Besh Restaurant Group: Rethinking Where We Eat
By Holden Strub
Recent allegations shed light on an industry wide problem
In the past couple weeks, it seems a new sexual assault allegation is brought to public attention almost every day. Unfortunately, one of the most recent and egregious cases came out of our very own city. On October 21st, Brett Anderson published an article divulging dozens of allegations of sexual harassment against John Besh and the Besh Restaurant Group.
The article describes a perverse and pervasive culture of harassment within Besh restaurants both in the kitchen and out on the floor. Furthermore, Besh himself is described harassing multiple employees on numerous occasions. Two days after the article came out, Besh stepped down from his restaurant group to “focus on his family."
While this is a win, Besh was only one of many involved in the accusations. Moreover, he has yet to be punished in a legal setting for what would most certainly constitute multiple sexual harassment charges. The issues highlighted by Anderson are not erased by Besh’s departure and will require extensive reconstruction of how these restaurants operate.
This specific case of workplace misconduct is such an important issue to Tulane students because of how entrenched Besh’s restaurants are in the fabric of our New Orleans experience. August, Domenica, Shaya, Willa Jean, Luke, Johnny Sanchez, Borgne, The Caribbean Room, Pigeon and Prince, Bayou Bar, The Silver Whistle Cafe, and Hot Tin. These are the restaurants of the Besh Restaurant Group as well as some of the most renowned restaurants in this city.
Ask yourself how many of these restaurants have you been to? With friends? Family? How many people do you know that work at these restaurants? It may be true that some of these restaurants do not participate in the poisonous culture described in the expose, but in all likelihood this is not the case.
The Tulane student body, on average, can afford to attend any of the restaurant group’s establishments, and for many of them we represent a significant portion of their business. We eat their food, drink their booze, and put our money in their pockets. My question, then, is whether or not our contribution to these restaurants is ethically sound.
With the recent exposure of the culture of sexual harassment that occupies every level of these restaurants, do you still feel comfortable supporting them? Is the continued patronage of these restaurants not, in some sense, excusing the actions of the individuals who have been implicated?
I do not mean to proselytize on what people should and should not do, but I hope to bring awareness to the fact that our money is a powerful tool, one we can use to speak our mind. By not supporting restaurants implicated in this most recent scandal, we may be able to help change this sinister culture.
The allegations towards Besh and the Besh Restaurant Group are, unfortunately, nothing new in an industry that is rampant with sexual harassment. Anyone who has seen behind the curtain at a restaurant understands that sexual harassment is, tragically, commonplace. But just because something is commonplace does not mean it should be normalized or excused. And while other restaurants are no more innocent than Besh, we cannot use that to justify not disassociating with those that are proven to be guilty.
Sexual harassment is not something that should be expected in a workplace environment and should most certainly not be accepted as customary. While it is a hard issue to completely abolish, one of the ways to fight it is to respond to events like the Besh Group allegations and not excuse these actions by continuing our patronage of these restaurants. In the wake of these allegations, the Besh Group has been given the opportunity to do the right thing.
To take it further, if the Besh group solves the internal problems they've been ignoring, they may be able to set a standard in the industry. But until meaningful reform to their corporate culture is enacted and we see positive results, I for one do not plan on spending my money at these restaurants. The question now is whether or not the Besh group will respond swiftly and strongly. My advice-- keep an eye on the news regarding the Besh group and, until further notice, reconsider where you take your parents to dinner when they visit.