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The Power List

Chip Wade on how women and minorities can excel in the restaurant industry C-suite

The Union Square Hospitality Group president explains how the industry can diversify its executive positions and how to talk to employees about racial justice


When Chip Wade started in the restaurant industry, he was inspired by people like Lenny Comma, former CEO of Jack in the Box, and Clarence Otis, former CEO of Darden Restaurants – Black men in leadership positions. It’s ultimately what inspired him to climb the ranks as high as he did in 19 years at Darden — he was executive vice president at Red Lobster when that brand to private-equity firm Golden Gate Capital in 2014.

Since Otis and Comma left their roles in 2015 and 2020, respectively, there are no Black men in CEO or chairman positions at any of the Top 200 restaurant chains, ranked according to Nation’s Restaurant News data.

As president of Union Square Hospitality Group, Wade is not going to let that happen again.

“My personal mission is to develop women and people of color,” said Wade in an interview with NRN.

The C-suite at USHG, a relatively small restaurant company, includes four women.

“[During the pandemic] I hired an equally qualified woman (in the chief technology position) and had to give up nothing,” said Wade.

Wade, who is a father to two sons, wants to inspire the next generation of women and people of color to stand up for themselves and aspire for greatness even if the field looks homogeneous ahead of them.

And in light of the killing of George Floyd last summer — and Derek Chauvin’s subsequent conviction this month — Wade gave tips to companies on how they can treat employees with kindness and information when racially sensitive topics are raised with others. His company’s solution included going outside of the organization for help, listening to employees and taking down the executive veil to connect on a personal level.

Learn some of Wade’s leadership tips in the above video.

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