It’s More Than Just Class

A difference in social standing might not be the only reason for snobbery. With the growing multiculturalism in the catering and hospitality businesses, discrimination between staff and customer might be on the rise.

It is no secret that, in the last two decades, the number of foreign employment in the UK has increased drastically. According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), in the hospitality industry, the number of work permits delivered rose from a mere 320 in 1995, to nearly 6,500 ten years later. Now, as of 2010, it is illegal to discriminate between employing British and EU nationals. However, in an industry wherein the social divide between customer and staff member is more obvious, other prejudices such as those between races can also become apparent.


Shahan Ahmed believes that customers will treat a waiter better if they display a good understanding of English.

Shahan Ahmed, 22, (see pictured) is the son of the owner of Sammi’s Indian Restaurant in Parkstone, Dorset and has worked as a waiter there for nearly five years. He suggested that this prejudice may come as a result of poor communication and the language barrier.

If a restaurant liked hiring immigrants that weren’t too fluent in English, then customers might treat them differently because they don’t fully understand what the customer’s saying…”

Though he was born in Poole, Shahan is of Bangladeshi descent and works in the family business – his father entered the restaurant business through Shahan’s grandfather. He also mentioned that his uncle also owns a restaurant back in Bangladesh. He admits that, being the son of the owner, he may be subject to a little favouritism.

I don’t know why, but my dad likes to boast that I’m his son… [to staff and customers]… I don’t know how I’d be treated before they knew…”

Sammi’s Indian was founded in 1996, when Shahan was only three years–old. Nowadays, it operates as both a restaurant of Northern Indian cuisine and has an adjoining takeaway service, with which Shahan assists in deliveries. He states that operating both services is the main cause of their problems.

Things tend to go wrong when they can’t balance both the takeaways and the orders taken inside and, so, if they focus more on one thing, then the other side has to wait up. If the chefs are focusing on the deliveries and the collection orders, then the customers sitting in the restaurant all suffer…”

Finally, he admits his position on the importance of his customers is somewhat different to that of his father.

I think that customers are the highest priority. Treating them in the best way you can will mean they’ll be happy and they’ll treat the staff in an equal manner. While Dad’s a bit stubborn, he does things his own way…”

With several years experience in different departments across the industry, Ellie Wicks shares her thoughts on this pressing issue.

Hotel receptionist Ellie Wicks says stag parties often display sexist behaviour towards staff.

While things might be different at Sammi’s Indian, elsewhere things are not so easy on the foreign staff. A report published in 2006 by the London Metropolitan University described several ethnic minority workers’ experiences in the hotel industry. Within the report, examples of bullying on the part of both the customers and the staff were described, such as uses of the phrase “bloody foreigner”.

Additionally, while she could not admit to seeing any racial prejudice within her workplace in her experience, hotel receptionist Ellie Wicks, 22, (see pictured) spoke of sexist and sexually inappropriate behaviour from customers towards her fellow staff members.

With a lot of stag groups that come in, the way they speak to women isn’t that nice sometimes. Sometimes, they’re almost pressurising, like, ‘Oh you’re a woman, are you going to have sex with me?’”

If you work in the catering and/or hospitality industry, Expensive Tastes would like to hear about your experiences. Get in touch via our Facebook page: or via Twitter @XpensiveTastes.