- The National Restaurant Association appointed Tom Bené as president and CEO of the organization, effective June 1, as well as CEO of the National Restaurant Association Education Foundation, according to a press release sent to Restaurant Dive on Friday. He replaces Chief Financial and People Officer Marvin Irby, who served as interim CEO during the last five and half months following former CEO Dawn Sweeney's retirement at the end of 2019.
- In his role, Bené will lead the organization as it advocates for the restaurant and foodservice industry and develops additional employee training and certification programs. He will also work alongside state restaurant associations on the organization’s advocacy efforts at each government level. He will be responsible for promoting the industry to its members, prospective members, industry leaders and partners, government representatives, media and consumers.
- Bené has over 30 years of experience in the foodservice industry, most recently serving as chairman, president and CEO at Sysco Corp. Prior to joining Sysco in 2013, he was president of PepsiCo Foodservice from 2011 until 2013 and held various senior leadership roles throughout his 23-year career at the company.
This appointment comes at a critical time for the restaurant industry and the National Restaurant Association, and Bené will be taking on a lot of challenges immediately. The organization has become a prominent voice during the coronavirus crisis as restaurants struggle to develop off-premise strategies to keep their kitchens open and bring in new revenue streams.
Among the toughest challenges Bené faces will be helping the industry address over 8 million job losses, countless restaurants unsure that they will be able to reopen and an estimated $240 billion in losses by the end of the year. The NRA called on Congress in late April to enact a Blueprint for Recovery to provide $240 billion in relief for the restaurant and foodservice industry and PPP reform that would make it easier for restaurants to use the funds toward their recovery.
The association has also been a guidepost for the industry, providing best practices and tips on reopening so that employees and customers are safer. Even with some restaurants allowed to reopen their dining rooms, many are still under capacity restrictions and have to figure out how to pay for ongoing operating and labor costs and will need continued support going forward.
Having a CEO with decades of foodservice experience will be critical to the success of the organization during these unprecedented times, and Bené could quickly become an important voice as the industry moves beyond the pandemic.