CBS: Millennials talk racial bias in restaurant industry

Ten millennial workers at Busboys and Poets participate in a training session about racial bias. (CBS NEWS)

A recent Harvard Business Review study found discrimination is a “prevalent phenomenon” in the customer service industry. The study discovered hotel employees gave 20 percent more restaurant recommendations to white people than to black or Asian people who made identical requests. It also says race affected employees’ politeness.

The arrest of two black men at a Philadelphia Starbucks in April raised questions about how companies train their employees to avoid racial bias.

Race has perplexed artist-turned-restaurateur Andy Shallal since he first came to America in 1966 as a 10-year-old Iraqi refugee. “My family lived in Virginia,” he told WCBS anchor and CBS News contributor Maurice Dubois, “and back then, I was introduced to race in America.”

“It hit you right in the face?” Dubois asked.

“Absolutely. Because I was a small boy with an afro and darker skin, [some people] thought I was black, some people thought I was white. Some people thought I was, who knows what?”

“What does a kid make of that?”

“It’s confusing. ‘Cause I didn’t know anything about race.”

Shallal set out to create a community where people of different cultures and races could interact; his restaurant-and-bookstore chain, Busboys and Poets, now employs about 650 people across six locations in the Washington, D.C. area.