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Transcript: Addressing Issues of Diversity and Racial Equity in the Restaurant Industry with Tom Bené

Transcript: Addressing Issues of Diversity and Racial Equity in the Restaurant Industry with Tom Bené

Gerry Fernandez [00:00:02] Welcome to a Seat at the Table, a podcast dedicated to highlighting the importance of cultural intelligence in the workplace and brought to you by MFHA, the Multicultural FoodService and Hospitality Alliance. We believe an inclusive business is a profitable business. So join us as we dove into practical advice on how you can communicate effectively with people from different cultural backgrounds. I’m your host, Gerry Fernandez, founder and president of MFHA.

Gerry Fernandez [00:00:32] Well, we’re pleased today to have Tom Bene, the president and CEO of the National Restaurant Association and the CEO of the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. Tom, welcome to the show.

Tom Bene [00:00:45] Gerry, great to be here with all of you. Thanks for having me.

Gerry Fernandez [00:00:48] Well, let’s start out by you telling us a little bit about yourself. You know, your family life, you know, kind of where’d you grow up and how did you end up, you know, running the restaurant association?

Tom Bene [00:00:58] Well, I won’t go too far or spend too much time on this Gerry, but I thought it might be helpful just to share that I grew up in the Midwest. I was born in St. Louis and later moved to Omaha, Nebraska. And went to school in the Midwest at the University of Kansas. And then started my career coming out of business school in sales. And I started out in industrial supply sales for a company called American Hospital Supply. And then after a few years there, I decided to make the change over to PepsiCo, where I had a chance to grow up in the bottling business. And then from there joined Sysco. And that brought me here. But maybe back to a little bit of my childhood. So I grew up with an awesome family, terrific mom and dad who raised myself and three siblings. I have an older brother and two younger one brother and one sister who are also all Midwestern, are still to this day. Like many, I think I got my taste of the restaurant industry very young. My first job, actually, my first kind of job out of a paper route was working in a restaurant. I was a busboy and then had a chance to get moved up a little bit. I managed the salad bar for a while and really for a couple a couple of years cut my teeth in the restaurant industry that way. While I was in college, I was also a waiter used as an opportunity to earn some extra money. Since most of my college education was paid for through grants or scholarships or loans. So I kind of got a good taste of that industry. And as I joined PepsiCo later in my career and then on to Sysco, I really became a huge lover of the industry. Food Service was my last job at PepsiCo and for seven years at Sysco is really what I did and what I focused on.

Gerry Fernandez [00:02:37] How diverse was that upbringing for? You see, now we’re talking about multiculturalism.

Tom Bene [00:02:43] I would say not that diverse, quite candidly. I mean, I think I grew up in a family that, you know, respected everyone and was always taught and raised to believe that you should, you know, be willing to spend time with anybody and everyone. And as I was growing up in both schools, but also in my early days in work life, my father used to always tell me two things. One, you can never have too many friends. And two, you always should treat everyone with the utmost respect because you never know really anything about them and that you should always start from a position of positivity. And he really helped me. That was something I learned early and something that has served me well throughout my career.

Gerry Fernandez [00:03:20] Never have too many friends. I’m going to use that word with my grandkids. So you’ve had great success in the corporate world. What compelled you to want to lead the National Restaurant Association?

Tom Bene [00:03:32] Well, candidly, as my time at Sysco is coming to an end, I started thinking about what I wanted to do next, and I felt like I was still too young to hang things up, but loved always the opportunity to give back. And as I started to think about ways I could do that, this opportunity came forward. And for me, having had two of the three legs of the stool, meaning I’d been a supplier or manufacturer in the industry and I had a chance to be a distributor, the one thing I didn’t really have was the ability to be on the operating side and really run a restaurant or that, you know, that type of the part of the industry. And so as I started to talk to others about it, I felt like my background and experiences could help in that area and that I could bring some additional ways of thinking about how as an industry we might be successful. I have this great love for the industry. So from that standpoint, it was pretty easy. I love the entrepreneurial spirit and the passion that exists in the industry, and it was quite honestly kind of a natural fit, even though I knew I was stepping into a situation where there were going to be many challenges going on, especially with covid-19.

Gerry Fernandez [00:04:37] Right, right. So let’s go back to your PepsiCo and Sysco days, where you had two brands that worked on either cultural outreach and on the marketing side with PepsiCo. And then I know Sysco’s one of the first distributors to actually do unconscious bias training as part of the diversity initiatives. So PepsiCo’s got a great history on diversity. And you did some pioneering things at Sysco. Tell me about that. How did that work for you and how does that play out in what you’re looking to do with the association moving forward?

