Diversity, equity and inclusion has been a part of my DNA for the past 29 years. When I began at Denny’s, I quickly learned the importance of how companies must have a strategy, a plan and tactics in place to ensure that they are creating cultures that are inclusive and welcoming. Every day, we actively engage in conversations with our board members, Denny’s leadership teams and team members across the country, brainstorming ideas and listening to their concerns. Successful DEI initiatives require lots of hard work, dedication and commitment throughout all facets of the organization. Here are three important elements that every DEI strategy must include:

  • Commitment from the top. The board of directors, leadership teams, department heads, franchisees and restaurant managers must embrace the importance of diversity as a core part of the company’s business strategy. When I first joined the company, we had to settle a massive discrimination suit because our diverse customers felt unwelcomed and mistreated and our workforce lacked diverse leaders from throughout the organization. DEI is a journey and we have made incredible progress. Currently, 56% of our corporate board is diverse; 75% of our workforce and 72% of our restaurant management is diverse. In addition, 58% of our total restaurants are minority owned. That’s been the result of an intentional effort to recruit, hire and promote diverse employees. We find diverse entrepreneurs who want to join us as franchisee owners. And we continuously expand our efforts through our Supplier Diversity Program. We have spent over $2 billion with diverse and disadvantaged businesses.
  • Invest in culture. We have taken the time to provide unconscious bias training for everyone at the company. We have created a DEI Council and Business Resource Groups to promote DEI inside the organization and externally in the communities that we serve. Within the Business Resource Groups, we have Executive leaders sponsoring these teams, which provides incredible insight, strategic alignment and support. Team members from all levels of the company can regularly meet to discuss their work environments, explore tools to help better perform their roles, build strong communication strategies with each other and create a culture where everyone feels welcomed.
  • Partner with diverse organizations. During my tenure at Denny’s, we have partnered with nearly two dozen organizations such as the Tom Joyner Foundation, the Magic Johnson Foundation, NAACP, National Action Network, the U.S. Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce, NMSDC and Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility, to name a few. Since 2011, Denny’s Hungry for Education ScholarshipTM Program, has awarded nearly $2 million in combined scholarships to elementary, high school and college students across the country. Denny’s identifies strategic partners to award scholarships to students that submit essays on how we can help bring communities together, and one student is selected to have their idea be put into action in their community. At Denny’s, we believe in investing in the future of these students. We visit diverse High School and College campuses annually to recognize and reward these students as they achieve their dreams of academic success.

There are many other ways you can succeed at DEI. We have found that these three tactics can be an effective way to enact real change. We’ve moved beyond talking about DEI to incorporating these initiatives into our culture, and we are living out this commitment every day. For more information on how we continue to feed people mind, body and soul, please visit Dennysdiversity.com.

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