Dunkin’ Brands Group Inc. on Wednesday announced a partnership with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, or NAACP, designed to increase the number of African-American-owned franchise businesses in the U.S.

Through the partnership, the Canton, Mass.-based parent to the Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin-Robbins brands will help develop a franchising education and training program.

In addition, Dunkin’ Brands has pledged to offer assistance in overcoming financial challenges related to becoming a franchisee, including helping develop a business plan, facilitating access to capital and helping franchise operators build relationships with community lenders.

“Franchising can be a powerful economic tool that further enables the African-American community and others to realize the American dream of business ownership,” said Cornell William Brooks, NAACP president and chief executive, in a statement. “We are excited to announce this unique partnership with Dunkin’ Brands and to improve opportunities for people of color in the franchising sector because of the substantial impact these agreements have on empowering and employing people of color.”

Grant Benson, Dunkin’ Brands’ vice president of global franchising and business development, said the goal is to increase African American participation in the franchise industry overall, not just with Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin-Robbins – though ultimately the two almost-all-franchised brands will benefit.

“We believe this partnership will enable Dunkin’ Brands to build a larger, more diverse pool of franchise candidates, accelerate our expansion in new and existing markets, and continue to build customer loyalty for our two brands across the country,” he said.

Benson said the company has not historically tracked how many of its franchisees are minorities.

“It’s a very diverse group, in terms of all types of minorities, all nationalities and certainly women,” he said. “We do know we could do better, however, and this relationship with NAACP will help.”

Dunkin’ Brands has long worked with franchisees to screen and better-prepare those who qualify in a way that ultimately helps them finding the financing they need and also helps them reach development goals, Benson said.

“We also have relationships with national lenders that we’ve worked with for years who understand our business well, understand our processes, and understand the rigors of approving candidates and sites,” Benson said.

The NAACP initiative, however, will add another layer of training and recruitment that will open up opportunities for new or less-experienced candidates to develop as entrepreneurs, he said.

The 7,300-unit Baskin-Robbins brand, in particular, has a long history of working with franchisees that operate one or two units.

The 11,000-unit Dunkin’ Donuts chain leans more heavily toward multi-unit franchise operators, ranging from those operating just a handful to those operating 200 or more, Benson said.  “The average is in the neighborhood of about 10.”

With the new training and recruitment efforts, he added, “We think we’ll get some very strong candidates that have the capacity to do many, many units. But we understand this may be for newer, less experienced folks, who are just starting off on the road to entrepreneurship.”

The move comes at a time when Dunkin’ Brands is growing aggressively in the U.S.

The Dunkin’ Donuts brand, which has about 7,000 units in the U.S., has been pushing to the West, and company officials have said the chain has the potential of doubling in size to 15,000 units over the next two decades.

Contact Lisa Jennings at lisa.jennings@penton.com
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