Tom Bene [00:05:15] Sure. Well, let’s go back to just the fact that I think diversity really is essential for any business to be successful. All types of diversity for sure, as a diversity of thinking, diversity of talent. But having diversity in your business is critical to someone who’s going to be effective and successful long term, and that’s something I learned again early in my career, I learned that both pre PepsiCo and PepsiCo. And just learned that by bringing all those different types of people and thinking and backgrounds and experiences together, you end up with a much better end result. And so, yeah, it was helpful that I worked for a company in PepsiCo who had a very strong focus on diversity and inclusion. Our CEO at the time, Steve Reinemund, and in partnership with a gentleman, Ron Parker, who was one of the early folks that I ever met, he was actually the first person that are introduced, interviewed me at PepsiCo, and he really introduced me to the company. So I think it was really about those early experiences that helped me recognize that it’s so important to be successful by having the right team and that diversity on your team. As I joined Sysco, I was able to take a lot of the lessons that I learned at PepsiCo. And one of the things I had been involved with at PepsiCo right before I left was also something around the DNI space, more around gender diversity and with the Women’s Food Service for forum and well, different than what I think we’re working through today. I think there are some similarities in the experiences I had with this food service forum and really trying to create an environment where you had diversity in that case, gender diversity at the table. And that clearly was an opportunity at a company like Sysco. You know, not only is Sysco very male dominated, but we probably don’t have the overall, at least in the middle and senior ranks, the racial diversity that we also need. So some of those experiences that WSF and at Sysco, I think are great learnings for me as I come to the Restaurant Association and we talk about as an industry, what we need to do differently are on the topic of racial equity.

Gerry Fernandez [00:07:20] Tom, what has been one of your most proud moments in your career as a leader?

Tom Bene [00:07:25] You know, when I was at Sysco and I had the opportunity, I was sitting in the executive committee of the Women’s Foodservice Forum and we had talked about how we actually change the numbers around gender equity. And we’ve been having this conversation for a few years. We had some really, I think, good discussions and some strategies in place, but we just weren’t seeing the kind of impact. And one of the things we talked about was and candidly, one of the things I brought to the team was we need some facts. We need a baseline here that we can work from. I had done some work and seen a publication that was done between McKinsey and a company called Lean In where they were starting to document what was happening in the industry and what was not just our industry, but broadly industry as a whole in the United States. And we talked about we needed that detailed level of information for food service, for suppliers, for distributors and for operators. And so I reached out to my contacts in McKinsey. We were able to get them to partner with us. And we actually created for the industry a benchmark survey. It happened in 2018. And it was the first time we actually had detailed information around gender equity in that space. It was something that not only helped us launch a new strategy at Women’s FoodService Forum, but I think created the environment where we now had the facts that we needed, whether you were a manufacturer or distributor or an operator, to know where we were starting from. And then we could set goals where we wanted to go. And we’ve made tremendous progress since that time, having that information. And I think that’s a similar situation we need to think about here with MFHA as it relates to racial equity.

Gerry Fernandez [00:09:01] Excellent, excellent. I agree that would be a good opportunity to piggyback on what you have learned. You may not know that MFHA was founded at a WSF conference back in 1995. And so out of the rib of one came many. So that’s a good segway to my next segment here in terms of race, racial inequities, that whole conversation that’s dominated the news, especially during this pandemic – what role do you think corporate America should be playing in helping the country close the gap around racial inequities?

Tom Bene [00:09:40] Well, look, I think we absolutely as corporate America and then certainly us in this industry, we have to lead. And I think lead is the key word here. But I think that, you know, we have to play a role in making sure the conversations are happening, that the right actions are taking place. And I think that all of us, as business leaders, owners, operators, that we have to take a look first at our own business and our own structure and our own work that’s going on in our organizations and make sure that there aren’t any inequities in our own homes and shops. First, I think, is the restaurant industry. We found that, you know, we are a very diverse industry and that that’s something we should be proud of. But having said that, we also know that we’re. We still have much room for opportunity and improvement as an example. Only eight percent of restaurants are black owned. And so while we may have a lot of diversity and the people that are working there, I think there’s a tremendous amount of opportunity that still exists and how we should think about the industry more broadly. That’s why I think programs like what you’re doing Gerry with MFHA, the pathways to black franchise ownership are so important. And it’s really, I think, something that will help us in our industry not only become more diverse, but I think also tackle this topic of equality.

