Restaurant franchising can be a valuable tool in the diversity & inclusion toolkit

Diversity and inclusion can be a tough topic in the restaurant industry and there have been suggestions that operators and employees do not necessarily see eye-to-eye on the important issue. Addressing the historical imbalance is increasingly integral for the industry’s future.

While all restaurants and restaurateurs must do their part, the franchising side of the industry can certainly play a key role.

The U.S. Census Bureau reported that franchise businesses were more likely to be owned by minorities than non-franchised businesses, reports QSR Magazine.

Specifically, just over 30 per cent are minority-owned, compared to 18.8 per cent of non-franchised ones.

RELATED: Diversity in foodservice lags behind other industries, finds report

The good news is that there has been a notable rise in minority and female ownership rates across the sector, but there is still work to be done.

Robin Gagnon, co-founder and CEO of We Sell Restaurants, a company specializing in business brokerage specifically for the restaurant industry, believes that for the first time in more than two decades, there is a real push to actually take decisive industry-wide action on the diversity issue rather than simply raising awareness and talking about it.

“Now, it’s absolutely on everyone’s radar; everyone is discussing how we can embrace a platform of diversity to make us stronger as a company and how we can appropriately reflect the audience around us,” Gagnon told QSR. “The main thing is this incredible focus, and with focus, comes specific and measurable steps.”

Gagnon, who is the chair of the International Franchise Association’s Women’s Franchise Committee, adds that those sounds include mentoring, recruitment, and programs specifically aiming to increase diversity. She says that while every company has vision statements and core values, they have too often collected dust without seeing too much light of day.

“That is where diversity was. Now, we’ve taken everything out of the drawers and put it on the walls and are focusing on it as an industry.”

Traditionally, there have been many obstacles to overcome, such as access to education and capital. Those gaps are gradually being recognized and rectified through various initiatives across the industry, reports QSR.

In January, Yum! Brands, the owner of brands including KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell, launched the Yum! Franchise Accelerator fellowship. The initiative looks to champion and advance underrepresented people of colour and women interested in the industry by increasing access to education.

Meanwhile, Wendy’s now has an initiative called “Own Your Opportunity” which is designed to encourage a more diverse and equitable company through measures such as increasing representation of underreported groups in leadership, management, and franchising.

Ultimately, Gagnon told QSR that the best thing that franchisors can do to encourage diversity is to promote from within.

“Your great talent is sitting there, and you may not be recognizing those fabulous individuals already on your team. Don’t make assumptions about someone’s ability to lead — give them training, resources, support, and above all, give them encouragement. Promote them up the ladder, and watch them succeed.”


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