NRA Special Report: How the Educational Foundation and ProStart Program Are Developing Leadership Within the Industry

Restaurants are known as a starting ground for people in their career paths. In fact, one in three workers can say they’ve been in foodservice in at least one point of their lives. As the workforce continues to advance and develop, and with 1.7 million jobs expected to arise in the next decade, how can we ensure that the proper research, training, resources, and talent add to the growth and prosperity of the industry?

In this “On Foodable Weekly” NRA Special Report, we are joined by National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation EVP of Strategic Operations and Philanthropy, Rob Gifford.

The Educational Foundation focuses on three key areas: it works to tell the story of opportunity to attract people to the industry, it works with people who want to enter the industry by giving them the skills they need, and it works within the industry by exposing the current workforce to training tools to help them move upward in their professions. From QSR to fine dining, there may be different sectors and segments with various disciplines and missions, but customer service, the ability to think quick on your feet, and teamwork are valuable all across the board.

“There are certain core attributes that exist no matter where. So some of the work that we’ve done has really been to identify what some of those core foundational skills that make you successful in this industry no matter who you are, no matter where you go, and frankly, make you successful no matter whether you stay in this industry or whether you ultimately move on. The restaurant industry has an amazing track record of training America’s workforce,” Gifford said.

One of the ways the Educational Foundation accomplishes this is through its ProStart program. ProStart is a high-school-based culinary and career technical education program in 1,800 schools nationwide. Whether the 140,000 students involved are passionate about becoming a manager or a chef, the curriculum prepares them for both tracks. While some students enter the industry right after graduation, others continue the program in local colleges that partner with the NRAEF.

“The ProStart program embraces both, and it is really bringing about the next generation of managers and leaders within the industry,” he said.

Still, the youth isn’t the only group that needs to be educated. People who come from backgrounds in finance, medical, and other fields are switching over. The restaurant industry has evolutionized to a more welcoming and empowering arena. How do we meet the huge employment needs in the future? Find out by watching the episode or visiting