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Burger King’s owner vows more racially diverse hires

Restaurant Brands International says half of the candidates interviewing for jobs at its offices will come from “demonstrably diverse” groups.
Photograph courtesy of Burger King

Burger King’s owner on Monday vowed to improve its track record of hiring racially diverse people for corporate jobs, promising to take deliberate steps to interview employees from different backgrounds at its company offices.

Jose Cil, the CEO of the Toronto-based Restaurant Brands International, said half of final-round candidates interviewing for roles at the company’s four offices will be from “groups that are demonstrably diverse, including race.”

“Despite some areas of progress in becoming more diverse as an organization, we have reflected on our insufficient racial diversity at RBI,” Cil said in a letter on Monday. “While our charitable foundations do important work with African American and Black communities in the U.S. and Canada, I will not diminish the fact that we do not have enough racially diverse voices and perspectives in our company and we’re going to change that.”

Restaurant companies have highly diverse workforces inside restaurants, but executive teams tend to be mostly white and male. Recent protests across the country, sparked by the June deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of police, have shined a light on issues of systemic racism throughout society.

Restaurant companies have started taking steps to improve their own hiring practices. Last week, Taco Bell and KFC owner Yum Brands revealed a $100 million investment to improve the diversity of its own management and franchisee base over the coming years.

In his letter, Cil announced a set of sustainability initiatives, called “Restaurant Brands for Good.”

The effort seeks to build on the company’s previous sustainability efforts, such as removing artificial flavors and preservatives from its Whopper and improving the packaging and recycling at its Tim Hortons brand in Canada.

The sustainability also includes workforce efforts. A year ago, the company vowed to increase gender diversity throughout the company and Cil said that, since then, it has increased the number of women in senior roles. It now hopes to build on those roles by increasing diversity along racial lines.

Improving sales

Cil revealed these plans in a letter in which he revealed that Burger King’s U.S. same-store sales, down in the mid-30s in mid-March, had improved to flat thanks to “strong performance in the drive-thru.” Most of the chain’s dining rooms remain closed.

Similarly, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen’s same-store sales remain up “in the very high 20s” as it laps test market launches of its chicken sandwich from last year. The company has also brought the sandwich to Canada.

Tim Hortons, meanwhile, has been slower to recover, though its same-store sales have improved from down in the mid-40s in mid-March to a decline in the “negative high teens” last week.

The improved sales have prompted the company to pay back its $1 billion revolving loan, which it drew down on in March “out of an abundance of caution,” Cil said.

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