During the past several months here at First Watch, we’ve been working diligently to identify thoughtful ways to make a meaningful impact and put our values into action as it relates to diversity and inclusion. We know that having diversity of experiences, backgrounds, ethnicities and thought processes in our restaurants and our home office makes such an impact, and we know we have a lot of work to do when it comes to promoting diversity within our own organization. We’ve been actively listening and learning from our teams across the county and our communities, and we look forward to sharing our new Diversity & Inclusion initiatives, designed to build upon, support and grow diversity throughout all areas of our business.
As the basis for the efforts, we’ve established “7 Steps Toward Change” to enhance our “You First” culture by focusing on mutual respect and acceptance of others and to increase the representation and advancement of minorities.
First, we appointed passionate employees from various regions and levels across the country to serve on our inaugural R.I.S.E (Race Inclusion & Support Exchange) Advisory Council, which advises leadership on how First Watch can advance diversity and inclusion programs, both internally and externally. Members act as advocates and agents of change to help encourage and advance our community of Black employees. At the end of each Council member’s one-year term, a $1,000 donation will be placed in their name to a local charity of their choice that supports the Black community as gratitude for their service.
The members of our inaugural R.I.S.E. Advisory Council include Director of Restaurant Technology, Bobby Baker (Bradenton, Fla.); Director of Operations, David Stillis (Atlanta, Ga.); and General Managers Jabbar Salaah (Cincinnati, Ohio), Nicole Smith (Houston, Texas), Gayle Hutton (Bowie, Md.), Sterling Rogers (Cleveland, Ohio), Tim Thompson (Fairfax, Va.) and John Worthington (Boca Raton, Fla.).
In addition to the R.I.S.E. Advisory Council, the #BeABetterHuman initiative will see the following six steps taken in an effort to support our efforts to create greater diversity and inclusion across all areas of our organization:
- UNCF (United Negro College Fund) and HBCU (Historically Black Colleges & Universities) Scholarships – We are establishing first-generation scholarships in partnership with UNCF and HCBUs Howard University and Spellman College, to aid students who are the first in their family to attend college. Application details for the scholarships, which will total $10,000 and $25,000 respectively, will be forthcoming.
- Unconscious Bias Training – We have invested in unconscious bias training for all employees to help shed light on the issue and many forms it can take, help ensure a more respectful and inclusive workplace and educate employees on how to handle difficult situations that often arise as a result of bias. We rolled-out the training to every employee, in both the restaurants and Home Office, in July.
- Leadership Training Web Series – A first-of-its-kind voluntary program for First Watch home office employees, restaurant managers and operations leaders, this six-week live series began in late July and aims to create an interactive and safe environment through which leadership can have important and meaningful conversations about traditionally uncomfortable issues. To encourage participation, all employees who complete the entire series will be recognized for their commitment by having a $250 donationmade in their name to the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) – a non-profit organization that works to end mass incarceration, excessive punishment and racial inequity. The EJI protects basic human rights for the most vulnerable people in American society.
- R.I.S.E. Mentorship Program – First Watch leaders will partner with employees from different cultural backgrounds to create powerful bonds while enhancing learning and development of participants, paving the way for the advancement of employees within the Black community.
- R.I.S.E. Emerging Leaders Scholarship – Through a new partnership with the University of Central Florida’s Rosen School of Hospitality Management, we will award a full, four-year scholarship to a qualified and deserving First Watch employee within the Black community. The first recipient will begin classes in the fall of 2021. Nomination details for the R.I.S.E. Emerging Leaders Scholarship are forthcoming. We will also continue to invest in a free online high school diploma that is offered to all employees to harness the power of education.
- Diverse Applicant Outreach – As part of its new partnerships with HBCUs, our regional talent directors are working closely with school administrators to identify candidates for employment to help increase diversity at all levels. In addition, we understand that people of color receive more interview opportunities and are employed at a higher rate when “ban-the-box” policies are implemented, and we will continue to ban the previous criminal history box on employment applications in all states, rather than just in the three states that require it.