- Wendy's has hired Dr. Beverly Stallings-Johnson to the newly created role of vice president and chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer effective March 15, according to a press release issued Monday. Stallings-Johnson will be responsible for advancing diversity, equity and inclusion across the burger chain's global footprint and between employees, franchisees and suppliers.
- This appointment follows news of Starbucks' hire of Dennis Brockman as its global chief inclusion and diversity officer, which the company announced on Friday. Brockman has worked with the coffee giant for 13 years, and will lead its global inclusion and diversity strategy, as well as "fostering mentorship and other professional development, and amplifying and operationalizing I&D within the U.S. business," CEO Kevin Johnson said in a letter to partners.
- Over the past few years, the U.S. restaurant space has seen a wave of newly created diversity chief positions in a bid to improve company culture and attract employees seeking progressive workplaces. Starbucks created its global chief inclusion and diversity officer position in 2019, while Pizza Hut, KFC and McDonald's developed similar positions in 2020.
These hires come amid a growing industry push to hold corporate restaurant executives accountable for the diversity of their employees from the top down.
In a six month span, Starbucks, McDonald's and Chipotle have all tied executive incentives to diversity goals, with Starbucks focusing on racial diversity and Chipotle and McDonald's making both racial and gender-based diversity goals. Yum Brands also committed $100 million in summer 2020 to improve racial and gender diversity within its network by 2024.
These changes likely aren't motivated by internal goalposts alone. CNBC recently reported that the COVID-19 pandemic has made investors more interested in corporate environmental, social and governance goals, as well as financial performance, which may be lighting a fire under brands to develop comprehensive plans to address inequity within their companies.
Investment in diversity initiatives, however, began to gain traction among major restaurant chains before the pandemic hit the U.S. as well.
"Prior to this crisis there was a meaningful and increasing focus on ESG investing and it is likely that this focus will only increase following the coronavirus," Goldman Sachs said in a note to CNBC.
But critics of ESG investments posit the trend could be more reflective of a bull market than a permanent shift, and these initiatives make it difficult to quantify qualitative metrics.
Regardless, the trend seems to have taken a strong hold in the restaurant market, and the appointments of dedicated diversity leaders and goal setting around diversity metrics could help attract both investor support and new employees looking for mission-oriented employers in the near term.