Diversity Article in QSR March Issue
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Blazing The Path For Diversity

March 21, 2022

WOWorks, parent company of Saladworks, Frutta Bowls, Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh, and The Simple Greek, was featured in QSR Magazine’s March issue regarding our partnership with Multicultural Foodservice and Hospitality Association (MFHA) to bring diversity into the franchise suite. Read the full article below.

Noodles & Company and WOWorks hope to help create 100 new Black-owned franchise restaurants by 2023.

THROUGHOUT THE YEARS, progress has stalled on the restaurant diversity front. To date, only 8 percent of restaurants are owned by Black people. It’s a figure that inspires the Multicultural Food service & Hospitality Alliance’s Pathways to Black Franchise Ownership program alongside 4thMVMT and PepsiCo. 

Pathways aims to create 100 Black-owned franchise restaurants by the end of 2023, aided by a $2.5 million commitment from PepsiCo over the next five years. Two major restaurant companies, Noodles & Company and WOWorks have joined the charge.

Since WOWorks’ formation, strong core values have been at the heart of the company, says CEO Kelly Roddy. 

“If you want to have strong results, you obviously got to have good brands with good food and all that stuff, but you have to build a great culture,” Roddy says. “Part of building that culture is putting core values in place.” 

Pathways presented an opportunity for WOWorks to accomplish another goal as well: eliminating the food deserts in the company’s core markets. 

Two of those, Philadelphia and New Jersey, have long lacked healthy, affordable food for residents in select areas. According to the USDA, nearly 39.5 million people, or 12.8 percent of the U.S. population, were living in low-income and low-access areas. It’s estimated 19 million people had limited access to a grocery store. 

In turn, the Pathways to Black Franchise Ownership program presents a way to continue bringing nutritious food to these areas, Roddy says. 

“Our belief is, we should have diverse owners running these restaurants,” Roddy says. “It’s a win-win. You’re creating business opportunities for people in these communities. You’re also creating options for healthy food.” 

Noodles & Company likewise joined the Pathways program due to its own people-centric core values, says CFO Carl Lukach. Over the years, Noodles & Company formalized its diversity and inclusion initiatives, creating an impact report and a special council alongside taking a CEO pledge to boost diversity. 

Women now comprise 56 percent of the Noodles’ operations team, as well as 50 percent of its executive team, and the company invested $7.6 million in new team member benefits since the onset of COVID-19. 

The Pathways program was a natural extension of Noodles’ company goals, Lukach says. Additionally, the program encourages a longer perspective than just securing franchisees from underrepresented groups. It starts with fostering employees at the restaurant level to rise and achieve ownership, says John Ramsay, vice president of franchise sales. 

In the near future, Noodles & Company plans to go on a road tour to recruit in specific markets. 

“We as a restaurant industry have not lived up to represent the community that’s out there,” Ramsay says. “And I think we need to. We think that’s really important as it is in society.” 

One key barrier to entry for underrepresented groups, including Black Americans, has always been lack of capital. This often comes down to lower generational wealth rates stemming from slavery and racism. These disparities still persist: In 2019, the typical white family had eight times the wealth of the typical Black family, according to a survey by the Federal Reserve. 

Noodles’ approach is to work with lenders and nonprofits with similar values to bridge the gap, Ramsay says. 

“We believe that partnering with lenders and nonprofits is going to create a whole new channel of capital that’s never been there before,” Ramsay says. 

As WOWorks actively searches for candidates under this initiative, it will help match franchisees with the right brand and market. Additionally, franchise and training fees will be lifted. 

“This is a very white male–dominated industry, and that’s who has to make the difference,” Roddy says, adding that leaders are the ones who must take action in leveling the playing field. 

Beyond company values and social equity issues, there are business advantages to driving diversity. Amid an overarching labor crisis, being a work-place with true diversity and inclusion helps acquire talent—and keep it. 

Pathways will be an integral piece of Noodles & Company’s expansion in 2022 as it aims for franchise growth and roughly 8 percent total unit growth. 

“I just think that you have to start,” Roddy says. “Every good idea is just an idea until someone takes action.” 

To read this full article in the March issue of QSR Magazine, click here: http://www.ourdigitalmags.com/publication/?m=11373&i=739219&p=48&ver=html5

If you’d like more information about becoming a Saladworks franchise owner, please complete our Contact Us form on https://franchise.saladworks.com?utm_source=blog&utm_medium=in_the_news&utm_campaign=QSR_MFHA_Article

If you’d like more information on the MFHA’s Pathways Program, click here: https://mfha.net/pathways-to-black-franchise-ownership/