Gerry Fernandez [00:11:04] Well, I thank you for bringing that up, Tom. For our listeners who might not have known, PepsiCo made a five year, 2.5 million dollar commitment to MFHA to help us stand up an initiative that will promote black franchise ownership in the restaurant industry. And we know that ownership is critical to the health and vibrancy of communities. When people own things in their neighborhood and they’re proud of their neighborhood, they hire from the neighborhood and they spend in the neighborhood and the racial inequities that have been part of our history for way too long. I think the industry has a great opportunity to do something about that. So, Tom, how do we get everyone on the same page? Manufacturing distribution might be a little bit behind what casual dining has been doing. How do we get the industry on the same page? And what role does the National Restaurant Association play in making that happen?

Tom Bene [00:12:06] Well, I think we have to start by looking at the entire industry. And one of the things I think you may know, but I’ve certainly talked a lot about since joining the association, is that we will be much better addressing all of our opportunities as one. And for me, that means suppliers, distributors and operators. It means all types of restaurants, whether it’s quick service or casual dining or sit down restaurants. And so I think this idea that we need to come together as an industry means that we have to look at the entire industry. One of the things I learned in the work we did in the women’s foodservice forum is you have to start with facts and information. And while we have some information, I think we need to lead in this area as the association to provide more insight and information for the industry. Back at Women’s FoodService Forum, we had the same challenge and we partnered with an organization that many are probably familiar with, McKinsey and Lean In. We’re doing some work around this topic primarily for women, but they also have some they talk about various not only gender equity, but they also talk about racial diversity within the women’s ranks. And so by partnering with them, we actually brought distributors, suppliers and operators to the table because while they had good information broadly across America and industry, they didn’t have a lot specific to the food service industry. So I think the similar opportunity exists here where we have to lead. We have to create that environment where we’ve got the facts that are necessary so that all of the industry can understand where we are today, where those opportunities exist, and then that allows us to start to implement some of the strategies that we can talk more about that we’ve partnered with MFHA on to to build out a longer term plan and solution.

Gerry Fernandez [00:13:52] Say more about how we get distribution operators and manufacturing moving in the same direction on issues of diversity, equity and inclusion and overcoming some of these challenges that covid-19 have placed upon us.

Tom Bene [00:14:08] I think one of the best ways to get the industry focused on these collective goals, objectives, initiatives, is to bring them together and share best practices. As I talked earlier about the work that was done through the Women’s FoodService Forum, we concluded all of those same cohorts, manufacturers, distributors and operators because we needed that information. And then once we had the information, we actually started to create the environment where we shared that information. I, as the leader of Sysco, as a matter of fact, went to a conference and spoke about our numbers. And many came up to me afterwards and were shocked that I was willing to share the numbers in our company. And my view is we all can get better if we’re willing to be open, sincere and share what’s going on and actually tackle the topic together. And so I think it starts with educating everyone by having the right information. Secondly, by sharing best practices, things that are working. And I said in sessions and heard operators share learnings in that regard, I think the same is true here. People will make the commitment if they feel and see that the industry is behind it, that everyone’s making an effort, and that people will be willing to stand up and recognize the great work that they’re doing, but also be willing to accept opportunities for improvement by hearing what others are doing.

Gerry Fernandez [00:15:18] Well, that’s that’s great to hear. I want to underscore your point of the value and importance of one of the bigger companies sharing the data. You know, we really can’t determine whether we’re making progress. With blacks, Latinos, other underrepresented groups. If we don’t actually do the data, so when a company like Sysco comes out and says, here’s how we’re doing with women, if we can get similar companies say here’s how we’re doing with people of color, people of different people, or underrepresented groups. And they might not be pretty, but the facts are the facts. I think we really have an opportunity to make a difference if we can get to the data. So I really appreciate you underscoring that. I have another question that comes back to covid-19. In the pandemic in general, the pandemic has really impacted communities of color, in particular black and Hispanic, really hard. And the industry was able to move really quickly to help. Tell me a little bit about that and share with maybe some of the listeners what some of the takeaways are.

