American fast-food chain McDonald’s has committed $250m over the next five years to advance its global diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiative by raising the representation of minority franchise owners.

The company expects this initiative to increase the number of franchisees from historically underrepresented groups, as well as other backgrounds, located in McDonald’s US and international operated markets.

It expects the investment to support candidates who are willing to be part of the McDonald’s System but face socioeconomic barriers.

Through this initiative, the company intends to offer alternatives to traditional financing in order to support such candidates.

McDonald’s said that it will reduce upfront equity requirements, and also make use of its banking partners to boost access to financing solutions that will help eligible franchisee candidates.

With these efforts, the company plans to further grow its diverse franchisee base.

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McDonald’s president and CEO Chris Kempczinski said: “Today’s announcement to attract franchisees who represent the diverse communities we serve is fundamental to that goal and builds on McDonald’s rich history and pride in reflecting those we serve.

“With this action, we are taking another step forward in fostering an environment where equitable opportunity is part of the lived experience for all our communities.”

In order to engage qualified candidates, McDonald’s also plans to strengthen its franchisee recruiting and training efforts for all backgrounds.

The company has similar programmes in markets that include France, Italy and Spain, where it established partnerships with local business schools to launch curriculums with various topics to support new franchisee success.

Last September, former McDonald’s black franchise owners sued the company over racial discrimination.