conversation over coffee imageOur president & CEO sat down with James Fripp, chief equity and inclusion officer for Yum! Brands and James Pogue, Ph.D., CEO of JP Enterprises and a leading voice on issues of diversity, inclusion and bias. Together, they held a candid and open conversation on race, social advocacy and important steps to implementing diversity and inclusion initiatives that work and are needed now more than ever.

“I’m not sure how to ask this question.” 

This is the simplest way to start a conversation around a sensitive topic, according to Dr. James Pogue, diversity & inclusion expert and coach. “It’s not rocket science.” To leaders seeking to address diversity and inclusion at their companies he offers, “you’ve got the gift. You’ve got the information. You’ve got the data. You have the opportunity to ask the questions.” 

Operators Aren’t Sure Where to Begin 

According to a poll from a Black Box Intelligence webinar, Restaurant Operators face a Second Pandemic: Racism and Social Injustice, 25% of operators polled believe their biggest challenge when it comes to diversity and inclusion is not knowing where to begin.  

To add to that, many simply aren’t really sure what “good” looks like anymore. 

And that’s ok. A good place to start is from the inside. Looking at diversity and inclusion from the outside angle, such as “what statement are we going to make,” is the wrong approach. Find out what values and purpose are important, and how they are woven into the organization.  

There is no reason Diversity and Inclusion should be treated differently from any other aspect of business. Consistency is key. A guest can go to any location of one restaurant brand across the globe, and expect the same hamburger, taco or pizza. Why should it be different for how an organization views it purpose, mission or diversity and inclusion? 

“If you can have a menu consistency, food consistency, across a million plus employees, my guess is you already have the tactical components to execute on what race, diversity and inclusion needs to be consistently across the organization,” shared Dr. Pogue. “We just have to slide that racial lens in there.” 

That won’t be easy. But it’s a start.  

If there are problems, find out why. How were these issues missed? Are you asking the right questions? Check your engagement survey. Perhaps the questions stray away from race and inclusion or are too vague to really measure what is going on.  

Figure out what is really happening, then take it a step further and continue the conversation. Keep discussion going with the right people and in the right format. And don’t stop. This is going to take time and consistency. But it can be done.  

Yum! Brands Uses Town Hall Approach to Open Up Discussion 

James Fripp shared Yum! Brands’ approach of having town halls to facilitate open and honest dialogue among cross cultural multiethnic groups of associates. This gave senior leadership and restaurant leaders an opportunity to dial in to what is going on at each of their restaurants and find out the types of things they are dealing with.  

At the end of the day, Yum! learned that their people wanted to keep doing a great job of serving their guests but were struggling internally.  

Some were running into situations they might not be sure how to handle, and perhaps never even considered they might have to be a part of. Serving a customer that refuses to wear a mask, for example. Or a customer disagreeing with a “Black Lives Matter.” 

For Yum! Brands, the town halls reaffirmed that it is the responsibility of leadership to keep employees and customers safe. Employees are not responsible for engaging customers regarding social issues. And the managers are not responsible for solving the world’s issues. In these virtual town halls, their team collectively helped leaders build their capabilities around having the tough conversations they are facing. Doing so has increased awareness of experiences some may not have been aware of, while also helping to build Authentic Relationships that will lead to Trust. 

Any Forward Movement is Still Progress 

No one has all the answers. But everyone can ask questions. Being stagnant is not an option. We must all work to push the needle forward and have the conversation. 

Getting through difficult conversations with others and within ourselves must happen. How else will we be able to move forward?  

“I’m not sure how to ask this question,” may not be comfortable to say. But at least the question is being asked.  

For a full replay of the webinar featuring James Pogue, James Fripp and Kelli Valade, Restaurant Operators face a Second Pandemic: Racism and Social Injustice, visit this link. 

Want to see and hear more of James and James? Connect with James Pogue on LinkedIn or via his website jamespogue.com. Connect with James Fripp on LinkedIn and check out the upcoming Legacy Series Workshop he is participating in, presented by the Women’s Foodservice Forum.