Tom Bene [00:16:22] Well, it certainly is an industry that leads in this area, meaning the diversity of our workforce is significant in the restaurant industry. One of the early things that we did is we came together and talked about how we could support the employees in the industry? And we created something called the Restaurant Employee Relief Fund through the Educational Foundation. Now, candidly, this happened before I got there, but to hear the stories of how that came about and to understand that this industry came together very quickly, led by the educational foundation, who knew they wanted to do something to support the employees in the industry. And so that was just one example. But that program raised over 20 million dollars and equated to 42000 grants that were given to restaurant workers during this very important time and certainly to a group of folks, as you said, are predominantly this underrepresented groups, blacks, Latinos, et cetera. In addition, we’ve done great work around helping restaurant operators get back open where there was the reopening guidelines that we partnered with the CDC and FDA on early days to get restaurants back open or to create the environment where restaurants could reopen safely and communicate that same thing to to consumers who are dying to get back out in restaurants. We as an association, educational foundation, have been incredibly focused on helping all folks in this industry. But certainly those folks who need it most get back open and operating in a safe and effective manner.

Gerry Fernandez [00:17:48] Let’s take a quick break and we’ll be right back.

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Gerry Fernandez [00:18:22] We don’t see very good representation in the industry in 2014. We had six publicly held restaurant companies that were led by African-Americans. Today we have none. How do we close the leadership gap? How do we see more organically people of color, people of difference in women achieving at all levels of our industry and housing association going to help us do that?

Tom Bene [00:18:49] Well, as you know, Gerry, we’ve been working on a kind of a four pronged strategy that I think starts to tackle each of those in a little bit different way. We’ve already talked about a kind of pathway to ownership, but there’s also a focus on pathway to inclusive leadership, which to me is really all about breaking the glass ceiling that keeps these underrepresented minority groups from rising in an organization. And I think it’s a combination of providing insights, information, training, development, mentorship, partnership to help folks have more opportunities to understand when they get those opportunities, how they take advantage of them. So that’s that’s one way I think that they’re, again, having the data, the analytics, the insight around why we are where we are today and what’s going to make a difference as it relates to senior management, as it relates to the C suite. The one thing that I can tell you, having been a public company CEO, is it takes leadership at the top. It takes leadership at the CEO and C Suite level. It takes board representation and leadership. And so we need to start to have those conversations. Make that easy for people to understand the benefits of having that diversity both at the board level, in the C suite level. And I think that most organizations today know that there’s value created when you have that level of diversity because you get better thinking, you better decision making. But there’s work that has to be done in each of these areas. And I think the more we can partner with the industry and we can play a leadership role at facilitating that dialog, but also creating those opportunities for the industry and the leadership of the industry to partner with organizations who can, in fact, help them achieve the aspirations and the goals that I know many of them have.

Gerry Fernandez [00:20:32] So what do you say to operators of color to compel them to want to join the Restaurant Association?

Tom Bene [00:20:38] Well, I think to have anyone want to join our association, it starts with making sure they understand what we do and what we stand for. And so education is always the first step to bringing people together and ultimately getting them to want to be part of something. So I think we have to share the work we’re doing, make sure that they see that they can not only participate, but have a role in influencing that agenda going forward. We’re spending a fair amount of time right now making sure that all parts of the industry understand what we’re focused on, the types of opportunities that we’re creating. And I think once that really anyone sees some of the work, whether it’s at the educational foundation or it’s at the association or quite candidly, the work we’ve been talking about here that MFHA is doing, there’s just so many great examples of what we are doing. And I think the more we make that available, we make people understand that these are the types of things that were making a difference in. We’ll get people who want to be part of this association and see that they can, in fact, help us achieve the goals that we have.

Gerry Fernandez [00:21:41] What’s Tom, what’s been the biggest surprise for you since you’ve been in this role? We all have expectations before we join a company or an organization. What’s been the big, big surprises for you?

Tom Bene [00:21:55] I think there have been two really positive surprises. One we’ve been talking a lot about, which is MFHA. And you and I have talked a little bit about this. I just did not even realize or recognize that MFHA had become associated with the National Restaurant Association. And I think that’s terrific for the association of all of our members, because now they have access to the great work that you and MFHA have been leading for a long time. And what I feel is that what I can play a role, what I can do to help is to partner with you and make sure we create that opportunity for more people to get access to the great work done across MFHA. So that’s been one of the very pleasant surprises. The other one has been around the educational foundation. And while I was certainly familiar with and aware of the work the Educational Foundation does, I had no idea the extent to which the educational foundation can and has impacted the workforce in the industry and the types of things that we are doing and that we’re capable of doing even more of to bring along the workforce and to create that environment where this is an industry of opportunity and people who come into it can, in fact, long term be successful. So those are two really pleasant surprises that I’ve had. And I think, you know, the only area where I think that I would say is an opportunity is around data, insights and information. And while I think we’ve got a great research team here, I think the ability to continue to expand that information and more of the areas we’ve been talking about is what are the actual results in the industry? How do we baseline a few things, not just in this topic of racial equity, but certainly in this area? How do we baseline some things that help us now set goals, objectives to grow and improve as an industry going forward?

