And Then There Were Three

And then there were three
In just six months from September 2014, the foodservice industry went from having six CEO’s that are Black/African-American, to just three. I emphasize three because according to the Census Bureau and the National Restaurant Association respectively, Blacks make up 13.2% of the U.S. population and 11% of the foodservice workforce. These numbers suggest, as do the data in MFHA’s 2014 Diversity Report:  State of the Foodservice Industry , that the industry is not developing Black employees for leadership opportunities commensurate with the percentage of Blacks that make up our workforce.

The departure of Clarence Otis (Darden), Steve Davis (Bob Evans), and most recently, Don Thompson (McDonald’s), illustrates just how quickly the “complexion” of leadership can change regardless of how committed to diversity and inclusion a company may be. If a company does not have a comprehensive plan to attract, develop, and retain multicultural talent, then its leadership will continue to be largely White, and the image of our industry will not change in the eyes of minority groups. How disparate is the representation of people of color in our industry? The following data provides a clear picture:
Restaurant General Managers                      Corporate Office Directors
White 64%                                                           White 87%
Hispanic 23%                                                       Hispanic 7%
Black 6%                                                              Black 2%
Asian 2%                                                              Asian 3%
*Source: 2014 State of the Industry Diversity Report, People Report & MFHA

If our industry is going to compete for top talent, then we have to be serious about developing employees of color. An industry executive told me recently that while he was attending The National Black MBA Conference, students laughed and said that they would never work for a restaurant company. They cited the company’s website and referenced the lack of people of color as one reason for not taking foodservice opportunities seriously.

MFHA’s 2014 Website Cultural Inclusiveness Assessment makes the case that leading brands use their websites to communicate a genuine commitment to diversity and inclusion. Websites of the top 100 restaurant brands, as named by Nation’s Restaurant News, were reviewed and each company was issued a letter grade ranging from A-F, based on how well they communicate cultural inclusiveness. Only 9 companies received a grade of B or better. MFHA members scored the best:
Company Website Grade
McDonald’s                  A
Yum! Brands                A

Darden                        B
Denny’s                       B
Golden Corral              B
Cracker Barrel             B

The foodservice industry is the second largest employer of minorities in America, so we do not have a diversity problem. What we do have is a development problem.

Our development challenges will only get better if leadership commits the financial resources to implement multicultural talent development initiatives and take the time to understand the nuances associated with engaging different cultural groups. Budgets reflect priority, so if your company has no budget for culture and inclusion then your company is not serious about it. The replacement of Clarence Otis, Don Thompson and Steve Davis as CEO’s of their companies was not about being Black.African-American. It was likely more about the performance of the company. Yet, performance has one color and that color is green.

I have said many times that diversity is about business. If our industry does not do more to develop our multicultural talent, then the image of our industry will suffer, and so too, will our bottom lines. Then, we will have no one to blame but ourselves.


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