In years past, discussing politics, religion or sex around the dinner table was a serious breach of etiquette.
For restaurant operators and their staff today, taking public stances on hot-button issues is nothing less than a third-rail proposition. But for some operators, it’s become increasingly difficult to stay silent when the politics of the hour is playing such a dramatic role on daily operations. Issues such as sexual harassment, immigration reform, minimum wage, gender equality, gun policies and global warming are all inextricably intertwined with a business that deals with food and people. Still, restaurants trying to stay afloat with tight margins and fierce competition need to make a profit without shrinking their customer base. Should you ever mix politics with your brand given the current climate of political divisiveness and discourse? Four industry professionals weigh in.
COLY DEN HAAN Sommelier and owner of Vinovore in Los Angeles Backstory: One of Los Angeles’s first female sommeliers; worked on opening acclaimed Los Angeles bars Perch and The Must before opening her first wine shop, Vinovore. “This is definitely a heated topic, one that I have found myself in the middle of more than a few times. I believe the safest and probably wisest answer is to not mix your politics with your business, so as to not alienate any customer base. Against my better judgement, I do not always personally adhere to that advice. Considering the moment our world is currently in, and how volatile and downright terrifying the political environment is, it can be hard not to take a stance. When building a shop with a strong voice to support women’s equal rights in business, I feel this is already a type of political statement in itself. To be truly aligned with my mission, I am not afraid to speak out against a government or individuals who don’t share what I believe is the only path for love and equality for all humans and our planet. Basic rights and simple decency is something that I don’t compromise, and I don’t mind losing patrons if they don’t agree with that.”