Gerry Fernandez [00:23:39] That’s really important. Let me let me go back to something we touched base earlier on your upbringing and your history, what diversity or cultural experiences have most shaped your life, Tom?

Tom Bene [00:23:51] Well, there have been a few going back to that saying that one of the things my father always said to me is, you know, make sure that you always understand and respect everyone because everyone’s got something to value. I learned very early on in my Pepsi career the importance of just doing just that and learning from the front line and a very quick story in a situation where we had something pretty impactful from a market share standpoint, happening to us in the location that I was in. And we needed to make some pretty big decisions and quick decisions. And I chose to go to the manufacturing front line and have a conversation with these folks around what our issue was, what our challenges were and the struggle we were having to solve that problem. And much to my maybe surprise at the time, but something that has stuck with me forever is that group of individuals who worked the front line in a manufacturing plant every day came back with some of the best ideas, the quickest timeline. And we were able to make significant change in a very short period of time based on the ideas they had and the solutions they brought forward. And so taking the opportunity to listen to people who are closest to the issue in the problem is something that I’ve learned and has served me well throughout my entire career. That experience that I had, that understanding by engaging the right people and this was a very diverse group of people from everything from educational background to ethnicity to, you know, their focus and how they grew up. I mean, all those things came into play and that bringing that diverse group together helped us make some really important decisions that helped us be successful. So that’s just one small example.

Gerry Fernandez [00:25:32] Well, that’s that’s a great example of of listening to the customer, listening to the operator, listening to the people on the front line, how they came out of one of the founders and principal architects of Starbucks said the person sweeping the floor ought to be able to pick their own broom. And that’s stuck with me that that kind of you can learn a whole lot by talking to frontline people. What leaders of color or women have had the greatest influence on you and why?

Tom Bene [00:26:02] Well, I’m very blessed in this regard as I worked for some amazing people in my career. But one that really stands out to me is a woman. Her name’s Brenda Barnes. And Brenda at the time had been a co chief operating officer for Pepsi Cola Bottling or Pepsi Cola Company, and she was moving in to be the sole chief operating officer. She’s someone that I had, you know, certainly known in my career and that and she asked me to come to New York and work for her in a role. And it was a new role that was being created. It was around basically to be her assistant and not like her executive assistant, but someone to assist her as she wanted to spend more time out in the field with the front line and with our customers to kind of stay back to the office and work through some of the bigger strategic challenges we had. I hesitated because there was something new for me. I had never been to even New York or a corporate office in my career, but ultimately I trusted her and took that step. But what was really important about it, as is I got into that role and candidly as I was struggling a little bit in the early days because I didn’t really know how to navigate that new environment, she was there as my boss and as a supporter of me to really help me navigate some challenging waters, some situations, and really helped me grow and develop in a way that I would have never been able to without her help and support. And it was very honestly required, really a couple of things. One, for me to acknowledge that I didn’t know or didn’t understand what I needed to do to have someone who was willing to kind of put their arm around you and say, I’m here to help, I’m here to support. Your success will come from my ability to help you be successful and create that right environment. So, you know, she is just one example of someone who was in a very senior leadership role, who took a vested interest. And I learned a lot from that. And I’ve hopefully in my career done the same thing for others where I’ve seen people who need a little extra help or support or just understanding that by creating the right environment, you can have the right conversations and people can be successful.

Gerry Fernandez [00:28:13] Well, that’s a very great story and a couple of things that I take away from that. One is you have to take a risk on things. You said you didn’t think you wanted that job, but you took it and it turned out to be, you know, a significant positive change in your career. And then the other thing is, you know, we both grew up when women weren’t in the leadership roles. And there were a lot of issues, you know, for a lot of our industry for a long time. And I think you’ve been part of making that change and helping to elevate women in your work at the WEF and hopefully the work that we’re going to be able to do together to advance women of color and other people of color. But this brings me to one of these stumbling blocks recently. There’s been a lot of conversation. I maybe shouldn’t say a lot, but there’s been enough comments about this fatigue over this conversation about Black Lives Matter and and all this focus on women. You know, can we just get back to business? How do we address that? How do we make sure we don’t move beyond the moment, but that we take other people along who maybe feel like they’re not at the front of the tip of the spear. So how do we keep the focus on the inequities that are currently in the black community and continue to support women and the way that we need to do that without leaving some of the other people behind?

