The Multicultural Foodservice & Hospitality Alliance (MFHA) announced WOWorks and Noodles & Company are the first restaurant franchise companies to adopt the Pathways to Black Franchise Ownership program. Launched in 2020 by MFHA with a $2.5 million commitment from PepsiCo, Pathways is dedicated to helping black entrepreneurs from all backgrounds develop and operate high performing franchise businesses. 

MFHA set a goal for Pathways to create 100 new black-owned franchise restaurants by year-end  2023. WOWorks and Noodles & Company will be key Pathways partners and have officially added the program to their respective franchising development and unit growth strategies.  The companies will provide qualifying participants with specialized Pathways training, coaching, mentoring and other support to open both single and/or multi-unit franchise businesses.

WOWorks offers franchising opportunities across a broad portfolio of popular brands including – Saladworks, Frutta Bowls, Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh, and The Simple Greek. 

Named one of America’s Best Employers for Diversity by Forbes, Noodles & Company represents more than 450 restaurants across the country. 

MFHA developed Pathways with 4thMVMT, a social equity organization that vets, trains, facilitates funding, and partners with individuals from underserved communities to own and operate competitive businesses. Pathways serves as the centerpiece of MFHA’s efforts to set even higher standards for diversity, equity, and inclusion across the industry especially in the ownership ranks. 

MFHA is eager for other companies to join Pathways and is working closely with National Restaurant Association and the National Restaurant Association Education Foundation (NRAEF) to expand the program.  Restaurant franchisors can learn more about Pathways at:

“While our industry is one of the most diverse in the U.S., underrepresentation in ownership is clear with only eight percent of restaurants being Black-owned,” says Gerry Fernandez, President and Founder of MFHA.  “Training and access to capital remain significant barriers for Black entrepreneurs who want to own their own business.  Through

Pathways and this exciting collaboration with WOWorks and Noodles & Company, we can make restaurant ownership more attainable than ever before. We hope other franchisors will join us as well to make this a reality for more people.”

 “It’s an honor to partner with the MFHA to advocate for greater diversity and inclusion in the restaurant space,” adds Kelly Roddy, CEO of WOWorks. “We want to give more Black entrepreneurs the opportunity to become a part of our family of healthy fast-casual brands, which can also boost their communities. Increasing the number of African-American business owners in the nation starts with franchisors like us, and we are committed to fostering and supporting franchisees every step of the way.”

“Earlier this year, Noodles & Company advanced our own inclusion and diversity initiatives by taking the CEO Action pledge and we see becoming one of the first restaurant brands to partner with MFHA on Pathways as a natural next step in that journey,” says John Ramsay, Noodles & Company vice president of franchise sales. “It was an easy choice. Not only do our values align when it comes to increasing diversity in our organization, but the platform has the potential to grow beyond Black franchises, empowering all voices to operate high-performing businesses.”

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