June marks global Pride Month, and we’re celebrating with a new list of the top LGBTQ+ owned and operated restaurants in America. From chefs bringing activism to the table to restaurateurs holding special Pride celebrations, we’re proud to partner with a stellar group of restaurants dedicated to both kitchen and cause.
In recognition of Pride Month and of these inspiring businesses, we asked a few featured restaurateurs to share their approach to inclusion and hospitality. From charity fundraisers to staff management, here are key ways restaurants can create a welcoming table for all.
Put yourself in their shoes.
“Pride month is a true reminder of what we should be celebrating on a daily basis,” says Kristen Kish, chef of Arlo Grey in Austin. “It’s really a celebration of anyone and everyone, and treating them with kindness and respect. Pride is a time of year when we can embrace our differences.”
Brian Riggenbach and Mikey Corona, husbands and partners at The Mockingbird in Nashville, know what inhospitable treatment feels like. “Those negative experiences have taught us to always put yourself in other people’s shoes in every situation, and it makes our duty of being hospitable that much easier.” Be genuine in your interactions with both staff and guests, and welcome them just as they are.
“The way we are viewed as a whole and treated individually has changed for the better since we both came out 20 years ago,” say Brian and Mikey. They attribute those changes to businesses, parents, friends, and family, who have all spoken up for the acceptance and tolerance of the LGBTQ+ community. Let people know they are welcome, and the message will spread far and wide.
Connect the community.
As a San Francisco native and gay business owner living in the Castro, Rick Hamer, owner of Finn Town, wanted to create a venue where his neighbors and friends would feel comfortable and safe and connected. “Finn Town’s goal from the start has been to be a neighborhood tavern – a giant living room that pays homage to San Francisco history in a thoroughly modern way – and the history of the Castro and the LGBTQ community is a big piece of that,” he says. Additionally, Brian and Mikey recommend joining a local organization, such as the LGBT Chamber of Commerce, to find and foster support among peers.
Give back to LGBTQ+ organizations.
Finn Town hosts monthly events in which a portion of proceeds goes to a cause or activity important to the LGBTQ community. “This month we honored the SF Gay Men’s Chorus, which is adding a national LGBTQ arts center as part of their new building,” says Rick. Past dinners have benefitted Dining Out for Life, the SF AIDS Foundation, and the SF Gay Softball League. For Brian and Mikey, getting involved means volunteering and catering the VIP tent at Nashville’s Pride Festival.
Act like an ambassador.
San Francisco’s Castro district is a historically gay neighborhood, and Rick admits the location comes with both honor and responsibility. “From a historical perspective, we feel it is important to reflect the community in a positive way as we welcome guests and visitors from around the world,” he says.
Even if you lack a historical stage, there are plenty of ways to be an ambassador. Rick adds: “Attend and contribute to community events and charities, stay current on the issues effecting the community, and be as active as appropriate given your location and venue. Embrace the LGBTQ+ community, respect the history, and take your responsibility to promote inclusion for all seriously.”
Play with your food (and drinks)!
Pride Month is also fun – and menus, events, and parties should reflect that. At The Mockingbird, Brian and Mikey feature a “Shake Yo’ Pride” rainbow sprinkle ice cream shake all month long. At Finn Town, RuPaul’s Drag Race plays on the bar TVs, and cocktails bear the names of gay icons like Harvey Milk. Themed dinners and brunches, costume contests (think ’70s disco), and an Instagram-worthy “Over the Rainbow” cocktail keep the celebrations coming.
Create a safe, judgment-free workplace.
An inclusive space starts with your staff. Rick hires people who reflect, understand, honor, and embrace the diversity of Finn Town’s clientele. Mikey and Brian recommend reaching out to a local center for LGBTQ+ homeless youth to let them know of entry-level positions available. Your team will take note: outreach “shows you are putting action to your words.”
Photo Credit: Kristen Kish courtesy of Sydell Group; Brian Riggenbach and Mikey Corona from The Mockingbird; a Down Low cocktail from Finn Town.