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Addressing Issues of Diversity and Racial Equity in the Restaurant Industry with Tom Bené
Episode 624th November 2020 • A Seat at the Table • Multicultural Foodservice & Hospitality Alliance
00:00:00 00:35:53

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“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 get better decision making.” – Tom Bené, President and CEO of the National Restaurant Association

Listening to the people who are closest to the issue at hand is the best way to make change in an organization. Tom Bené, President and CEO of the National Restaurant Association, saw this in action during his time at PepsiCo when he was involved with the Women’s Food Service Forum.

Today on A Seat at the Table, Gerry talks to Tom about how to build an authentic brand in communities of color. For Tom, it all begins with education and amplifying the message that your company is dedicated to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Listen to the episode for Tom’s advice on how to get more leadership in the area at the corporate level.

  • (00:48) - Becoming a lover of the industry
  • (02:37) - Diversity in upbringing
  • (03:26) - Leading the National Restaurant Association
  • (04:38) - Initiatives at PepsiCo and Sysco
  • (07:20) - Proud moments as a leader
  • (09:18) - Opportunities for corporate America
  • (11:48) - Moving in the same direction
  • (15:59) - Restaurant Employee Relief Fund
  • (18:21) - Closing the leadership gap
  • (20:32) - Encouraging participation
  • (21:41) - Pleasant surprises
  • (23:41) - Learning from the front line
  • (25:56) - Influential leadership
  • (28:55) - Now is the time
  • (31:37) - Leading in the space
  • (32:52) - Hope for the future

Tom Bené is President & CEO of the National Restaurant Association—the Washington, D.C.-based trade association representing the nation’s restaurant and foodservice industry—and CEO of the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation.

Prior to assuming this role in June 2020, Tom served as Chairman, President & CEO of Sysco Corp., the world’s largest foodservice distributor, where he had previously served as COO, President of Foodservice Operations, and Chief Commercial Officer.

A Seat at the Table is hosted by Gerald “Gerry” A. Fernandez, the founder and President of the MFHA, an educational non-profit organization that makes the business case for developing cultural intelligence in the workplace. Gerry has been recognized for his decades of work in educating and advocating for the business benefits of cultural diversity and inclusion in the foodservice & hospitality industry. Gerry was honored in the Nation’s Restaurant News 2018 Power List among “the definitive list of industry leaders who are not only setting trends today but also shaping them for tomorrow."

You can find more information about the MFHA on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Facebook. Learn more about the MFHA, their resources, and available training at

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Podcast episode production by Dante32.



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