Restaurant Industry Is Reacting to the 'Day Without Immigrants' Protest
In cities across the country today, businesses are participating in a “Day Without Immigrants” by closing their doors in response to the actions of President Donald Trump’s administration. Many Americans did not go to work or school today. The call to action began on social media.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2015, there were 26.3 million foreign-born people working in the United States. The Washington Post cited data from the Institute for Immigration Research at George Mason University, which found that immigrants account for roughly 23 percent of the restaurant workforce in the United States. This fact incited many in the food service industry to participate in today’s protest.
In Washington, D.C., well-known figures vocalized their support for the protest. Spain-born celebrity Chef José Andrés and Busboys and Poets founder Andy Shallal, who is from Iraq, were among them.
While many are speaking out and standing in solidarity, not all in the industry agree with the sentiment behind the protests. In a statement to Entrepreneur, National Restaurant Association Vice President of Communications Leslie Shedd said, “Restaurants welcome people from all backgrounds and cultures to dine with us and work in our industry. Legal immigrants are an important part of the restaurant family. We strongly encourage our members to follow all laws. By encouraging walkouts, these organizations disrupt the workplaces of hard-working Americans who are trying to provide for their families.”
Restaurants both large and small have weighed in.
Jonathan Neman, Nicolas Jammet and Nathaniel Ru, co-founders of popular salad chain Sweetgreen, told USA Today in a statement, "Our team members are the face of the brand, from the front lines to our kitchen -- they're the backbone of this company and what makes Sweetgreen special. And that's why we stand with them, today and every day."
Some businesses that opted to stay open today showed their support in other ways. For example, in Boston, The Purple Cactus is donating all of today’s sales to ACLU Massachusetts and LULAC Boston. Latitude 43 Restaurant and Sushi Bar is giving an entire day’s pay to workers who decided not to come in today.
“As an immigrant to this country, I fully support ‘A Day Without Immigrants’ and would love to close today, but our restaurants face substantial penalties from landlords if we don't open, which ultimately would hurt those whom we wish to support,” Jimmy Shaw, Mexican-born founder and executive chef of Loteria Grill in Los Angeles, told Eater. “We also respect all who decide not to come into work today and will not consider them a no-show.” A percentage of the restaurant's sales today will be donated to organizations who support and fight for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).