According to Michelle Hunt, Director of Supplier Diversity at restaurant chain Denny’s, supplier diversity program is one pillar of their larger commitment to diversity, equality and inclusion (DEI).

She explained that Denny’s was motivated to focus on DEI after a shameful event in the early 1990s. The company was forced to pay $54.4 million to settle a class-action discrimination lawsuit filed by more than a thousand Black customers who claimed to have been refused service at the chain’s various locations across the U.S. Denny’s then embarked on a 25-year transformation to reshape its corporate culture and business operations.

The company launched its supplier diversity program in 1993 and has spent more than $2 billion with disadvantaged and diverse suppliers since then. In 2019, these businesses represented 14% of Denny’s purchases.

Despite the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Denny’s same-store sales have improved and the company announced plans to hire as many as 10,000 restaurant-level employees by the end of the year. Leonard Greenhalgh, the director of diversity business programs at Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, explained the importance of supplier diversity in DEI efforts. He said supplier diversity professionals provide opportunities for diverse companies to succeed. And when these companies succeed, they create local wealth, career trajectories, positive role models and hope. Also, diverse suppliers attract and develop a good workforce.

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