Trader Vic’s, the home of the original Mai Tai, is a five-star rated establishment serving guests fine food and island libations rooted in Tiki culture and the origins of Polynesians.

Located on the lower level of Hilton Atlanta Downtown, Trader Vic’s Atlanta is led by General Manager Maurice Pinder Jr., a 20-year veteran of the Hilton brand, who is reintroducing conversations how today’s youth can find passion in the hospitality industry.

While there are 19 Trader Vic’s locations, nationwide and beyond, Pinder serves as the only African-American GM in a leadership position in the US. His support of the brand aligns with his belief in presenting great food to customers and being rich with knowledge of the eatery and its historic decor.

“Trader Vic’s has a Polynesian theme which caters to its unique architecture, cuisine choices all the way down to the drinks served,” he says. “It’s not always an immediate thought for our youth to study the job qualities asked before applying, but changing that narrative can really help. That conversation is a lot more hopeful for men and women entering into the workforce with understanding.”

“We strive to provide the ultimate dining experience,” he says. “We do that by providing world-class service mixed with a laid back, approachable aesthetic.”

For the curious partaker who’s interested in dining to a place with culture, rich history and a laidback environment, Pinder said that Trader Vic’s is a perfect choice.

Trader Vic’s dishes are presented in Amazonian fashion with fine detailing, catering to the franchise’s theme. Menu highlights include the Volcano Shrimp, accompanied by peppers and pineapples on a bed of jasmine rice and the potent Tiki Cargo beverage served in a “suffering bastard” chalice.

For dessert lovers looking for a unique experience to go along with their sweet tooths, the bananas foster is created in front of guests with a fiery showcase from Trader Vic’s seasoned staff.

Trader Vic’s ambiance holds true to its Polynesian roots. With features such as the visible wood-fired grill, Hawaiin decor and a live band, the restaurant offers more than a tasty dining experience, Pinder explained.

Pinder said he initially wanted to be a chemistry teacher. With an early focus on youth cultivation, he soon learned that he could “teach” in other ways outside the walls of a classroom and the assistance of the Periodic Table.

According to the National Restaurant Association, nearly 1 million jobs in the restaurant and hospitality industry have gone unfulfilled (2019) but nearly 1.6 million jobs are expected to be created by 2028.

Within those statistics, only around 14 percent of fine dining restaurants, located within hotels, are operated and managed by African Americans. Despite the male domination, only five percent of management are black females.

However, four- to five-star rated restaurants are less likely to be staffed by African Americans.

Pinder said he believes those grim statistics are the result of today’s youth not seeking out jobs or long term careers in hospitality and restaurant management. He suggested that this may be because people often have a negative connotation of the work that is required to excel in the industry.

“I think people take things they see on television and in real life when dining and assume it may just be a low-level job,” he says. “Serving the public is a great gift to give back and hospitality careers speak to that need of those who are interested in that serving aspect.”

When taking on the role of management, or any position in hospitality, Pinder recommended learning the history behind the company to ensure prospective applicant’s certainty for applying.

After starting off as an on-call banquet server with a love for cooking, Pinder’s introduction to quality cuisine and vintage wines served as a catalyst for his management skills. The road to wearing many hats as a banquet server, wine steward and outlet supervisor, laid the foundation for his current managerial position.

Pinder reinforced his desire to dispel the stereotypes of people of color working in hospitality, saying, “If you think about what we do on a daily to run a household, there is a level of service given that becomes routine. That routine can turn into a gateway to one’s passion to provide to the public.”

(Photo: Courtesy of Trader Vic’s)

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