AVONDALE — After former employees accused Kuma’s Corner of fostering a racist, homophobic and sexist culture, restaurant leadership said it’s committed to “rebuilding the operational culture of our company from the ground up.”
But the company’s outlines for change continue to shift.
Kuma’s announced Thursday it was overhauling its leadership structure and bringing in Luke Tobias to oversee “all aspects of management and operations,” company officials wrote on Facebook. Tobias previously served as operator and partner at the Indianapolis location.
But on Friday, after Block Club’s story published, Tobias posted on Facebook that he wasn’t taking over the role. He declined to comment further.
“Kuma’s Chicago and I have parted ways,” Tobias wrote Friday. “We’ve got different philosophies that just aren’t going to work together. I wish them the best. I still love burgers though. And pizza. And beer.”
With that development, the company’s leadership plans remain unclear.
“The ownership/leadership of Kuma’s Corner recognizes that in some cases it has failed to foster a safe, non-threatening, and inclusive work environment,” the company’s post reads.
“First, we owe many an apology. We apologize to the people we have hurt by failing to address the many issues fostered within the culture of our company. We are sorry and we hope to be given the opportunity to prove we are serious about doing everything we can to make it right.”
In the post, leadership said it’s “taking a number of steps to create to ensure that as a company we provide a diverse, safe, and positive environment for everyone on our team at all of our stores.”
Those steps include bringing in a third-party company to lead diversity and interpersonal training for staff and managers, creating a “safe, neutral space” for staff and managers to “communicate openly about all topics and identifying “areas for improvement” and establishing protocol to resolve such issues.
The changes come after former employees accused Kuma’s leadership of a number of misdeeds on social media.
On the Instagram account @the86dlist, where restaurant employees are sharing stories of racism and abuse, one former employee alleged that owner Ron Cain made racially insensitive remarks and business decisions, failed to address sexual harassment cases and abused his power by parking in the only handicap spots available.
It is unclear what role Cain will have. Kuma’s didn’t respond to a request for comment Wednesday. Cain declined comment.
Kuma’s Corner, known for its juicy burgers and loud metal music, started in Avondale at 2900 W. Belmont Ave. 15 years ago. The Kuma’s crew has since expanded with locations in the West Loop, Schaumburg, Vernon Hills and Indianapolis, Ind.
Kuma’s is just one of many Chicago restaurants facing heavy scrutiny for workplace racism, sexism and homophobia. Fat Rice in Logan Square shut down indefinitely after employees alleged one of the owners was a verbally abusive boss who made racially insensitive remarks and business decisions.
Employees publicized those allegations after restaurant leaders posted social media messages in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Subscribe to Block Club Chicago. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.