Veterans Day is an opportunity to give thanks to the men and women that have served our country.
For many restaurant chains, that means free or discounted meals for active and retired military personnel or reservists and their families. Veterans can find great deals at restaurants including Applebee’s, California Pizza Kitchen, Krispy Kreme, Outback Steakhouse and more.
But what began as an effort to treat service men and women to freebies has grown into a deeper commitment within the industry to hire veterans or recruit them as franchisees.
Starbucks Corp. is drawing attention to veterans this week in a big way. A year ago, the Seattle-based operator said it would hire at least 10,000 veterans and active duty spouses within five years.
More than 1,000 have been hired over the past year, and about 60 are working in corporate departments that include store development, global operations and supply chain operations, the company said.
In Starbucks’ coffeehouses, veteran partners wear a green apron embroidered with an American flag to encourage conversation between the former military members and their customers.
In addition, Starbucks has pledged to open five community units on U.S. joint base locations to help fund local nonprofit programs that support veterans re-entering the workforce. Two have opened, and three more will debut before 2018. Another 12 “Military Family Stores,” which serve military communities near military bases, are also scheduled to open in 2015.
Starbucks also offers a Veterans Starbucks Card. For everyone whose card activated over the past week, the company donated $5 to Onward Veterans, a group that supports transitioning military members.
Starbucks also sponsors the HBO “Concert for Valor” in Washington, D.C., scheduled to be broadcast live on Tuesday at 7 p.m. EST.
In addition to all of that, Starbucks’ chairman, president and chief executive Howard Schultz published a book called “For Love of Country” with military correspondent Rajiv Chandrasekaran that celebrates the courage of this generation of American veterans and what they have to offer when they have completed their service.
Other chains are also doing their part. Denver-based Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. has signed on to the 100000 Jobs Mission, a national coalition of 150 companies that have made a commitment to hire veterans.
The first Chipotle to open on a military base debuted in October at the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego.
Boston Market Corp, which has 460 units, is also opening on military bases after signing a 10-year agreement with the Army & Air Force Exchange Services. Last week, a new licensed location opened at Fort Meade in Maryland, and in October a Boston Market outlet opened at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas.
The Golden, Colo.-based operator is also collaborating with military placement and transition offices to recruit former service members to join the company’s ranks.
Moving veterans forward
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“Veterans bring many desirable qualities to the table, including leadership, reliability and teamwork, all of which translate quite well to our work environment,” said Boston Market chief executive George Michel.
A study released Monday by the International Franchise Association found that more than 52,000 veterans have found work in the franchise industry over the past year, and 416 have become franchise business owners.
The report also found that 70 percent of franchisors surveyed said they had hired a veteran or the spouse of a veteran in the past year. Food industry franchises represented about 14 percent of those hires.
In 1991, the IFA launched VetFran, an initiative to help Gulf War veterans access the franchise world. Since then, the program has expanded its effort. The IFA and its members support the White House’s Joining Forces Program, making the commitment to hire or recruit as franchise owners 80,000 veterans, wounded warriors or military spouses by the end of this year.
As part of VetFran, Papa Murphy’s International recently said it would waive up to $25,000 in royalty fees over the first three years of a new unit franchise agreement signed by a qualified veteran who has been honorably discharged from the military.
Convenience-store operator 7-Eleven Inc. started enlisting veterans Tuesday for “Operation: Take Command,” a franchise giveaway contest.
The winner will receive a waiver of the franchise fee, valued at up to $190,000, for a franchised unit within the continental U.S. The chain already discounts its franchisee fee by 20 percent for veterans who left the military within the past five years and are first-time franchisees.
Former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who serves on Starbucks’ board, summed it up last year: “One of the most significant challenges our veterans face is a corporation’s inability to understand and translate the skills of military service into a meaningful private sector role. Veterans and military spouses represent one of the most underutilized talent pools in our country and, without the proper career path, will continue to go untapped.”
The good news is that things are changing. In the foodservice world, an infrastructure is developing to recognize that untapped talent and create a path that will move veterans forward.
In the end, it’s good for business, and it’s good for the brave souls who served the country.
To those folks on this day, and every day: Thank you for your service.