Search begins to find replacement for outgoing NRA chief


The National Restaurant Association has begun its search for a new CEO following last week’s announcement that Dawn Sweeney is to step down at the end of 2019.

Board leadership have selected Spencer Stuart to assist with the CEO search, while Sweeney herself will also be involved with the process.

Sweeney has led the association for 12 years, successfully leading one of Washington’s largest and most influential trade associations, advancing and protecting all aspects of the restaurant and foodservice industry.

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“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,” she said last week. 

“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.” 

Since Sweeney joined the Association in 2007, membership has grown by almost 50%, 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. 

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 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 and 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.” 

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.

Tags : CEODawn SweeneyNational Restaurant Association
Andrew Seymour

The author Andrew Seymour

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