It’s all about relationships, as EY and other leading supplier-diversity companies have discovered. In 2009, Theresa Harrison, Director of Global Supplier Diversity at the Big 4 firm, heard about Thompson Hospitality, a minority-owned food-service company.
Theresa reached out to Restaurant Associates, a division of Compass Group, EY’s food-service supplier since 2005, to see if Thompson Hospitality could be involved as a Tier II supplier. She learned that Compass and Thompson Hospitality already had a strategic partnership. EY executed a three-party contract so it has a direct relationship with Thompson, putting it in Tier I spend. Both suppliers source and mentor minority- and women-owned business enterprises (MBEs and WBEs) to help EY’s Tier II initiatives.
“We are proud to say our Tier II spend with diverse suppliers has increased each year since 2009, as has the Tier I spend attributable to Thompson Hospitality’s involvement,” says Benita Thompson Byas, Senior Vice President of Joint Ventures and Development and Vice Chair of Thompson Hospitality.
The attraction to working with EY was clear, she says. “EY’s commitment to diversity is why Thompson Hospitality was brought into the account in the first place. And it is [why] … we continue to develop and implement diversity initiatives into our dining-service programs,” she says. “Additionally, because of EY’s commitment to supplier diversity, we work hard to involve as large a pool as possible of diverse suppliers to serve our operation.”
According to Theresa, EY now has the ability to champion diversity in food service, through celebrations and information built around heritage months. The firm also brings in guest chefs from Thompson Hospitality and from local restaurants to prepare authentic ethnic cuisine.
“We provide the operations team with a plethora of information—unity brochures, menu selections,” notes Sean Kennedy, Director of Joint Ventures for Thompson Hospitality.
Today, Compass and Thompson Hospitality jointly serve about 135 clients and have reciprocal board members. And Theresa nominated Warren Thompson, Thompson Hospitality’s President and Chairman, for EY’s “Entrepreneur of the Year” award in 2012.
“Each of our respective companies has derived a great deal from our 17-plus-year relationship,” Benita says. “For Compass, this long-standing strategic partnership—the first of its kind in the food-service industry—has brought another layer of diversity to an already robust program … and having an additional operational resource, from a smaller entrepreneurial company, doesn’t hurt either!”
For Thompson Hospitality, she says, “the partnership has meant growth.” In 1997, when the Compass partnership was formed, the company had revenues of about $34 million. Today, it is the largest minority-owned food-service company in the United States and the eighth-largest overall, with 2013 revenues exceeding $425 million.
“Even at our current size, however, we might not be able to bid competitively for some of the larger food and facilities-management contracts out there today,” Benita says, noting the partnership yields bigger clients and has allowed the company to mentor other MBEs and WBEs.