Wendy’s on Monday announced a broad effort to bring a more diverse set of franchisees into the system, including assistance with financing and store construction designed to reduce barriers keeping some people from becoming operators.
The “Own Your Opportunity” initiative is designed to increase restaurant ownership in the 7,000-unit system among women and people of color. In the process, Wendy’s joins a growing number of large brands that have made it a point to increase the diversity of franchisees through new recruitment initiatives, training, education and finance assistance.
Wendy’s effort follows the brand’s vow last year to increase representation among company leadership, management and franchisees.
Own Your Opportunity features a variety of efforts to increase access to financing and lower startup costs that are seen as barriers keeping many underrepresented groups from owning their own locations.
It includes new liquidity and net worth requirements for all franchise applicants. The company is working with three preferred lenders, City National Bank, Huntington National Bank and Wintrust Franchise Finance.
The company has created a “Build-to-Suit” development fund. Wendy’s will secure and build locations in underdeveloped areas and hand the stores to franchisees, giving a priority to candidates who otherwise cannot access required capital for new development.
The company has also supported First Women’s Bank, a women-funded, owned and led commercial bank.
Wendy’s also said that it has developed new restaurant formats that feature options with lower startup costs, thus reducing operators’ initial commitments. The company has also conducted surveys and held discussions with operators to identify resources that could help franchisees thrive.
“We believe that increasing diversity of thought and experience will bring new ideas and innovations to Wendy’s, which will help us continue to grow together for decades to come,” Abigail Pringle, Wendy’s chief development officer, said in a statement.
Restaurant companies have taken greater steps in the past two years to improve their track records on diversity, in the aftermath of racial justice protests in 2020. More brands are attaching bonuses to hiring efforts. And more of these strategies are targeting the franchisee base.
McDonald’s, for instance, has vowed to invest $250 million to diversify its franchisee base, including help with financing. It was the first global franchise recruitment effort in the company’s history.
Yum Brands, meanwhile, has started a franchise accelerator to include diversity among its base of franchisees in the KFC, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and Habit Burger systems.
In the process, the chains are hoping to bring new blood into their systems as they seek to expand. Most of these concepts are in expansion mode, and new franchisees can help accomplish that goal.
“To be the best Wendy’s we can be, we must make available opportunities for everyone who wants to grow with us,” Wendy’s CEO Todd Penegor said in a statement. “The Wendy’s brand truly thrives when our system reflects the diversity of our customers and restaurant teams, and when our franchisees are highly engaged and growing together with us.”
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