Tom Bene [00:29:38] Well, fortunately, I have not heard a lot of people talk about that fatigue. And if they are, I will be one of the first to discourage those conversations, because I think not only now is this an important time, it’s been an important time for quite a while. And this idea that somehow we’re getting fatigued about conversations around Black Lives Matter or equity in the workplace in general, to me would be very disheartening. And so I would tell you, at least from this industry’s perspective, I feel like I don’t hear a lot of that. I hear many who are talking about now is the time and now is the time to make the impact that we’ve been talking about for a long time. I think we’re very I think, again, fortunate that we have many operators in this industry who have done some good work. I think what we need to do is take that good work and make it great and expand on the work that’s gone on. So I would just say that I think the importance to the industry, the importance to the operators in this industry who do understand the benefits associated with continuing to create the right environment so that we can change the the equity conversation, make sure we’re creating opportunities as we have as an industry, but accelerating on those opportunities. I would just really encourage anyone who’s thinking that, you know, we’ve done enough or that we’ve reached a point where we don’t need to keep talking about this, that you would certainly hear me doing a lot to convince them otherwise. I just don’t believe it. And I really do believe that the momentum that we are starting to build right now needs to be accelerated and that my commitment is certainly to continue that momentum and to build on it. I think that this idea of driving and supporting the environment that creates opportunities for black and underrepresented groups has never been greater than it is right now.

Gerry Fernandez [00:31:30] Great, great. I have two questions to close us out, both the future focused. OK, first, what does success look like for Tom Bene if you hit a grand slam in baseball terms over the course of your tenure? What will you walk away with saying, hey, I got this done and I’m most proud of?

Tom Bene [00:31:50] I think there are a couple of things. One would be on this topic we’re talking about that this industry gets to be recognized as not only a leader in innovation and, you know, growth, but most importantly and leading in the space of racial equity diversity. Because, look, the great thing about the industry is it’s got a great start here. It’s an industry that grew out of innovation and creativity and thought leadership and all that exists within a diverse organization and I think even accelerates in a more diverse community. And so I think that one would be that this industry is not only recognized for the great work it’s doing and has done, but more importantly, is recognized for the work it’s done during this time. And that as we emerge from all the things that we’re experiencing right now, the three, four or five years down the road, we’re recognized as a leader in this topic of racial equity excellence.

Gerry Fernandez [00:32:51] And what gives you hope? What does the future of the restaurant food service industry look like? Post covid and nobody can see into the future. But what are your thoughts on what it’s going to look like? What gives you hope and keeps you hopeful?

Tom Bene [00:33:06] Look, as challenging as it’s been and we all know the numbers, but, you know, 240 billion in losses by the end of the year is. You know, a huge impact on what has been just a tremendous industry that has not always supported so many employees, but communities that they operate in, my hope as we emerge from all this is that that creativity, that innovative thinking, that growth mindset that has been there forever propels this industry to once again be back in that space. And while it’s going to take a little bit of time, I think what’s made this industry exciting and great and certainly something that I have enjoyed working in successfully is going to come back in the future. I think we’ll look different. I think there will be things that happen during this time that will ensure we look different and that we’re successful. One of those being this topic of racial equity. I think there’s a real opportunity as we emerge from this to truly make a difference. And down the road, you know, have better representation throughout whether it’s the C suite, the senior management ranks the boards or in ownership. So I think there are many things that will look different because of the impact we’ve all experienced here. But my hope and wish is that this industry gets back to the growth mode that it was in because of all the terrific things that they mean to the community and the population in general, and also that we are playing that leadership role.

Gerry Fernandez [00:34:32] Well, there we have it, the leader of the restaurant hospitality industry, Tom Bene, thank you so much for being with us today. We wish you well and hopefully we’ll have you back on another time in the future. Thank you.

Tom Bene [00:34:46] Thanks, Gerry. Great to be here with all of you.

Gerry Fernandez [00:34:50] That’s our show for today. Special thanks to our listeners. And thank you for taking a seat at the table with us today. If you found our show to be valuable, please share with your network and leave us a five star review on Apple podcast or wherever you get your podcast as that helps more people find the show. You can also subscribe for free so that you never miss an episode. A seat at the table is brought to you by the Multicultural FoodService and Hospitality Alliance and is produced by Dante32.

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