Dawn Sweeney to Step Down as NRA CEO by the End of the Year 

Dawn Sweeney |    National Restaurant Association

Dawn Sweeney | National Restaurant Association

The National Restaurant Association (NRA) will have a new CEO come 2020.

Dawn Sweeney, who has been the CEO of the association for 12 years, announced during the 2019 NRA Show show this weekend that she will be stepping down from her role.

“Serving and leading the restaurant industry during this historic timeframe, when foodservice has grown to an $863 billion business employing over 15 million professionals, has been the most fulfilling experience of my career,” said Sweeney. “We have accomplished much together, including important public policy victories at all levels of government, a broadened membership base representative of the industry at large, and a revitalized organization that has expanded and bolstered its advocacy and business capabilities. I have had the privilege of serving for 12 years — the longest tenure of any position in my career. It is vital to me that we work to ensure the Association and Foundation have a smooth and seamless transition to plan for the future.” 

Sweeney will working with the Board to approve the 2020-2024 strategic plan prior to her departure.  

Under her leadership, membership has increased has grown by 50 percent and the association has almost double its revenues.  

“Dawn has been an extraordinary leader for the restaurant and foodservice industry during a time of both challenge and opportunity,” said Joe Essa, 2019 Association Chair and President & CEO of Wolfgang Puck Worldwide. “She has unified our industry, expanded our impact, heightened our effectiveness, and navigated a number of significant public policy challenges. The organization is well-positioned to continue to fulfill its mission to advance and protect the industry and has a strong foundation on which her successor will build.”

It won’t be an easy task to find a replacement, but Sweeney will be in involved, along with the headhunter Spencer Stuart. 

Learn more about the latest NRA announcement at “Food Newsfeed” now.  

Back in 2017, Sweeney was appointed by the U.S. Labor Department to join the Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion. The focus of the task force is to foster career pathways in different industries. In 2015, Sweeney kicked off Foodable Network’s first Foodable.io event as the keynote speaker at the Fast Casual Nation Premiere. Although the industry is collectively sad to see such an impactful leader go, it is also wondering who will the new CEO be?

New Board Officers for 2018 Are Announced by the NRA and NRAEF

New Board Officers for 2018 Are Announced by the NRA and NRAEF

Earlier this week, the National Restaurant Association (NRA) and the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF) announced the new board officers for 2018.

“As we head into 2018, our newly elected Board of Directors will provide critical leadership to ensure that restaurants will continue to support the American dream for our employers and employees,” said Dawn Sweeney, President and CEO of the NRA.

Jay Stieber and Sam Facchini were sworn in as Chair of the NRA and Chair of the NRAEF, respectively.

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U.S Labor Department Appoints Dawn Sweeney for This Task Force

U.S Labor Department Appoints Dawn Sweeney for This Task Force

The National Restaurant Association has announced that its CEO and President Dawn Sweeney has been appointed by the U.S. Labor Department to join the Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion.

The focus of the task force is to foster career pathways in different industries. 

"The members of the Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion will provide varied perspectives that will help guide the administration's strategy on growing apprenticeship programs nationwide. I am grateful for their participation in this important effort," said Alexander Acosta, secretary of labor leading the task force. 

Sweeney will be representing the restaurant industry and will join a team of 20 influential leaders. 

“We are honored to represent the restaurant and hospitality industry as a member of Secretary Acosta’s Apprenticeship Task Force,” said Sweeney in a statement. “Apprenticeships offer career development opportunities that are vital to growing our economy and training America’s workforce. We look forward to streamlining and expanding the apprenticeship program to open additional pathways to achieve the American Dream.”

Restaurant brands like Golden Corral, Firehouse Subs, and FATZ Café will be participating in the program by mentoring apprentices. In the hospitality space, Wyndham, Hyatt, and Hilton will be also offering apprenticeships through the program. 

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IFMA Presidents Conference: Making the Most of Today's and Tomorrow's Consumer Trends

On this episode of "On Foodable Weekly," Paul Barron meets up with industry leaders Dawn Sweeney and Larry Oberkfell at the IFMA Presidents Conference. The Presidents Conference provides cutting-edge research to operators, manufacturers, and distributors within the industry. With sessions discussing consumer trends, category management, and regulation impacts of the recent election, attendees packed the lecture halls. Much of the research presented was in reaction to questions asked by attendees. Today, we look at trends facing the industry as well as changes we can expect to see in the near future.

One such trend is the rise of the new-age consumer. Millennials are now the largest and most influential generation since the baby boomers, and as such, have been a major focus in the industry. However, Larry Oberkfell, president and CEO of IFMA, discusses how age is not the most important factor, nor is demographics.

“We look at it as how do we help our members get all the business, if they can, in their products to that consumer wherever they go. So to us, it’s not really a channel question as much as it is a consumer behavior question,” he said.

Dawn Sweeney, president and CEO of the National Restaurant Association, also talks about millennials and their role as an emerging market. She notes that although 50 percent of  consumers are starting to demand restaurant-quality food in their homes, millennials are making up an enormous portion of the trend with 80 percent of millennials looking for restaurant-quality food in their homes. Sweeney discusses how the industry needs to react to these consumer behaviors.

“Years ago, we had the drive-through, then we had the three small parking spaces outside the restaurant where you can park if you’re getting something to go. I think we have to reinvent that restaurant experience,” she said.

Watch the full episode to learn more about the trends facing the industry and how industry leaders propose operators, manufacturers and distributors make the most of them.

Foodable Premieres First Full-Length Documentary During NRA Show, Announces New Partnerships

Last night marked a milestone achievement for Foodable as our first full-length documentary, “Fast Casual Nation: Changing the Way America Eats,” premiered its first screening. The night also revealed some exciting upcoming things for Foodable in partnership with the National Restaurant Association, which we’ll dive into more below.

Hosted at the Virgin Hotels Chicago, the premiere party featured an open bar, a step and repeat and a private film screening for a select, invite-only group of 175 industry professionals. 

Following the main event was an intimate VIP dinner at the Virgin Hotel’s Miss Ricky’s, where guests noshed on American comfort food classics, followed by a toast 26 floors up at Cerise, the venue’s chic rooftop bar.


Introducing the film were NRA President & CEO Dawn Sweeney; NRA Industry Relations & Director of Product Partner Development Sam Stanovich; NRA Chief Innovation & Member Advancement Officer Phil Kafarakis; FCIC Chair & Wow Bao President Geoff Alexander; and Foodable Founder & CEO and Executive Producer Paul Barron.

Before the screening, Kafarakis and Barron announced an upcoming NRA x Foodable partnership on two new ventures: a film festival and the Foodable 5-Star Awards, which will be rewarded at the NRA’s Restaurant Innovation Summit in San Diego in October 2015.

“Fast Casual Nation: Changing the Way America Eats” is a full-length documentary, coming to Netflix this summer, that deep dives into the world of fast casual, the fastest growing dining segment in the restaurant industry. What’s driving fast casual? Who is pioneering the segment? How has fast casual evolved throughout the past decade and beyond? “Fast Casual Nation” follows the story from the beginning with industry insider interviews from fast casual vanguards, including Panera Bread Founder & CEO Ron Shaich, Shake Shack CEO Randy Garutti and Chipotle CMO Mark Crumpacker, to hone in on how fast casual is changing the way America eats. Check out the trailer below!