February 26, 2021

Williams Chicken CFO talks about leadership at Black-owned businesses

The chain’s leadership always looks for ways to give back. That includes support of youth, and programs helping people of color open their own businesses.

When freezing temperatures and snowfall paralyzed Texas earlier this month, many of its residents lost their power, heat, access to water, and, in some cases, food.

A stressed electrical grid, plus an untold number of frozen, broken water pipes, resulted in millions of people seeking relief.

In times of trouble or emergency, restaurants rally to help their communities, even though they, too, are under extreme pressure to perform. In the case of the Texas freeze, some businesses managed to operate safely on limited power, and with pandemic precautions in place.

Community outreach

Dallas-based Williams Chicken, a 40-unit, Black-owned quickservice restaurant company, had to close most of its locations, but still used open stores to come to the aid of community members taking temporary shelter at the For Oak Cliff center. The center provides culturally responsive initiatives in South Oak Cliff, Texas, including education, advocacy, community building and support for the arts.

“Nearly all of our stores were inoperable due to the winter storm, but we knew we had to find a way to support the needs of the South Oak Cliff community,” said Toska Lee, the chain’s director of Marketing and Communications. “We were able to provide more than 100 meals for the people at the warming center For Oak Cliff set up. It was a place for people to come in, get warm, take a shower, charge their phones, and indulge in a two-piece dark and a roll.”

Outreach during the storm (which could end up the state’s costliest) represents the latest in a series of charitable community gestures Williams Chicken has made in its 34-year history.

“We were just doing what we’ve always done, live out our mission to grow, serve and give back to the community,” Lee said. She added that Tim Williams, the chain’s CFO and VP of Franchise Development, is always looking for ways to give back, to thank the customers and communities that support the business. That includes fundraising initiatives in support of youth, and educational programs aimed at helping people of color open and operate their own businesses.

Sharing his insights

Despite lingering issues related to the storm, Williams, a 25-year industry veteran, participated in the Multicultural Foodservice & Hospitality Alliance’s Feb. 24 webinar: “Straight Talk from Successful Black Business Leaders: How we got started. How we grew. What comes next.”

The webinar was part of the MFHA’s recognition of Black History Month. Williams shared his thoughts on leadership and success.

“The number of Black CEOs in the restaurant and foodservice industry is almost null,” he said. That’s because there’s a lack of access. Generally, there isn’t a lot of African-American representation in important positions at large restaurant companies.”

He said the way to change that is to hold events and discussions, like the MFHA webinar, and invite leadership from those large corporations to listen, learn and participate.

“It’s a great way to expose them to the talent and expertise of people of color who are great business operators and who are part of this and future generations’ industry leadership.”

Learn how to encourage and empower diversity and inclusion in the restaurant industry at