Marginalised youth must be given a chance

At Copenhagen Concepts, having a criminal record does not close doors. MASH, Le Sommelier and Umami have always strived to make room for young people who have had a rough time, and help them on their way again.  

Since the first restaurant opened its doors 20 years ago, there has always been room for diversity, which is why the people working in the restaurant chain Copenhagen Concepts have such a wide variety of backgrounds. Some have served their prison sentence and are now learning to socialize in the real world again, while others have simply had difficulties in their youth. MASH  believes that once a person has done their time, they have paid their debt to society and should have the opportunity to make a fresh start.  

“We do not reject applications on the basis of people’s life stories, and in our management team we believe that people should have the opportunity to get back up on the horse again. I have met many social workers and case workers working with young people who are completely shocked that we couldn’t care less about their criminal record. I just don’t see how it is relevant to their employment,” says Dorthe Witting, HR Manager at MASH. 

According to Dorthe Witting, it is particularly important that marginalized youth end up in the right place and are assisted in a way that makes them feel that they are seen and their efforts recognized – the  restaurant industry can do that. 

“There is a very strong tradition at our place and in the restaurant industry as a whole, of taking people in who have had big challenges in life. It is important to emphasize that we are just one part of a whole that wants to do the right thing in this area,” says Dorthe Witting. 

It may well be that things gets more heated in the kitchen during service than in a regular office, but there is a strong sense of community  and engagement that you do not come across in the same way anywhere else, believes Dorthe Witting. All employees, no matter their background are part of a community and everyone  looks out for each other. 

Having the opportunity to make a fresh start and be a part of a work community can make all the difference to the youths, who are subsequently able to move on with their lives, successfully. For Dorthe Witting, it is not only about work and the labour. For her, on both a personal and professional level, it is about learning more about what and where these young people come from, and how a restaurant like MASH can help them make progress in society again.  

Dorthe Witting believes that society is developing in such a way that restaurateurs need to be alert, know what issues there are in society and how the restaurant industry can help resolve them. “More and more young people are being diagnosed with ADHD, anxiety and stress, and we need to be able to deal with this in a professional manner. 

“The industry has for many years been extremely socially responsible – it is in our DNA. Even though some of our employees have had more challenges than others, they are just as deserving of an opportunity to do something with their lives, regardless of whether it is a conviction or psychological problems they have had to deal with.”

MASH is a part of REGA, a new industrywide initiative that works purposefully and ambitiously with corporate social responsibility. By participating in REGA, MASH commits to working systematically to prevent adverse impacts on our human rights, including those of employees, guests, and the general public, to reducing the adverse impacts on the environment and to sharpening the focus on anti-corruption. Read more about REGA here.