The National Restaurant Association is honoring Siraj Virani, owner of 13 Dunkin’ Donuts franchises in the Chicago area, as the recipient of its Faces of Diversity American Dream Award at a ceremony to be held during the Association’s upcoming 2009 Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show in Chicago. The Association’s Faces of Diversity awards celebrate diversity and inclusion in the restaurant-and-foodservice industry and among the industry’s 13 million employees. Four winners in two categories—the American Dream Award for individuals and the Inspiration Award for restaurant companies—are being recognized for inspirational success stories and exceptional efforts to embrace diversity.
“Siraj Virani has an amazing story to tell,” said Dawn Sweeney, President and CEO of the Association. “It’s one of hope, hardship, perseverance, and triumph. His story truly embodies the American Dream and the opportunities within the restaurant industry. We are so pleased to present Mr. Virani with the Faces of Diversity American Dream Award.”
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In 1971, Siraj Virani lived in Bengal, now known as Bangladesh, when the Indo-Pakistani War broke out. Virani and his father stayed in Bengal while his mother and four siblings went to Pakistan. Several months later, Virani and his father embarked on a five month journey by boat, camel, and foot across a war zone, to join the rest of their family in Karachi, Pakistan.
While working as a typist and bookkeeper in Karachi, Virani won a scholarship to the United States, where he studied to be an accountant. He worked as a server at a restaurant to earn extra money. After obtaining an associate’s degree from the Central YMCA College in Chicago, he studied accounting and finance at Roosevelt University. When he was laid off from a pharmaceutical company, Virani began to consider franchising opportunities.
The Dunkin’ Donuts franchise system enabled Virani to grow quickly rather than have to start from scratch. Today, the father of three owns 13 Dunkin’ Donuts restaurants and supplies baked goods to 18 other stores in the Chicago area. Virani’s family is involved in the business as well. One of his daughters handles the finances for some of the stores, and his son-in-law-to-be is a partner in four stores.
The Faces of Diversity awards program, created by the National Restaurant Association in partnership with PepsiCo Foodservice, celebrates the restaurant industry’s successes and inspires restaurateurs to embrace inclusion and expand diversity efforts. The American Dream Award honors individuals from diverse backgrounds who, through hard work and determination, have realized the American dream. The Inspiration Award honors restaurant companies that have exhibited leadership and vision as an advocate of diversity and inclusion.
Joining Siraj Virani in receiving the Faces of Diversity American Dream Award are Ben and Virginia Ali, Ben’s Chili Bowl, Washington, D.C.; and Amy Matsuno, Amy’s on the Bay, Port Orchard, Washington. McDonald’s Corporation is receiving the Faces of Diversity Inspiration Award. For more information about the Faces of Diversity awards program, visit www.restaurant.org/diversity.
The Faces of Diversity Awards ceremony will be held at the 2009 National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show® in Chicago on Sunday May 17 at 2 p.m. during the General Session & Keynote Executive Panel.