Now in its 90th year, the National Restaurant Association is the nation’s leading business association for the restaurant industry. When restaurateurs founded the organization in 1919, there were just more than 100 million Americans, Woodrow Wilson was president and our soldiers were still traveling home from World War I. Over the decades, through the Great Depression, booms and recessions, and 46 Congresses and 17 presidents, the Association has advocated for its members and the foodservice industry in Washington, DC, and helped restaurants serve their customers better.
Today, the industry is larger, more vital and more diverse then ever. In a nation of 306 million, restaurants are a key part of the everyday lives of Americans— nearly half of the food dollar is spent on food away from home, and the industry is the nation’s 2nd largest private sector employer, with 13 million employees at nearly one million locations. And the National Restaurant Association, building on its successes, has charted a path to leverage the strength of this great industry to its full potential to benefit its members, employees and customers.
After taking the reins of the Association in October 2007, president and c.e.o. Dawn Sweeney set out on intensive planning of strategic realignment for the Association to harness and maximize all its resources and enhance its strength and leadership. In September of 2008, the NRA board of directors, as well as the boards of the National Restaurant Association Education Foundation (NRAEF) and the Council of State Restaurant Associations (CSRA), approved an aggressive five-year unified strategic plan for the industry to achieve the Association’s goal: to lead America’s restaurant industry into a new era of prosperity, prominence, and participation, enhancing the quality of life for all it serves.
The Association provides value for its members in five ways: through advocacy and representation, building and sustaining positive public opinion for the industry and a favorable political environment; tools and solutions, helping restaurants grow revenues, increase profitability and develop employees; education and networking, providing opportunities for restaurateurs to connect and learn from each other; research and insights, anticipating and preparing for emerging trends that could impact restaurants; and responsible stewardship, providing ideas and leadership to inspire community involvement and impact.
As the Association positions itself for increased clout and future growth, it will place greater emphasis on the industry’s top issue imperatives—jobs and careers, food and healthy living, sustainability and profitability. Working even more closely with state restaurant associations, its members and industry leaders to increase its strength and represent the changing needs of the industry, the Association will support the imperatives through issue experts, dedicated lobbyists and even greater focus on grassroots activity and member activism.
The restaurant industry is at a critical juncture, with many challenges but opportunities as well, and the National Restaurant Association is working harder and smarter than ever before, just like its members. Whether advocating policy on Capitol Hill or in the 50 state capitals, organizing essential grassroots and political activism, providing the latest industry data, communicating restaurant trends and innovations, or delivering money-saving and business-building tools and products, the Association is striving to fully harness the industry’s strength and assist its ambitious entrepreneurs and dedicated professionals. With its members’ help, the industry will continue to grow and thrive for the next 90 years.
To learn more about the National Restaurant Association and how you can become an active part of its work on behalf of the industry, visit the Association at booth 6300 on the exhibit floor or go to www.restaurant.org. SD baselines to determine what “success” will look like in our industry. What is the best way to build our labor supply: not just through scholarship and careerbuilding programs, but through continuing education resources? What can we do to help improve employee turnover and increase retention rates? And how can we improve the public’s perception of our industry as the place for a career, the choice to stake your future and the future of your families and the place to find pride while doing something you love to do and providing fine experience, enjoyment and fulfillment for those we serve?
SD: As an operator, what do you consider the most valuable resources the NRAEF provides to the industry? What are the most underutilized?
Bacin: In our indust ry, we know that, after the dependence on our customers, we are nothing without strong employee teams and solid management and best practices. And, our customers’ perceptions of us and our industry are key.
In every city, there are phenomenal stories about the role we play not just in the economic vitality, but in improving the quality of life. We don’t blow our own horn enough. Each of us has a story of how we’ve changed the life of a family or given a chance to someone who has grown into one of our finest managers. Think of all the celebrations and gatherings that are shared in our establishments and the experiences that we help to build.
Let’s band together, gather these stories of the good work we do, and help to increase public perception of us as individuals, as businesses and as the industry of career choice.
As an operator, if given the opportunity to hire someone off the street with no background in our industry, or to hire an enthusiastic, trained or educated individual, which would you choose? The NRAEF’s role in attracting more people to our industry and assuring they are well-trained by supporting their education is a direct benefit to me as an operator.
SD: Whose responsibility is it to attract new people? Bacin: I challenge each of us, operators and suppliers alike, to consider who our future leaders will be. Who will the innovators be? And, what role will we play to make sure these individuals have the proper chance? If not us, then who?
As the desire to become part of our dynamic industry continues to grow, so does the responsibility to foster the potential of our industry’s future. Help us invest in the education that allows students and teachers to become the foundation the restaurant and foodservice industry relies on. Our contributions to the NRAEF will ensure the continued growth of our industry by directly supporting future chefs, general managers, operators and teachers.
SD: Can you give us some examples of how people in our industry or students have benefitted from the NRAEF’s efforts?
Bacin: Every day, we at the NRAEF hear from students and working professionals that have benefited from the support they’ve received from the NRAEF or the Association. I get input from students and educators that truly illustrates the impact the NRAEF has on their lives and their future careers.
We hear how our scholarships enable students to continue their studies to follow their dreams of working as chefs-operators, pastry chefs and managers. We hear from educators who feel privileged to get additional training to enhance how they teach their students and pass on the most current industry techniques.
SD: How can you measure the impact of your services on career development?
Bacin: As the nation’s second largest private-sector employer, the restaurant and foodservice industry is the backbone of our national, state and local economies. With the restaurant industry projected to employ 13 million people in 2009 and the projection of a need for nearly 15 million in 2019, there is an increasing demand to foster an educated and talented workforce and support the industry’s growth.
This year the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF) will award $1.7 million in scholarships to more than 800 students and educators and support the education of the nearly 78,000 high school students and teachers participating in the career-building Pro- Start program. Despite its broad reach, there are far more requests for scholarships than can be fulfilled and there is a need to enhance and expand the ProStart program.
We’ve tracked students who receive our scholarships and know that five years after receiving their scholarship, 81 percent are either working or continuing their studies in the industry. Now we are defining what “success” will look like and how we will fund it.
We’d love to hear your thoughts! Please visit the Association at booth 6300 to learn more or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.