National Restaurant Association CEO Steps Down

After 12 years leading the National Restaurant Association and National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation President & CEO Dawn Sweeney announced that she will step down when her current contract ends at the end of 2019.

Until then, she will continue to lead the Association and Foundation, gain Board approval for the 2020-2024 strategic plan, and assist Board leadership in the search for a new CEO.

“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 Dawn 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,” added Sweeney.

In an interview with Abasto Media last year, Sweeney highlighted the growth of Hispanic entrepreneurs in the restaurant industry and the Association’s efforts to promote diversity and minority leadership in this industry.

Since she joined the Association in 2007, membership has grown by almost 50 percent, and the organization has added members from every sector of the industry. The enterprise has more than doubled its overall revenues and nearly tripled its growth in ServSafe food safety training and certification, expanding into adjacent industry sectors and certifying more than eight million industry professionals, stated the organization.

Related Article: Dawn Sweeney Paves the Way for the Restaurant Industry

In 2018, she led the largest business transaction in the history of the organization with the creation of an equity partnership with Winsight Media and the operational sale of the National Restaurant Association Show.

Dawn refocused the Educational Foundation to attract, empower, and advance the future workforce of the restaurant industry. During her tenure, she built a Unified Partnership Agreement with the State Restaurant Associations, better aligning the work of the national and state organizations through advocacy and business solutions.

“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.”

Board leadership have selected Spencer Stuart to assist with the CEO search.

Sweeney joined the National Restaurant Association after having served as President of AARP Services, the taxable subsidiary of AARP, the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization. Prior to that, she worked for almost a decade at the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association and began her career at the International Dairy Foods Association.

She is active in several organizations, including the Women’s Foodservice Forum, which is dedicated to accelerating the advancement of women leaders in the industry; Save the Children, the global humanitarian organization on whose board she serves; and the Bryce Harlow Foundation, which is dedicated to promoting ethics and integrity in lobbying, and where she served as 2018 Board Chair.