Noodles & Company CEO Dave Boennighausen has joined a growing number of leaders of restaurant companies and other businesses in taking the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion pledge. The Broomfield, Colo.-based casual dining chain also said it would tie executive annual incentive plans to commitment to diversity, food quality and community involvement, it said Wednesday.
Signatories to the pledge commit to four goals:
•Continuing to make workplaces “trusting places to have complex, and sometimes difficult, conversations about diversity and inclusion
•Implement and expand unconscious bias education
•Sharing best practices, as well as unsuccessful ones
•Create and share strategic inclusion and diversity plans with the company’s board of directors or equivalent governing bodies.
Nearly 2,000 CEOs have signed the pledge, including a dozen at restaurant chains. John Miller of Denny’s, Rich Allison of Domino’s, David Hoffman of Dunkin’ Brands, Don Fox of Firehouse Subs, Lenny Comma of Jack in the Box, Chris Kempczinski of McDonald’s, Rob Lynch of Papa John’s, Wan Kim of Smoothie King, Clifford Hudson of Sonic Drive-In, Lisa Ingram of White Castle, Charlie Morrison of Wingstop and David Gibbs of Yum! Brands all have signed the pledge, as well as Boennighausen.
"Our mission is to nourish and inspire every team member, guest, and community we serve, and by pledging our commitment to CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion, we are advancing that mission,” Boennighausen said in a statement. “As a national business with millions of customers and thousands of employees, we have a unique opportunity — and responsibility — to influence and enact positive change in our society.”
Noodles & Company’s executive vice president of inclusion, diversity and people, Sue Petersen, said the pledge amplifies and compliments the chain’s current efforts.
"Our goal is to make Noodles the best place to work in the industry, and for us, that starts with listening, learning, and acting. We have taken steps to build a company culture that is best-in-class for inclusion and diversity — taking the CEO Action Pledge is another important step toward reinforcing this commitment,” she said.
The chain of around 450 restaurants already holds regular “listening forums” across the company and has established an Inclusion & Diversity Advisory Council as well as a resource library. The chain has earned Women in the Lead Certification for its investment in developing female employees and is also a partner with the Multicultural Foodservice & Hospitality Alliance to build greater understanding of people from different backgrounds among its staff.
The chain also offers paid maternity and paternity leave, surrogacy and adoption assistance and tuition reimbursement and assistance. Additionally, it provides free mental health counseling, backup dependent care and tutoring services.
In October it began giving employees the option of including their preferred pronouns on their nametags and email signatures to foster gender inclusion, and committed to making restrooms at all of its locations, the bulk of which are company-owned, gender-neutral.
The chain said it hosted 1,250 fundraising nights across its system in 2020 and remains a strong supporter of hunger relief organization Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry program.
Noodles also restated its commitment to advancing animal welfare standards, minimizing food waste in the restaurants and innovating in packaging to reduce waste. The chain already only uses eggs from hens not housed in cages and sources its cheddar Jack, Montamore, Parmesan and feta cheeses, as well as its butter and cooking cream from dairy cows that have not been treated with artificial growth stimulants or hormones.
In terms of tying executive incentive compensation to its community, food and people goals, a Noodles & Company spokesperson said more details and targets around those initiatives would be established in the coming months.
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