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Increasing Diversity through STRONG, Strategic Partnerships

Rapid demographic change and population growth are compelling franchise organizations to view diversity and inclusion as a way of life.

By Grant Benson, CFE


Diversity and inclusion are timely topics in franchising, and certainly within the foodservice industry, which is one of the most diverse workplaces in the U.S. workforce, timely topics in both and gender and ethnicity. From the International Franchise Association to the Women’s Foodservice Forum, Multicultural Foodservice and Hospitality Alliance and other industry groups, diversity awareness and education are increasing. There is opportunity for any brand – foodservice or other – to become a leader in career development paths for women and minorities in the corporate offices and at the franchise level.

Because of this, it is imperative that our organizations see diversity and inclusion as a way of life. The rapid pace of demographic change and population growth today combine to create some unique opportunities for franchised businesses. Chances are, your customers are incredibly diverse, representing a vast array of cultures, experiences, tastes and wishes. In order to succeed in the marketplace, we must not only reflect diversity among our employees, franchisees and suppliers, but also ensure that diversity is inclusive in cultivating ideas that actively contribute to every aspect of our businesses.

Building a Diverse Pool of Candidates

There are plenty of ways to build a larger, more diverse pool of franchise candidates. Partnering with national affinity groups can open doors, establish relationships and create opportunities.

In July 2014, Dunkin’ Brands announced a partnership with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and together launched the Diversity in Franchising Initiative. Through the partnership, Dunkin’ Brands and the NAACP hope to increase the number of African-American-owned franchise businesses in the United States  This collaboration will offer people of color franchising education and resources across the country.

Breaking Down the Barriers

Cornell William Brooks, president and CEO of the NAACP, believes that franchising can be a powerful economic tool that further enables the African-American community and others to realize the American dream of business ownership if key barriers hindering African-Americans’ ability to engage in franchising are addressed. These barriers include:

  • Equity Gap or Capital Gap: Communities of color have lower rates of home ownership and less equity to leverage into financing for a franchise.
  • Knowledge Gap: Communities of color are typically less informed about franchising and its opportunities.
  • Relationship Gap: Communities of color have fewer relationships in the franchising industry because they are less involved.

Upon further examination of these barriers, the NAACP believes that all the gaps are the consequence or result of larger systemic issues. The equity gap, also referred to as the capital gap is the most prominent issue impacting African-Americans in terms of franchising and is a reflection of national economic issues. Both the knowledge and relationship gaps exacerbate African-Americans’ ability to franchise and are the result of broader industry challenges.

Dedrick Asante Muhammad, senior director of the NAACP Economic Department, played a critical role in developing a relationship with the Dunkin’ Brands with the purpose of creating the Diversity in Franchising Initiative. He sees the partnership as an opportunity to provide the education, networking opportunities and information on critical topics necessary to begin breaking down these barriers.

For Dunkin’ Brands, the partnership with the NAACP is an important beginning step to attract more franchisees of color. In addition, to build a larger, more diverse pool of franchise candidates, the company hopes to accelerate expansion in new and existing markets, and continue to build customer loyalty for Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin-Robbins ice cream specialty shops across the country. In certain markets, existing development and financial incentives are available for qualified candidates to help make the first years of business ownership more productive.

Educational Opportunities

Franchised brands should seek opportunities to participate in economic development workshops, which can help raise awareness about the benefits of franchising and highlight existing resources that will help qualified candidates overcome information barriers associated with franchising.

The NAACP’s Economic Department sponsors workshops at the organization’s annual state and regional conventions that are designed to provide resources and tools to NAACP members that encourage economic advancement. Dunkin’ Brands made presentations at several of these conventions during the past year, sharing information about the role franchising can play in creating community and economic development opportunities in communities of color.

In an effort to make educational opportunities more accessible, Dunkin’ Brands has since November 2014, hosted free bi-monthly Franchising 101 webinars in collaboration with the IFA’s Educational Foundation’s Diversity Institute and the NAACP. These webinars have expanded the reach of the initiative to even more NAACP members along with others who have an interest in learning the foundations of franchising.

Franchise brands should also consider strengthening relationships with leading organizations such as the National Urban League, National Minority Supplier Development Council, U.S. Black Chamber of Commerce, U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, National Black MBA Association, Association of Small Business Development Centers, and various ethnic Chambers of Commerce across the country.

These partnerships offer opportunities to provide resources to help qualified franchising candidates learn about franchising as a promising model that can be an affordable way to realize the American dream of business ownership.

Dunkin’ Brands is proud to contribute to the growth of the American institution of franchising and helping inspired entrepreneurs’ dreams come true. We are embracing the evolving world of franchising and will continue to recruit and retain new franchise owners from diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds and cultures. Programs such as Dunkin’ Brands Diversity in Franchising Initiative help to keep diversity and inclusion at the forefront of our industries and give us all a great opportunity to increase the number of minority-owned businesses in the United States.

Grant Benson, CFE, is vice president of global franchising and business development for Dunkin’ Brands. Find him at

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