Skip navigation
pathway-to-black-franchise-ownership.jpg FG Trade / iStock / Getty Images Plus
Leaders in the restaurant industry discuss the pathway to Black franchise ownership.

Closing the gap: Foodservice leaders introduce Pathways to Black Franchise Ownership

Leaders from PepsiCo, Jersey Mike’s Subs, the Multicultural Foodservice & Hospitality Alliance and 4thMVMT discuss program aimed at developing and mentoring “aspiring black entrepreneurs” to become restaurant owners during final day of Restaurants Rise powered by MUFSO

While the horrific killing of George Floyd was hard to watch, his death has spurred a movement among people and industries looking to do better by Black Americans. And, the most recent sector to act is the foodservice industry.

The Multicultural Foodservice & Hospitality Alliance (MFHA), 4thMVMT and PepsiCo have launched a leadership and mentorship program that will increase the number of Black--owned restaurants in the industry.

Dubbed Pathways to Black Franchise Ownership, the program will take “the best of the best and partner them with [restaurant] brands that will help them create long term wealth and change in their communities,” said Karim Webb, CEO of 4thMVMT, an organization that seeks to end the racial wealth gap by removing the barriers to entrepreneurship for Black Americans.

The Pathways to Black Franchise Ownership was the topic of the final Restaurants Rise powered by MUFSO keynote, held Oct. 29 and sponsored by PepsiCo Foodservice.

The heartfelt discussion was moderated by Gerry Fernandez, president and founder of MFHA. The panelists included Webb, who also is a Buffalo Wild Wings franchise operator; Peter Cancro, CEO of Jersey Mike’s Subs; and Hugh Roth, chief customer and business development officer at PepsiCo Global Foodservice.

As the founding sponsor of the program, PepsiCo is pledging $2.5 million over the next five years to build and sustain the program. 

Roth said the program goes beyond financial support. Pathways is about providing the training and mentoring “aspiring black entrepreneurs” to become restaurant owners.

“We've got a goal collectively to create 100 Black-owned businesses over the next two years,” Roth said. “We know we can do it. It's the right thing to do.”

Roth and other panelists challenged their foodservice peers to join the collaborative effort.

“This killing of George Floyd really opened the eyes of America, and the world about how racism and racial inequality impacts black Americans in all aspects of their life, including business,” Fernandez said. “Now, companies, foundations, and others are stepping up with a desire to make significant and lasting economic change in the lives of Black Americans.”

Cancro said he knows what it means when someone gives you a life-changing opportunity.

When he was 17, he bought Mike’s Subs with the financial help of his football coach, Rod Smith, who was also an executive at the local bank in his hometown. After relaying his passion for the business, Smith’s bank lent Cancro the $125,000 he needed to buy the shop. That led to Cancro building an empire of sandwich stores under the new name Jersey Mike’s Subs.

This year, he is giving back in the same way. He launched a program, the Rod Smith Sponsorship Award, where he finances managers and assistant managers who want to own their own Jersey Mike’s Sub shop. 

The award is valued at about $400,000, the amount it takes to start up a new store.

Like the Pathways program, Cancro said he’s looking for hard working passionate workers who might not think they have a path to ownership. 

“We're going after whoever has the energy, cares about pulling people, not pushing, and rising up together and putting other people first before yourself,” Cancro said.

The inclusive program hopes to invest in 25 potential franchise owners over the next 12 months, Cancro said.

Each panelist said ownership is one path to social and economic equity, which can drastically alter the journey of underrepresented populations like Black Americans.

 “Ultimately, ownership is a conduit to the outcomes that we want,” Webb said. “We want people that exist equitably in our country. We want people to get great health outcomes. We want kids to go to competitive schools. We want people to build wealth.”

The Pathways program will begin accepting applications in the first quarter of 2021. To learn more, go to:

Contact Nancy Luna at [email protected] 

Follow her on Twitter: @fastfoodmaven

TAGS: Operations
Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.