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Corporate Responsibility at the National Restaurant Association

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By Nathan Schwartz (MBA’14)

As the second largest private employer in the US, the restaurant and food service industry employs 13.1 million people.  The industry not only provides jobs for millions while keeping us fed, but the 94% of restaurants that make charitable contributions each year to the combined sum of $3 billion are also helping to support a multitude of community organizations and charities.

McDonough School of Business alum, Adrienne Weil, has become very familiar with the restaurant and food service industry and its propensity toward corporate responsibility.  In a recent interview, she states that, “Within our communities and across the country, the restaurant industry plays an important role as a mainstay of the economy, a contributor to worthy causes, a responsible partner in conserving the environment, and an active supporter of our guests’ well-being.”  Once a pastry chef apprentice back in high school, and now senior manager of brand and content marketing at the National Restaurant Association (NRA), Adrienne has followed her passions for food, marketing, and sustainability into a career that combines all three.

At Georgetown, Adrienne interned with Nestle and 4GreenPs, served on the board of the Graduate Marketing Association, and helped to found the Global Social Enterprise Initiative and Gourmet Society.  “I made sure my club participation reflected where I wanted to be,” she says.  These experiences as an MBA made for a natural progression into her current position with the NRA where she spearheaded a recent re-branding effort and now drives brand development while overseeing all marketing content initiatives.

The food industry is well known as a competitive space where many restaurants fail before gaining traction.  Adrienne loves being a part of this environment where despite the risks involved, new restaurateurs follow their dreams and create opportunities for themselves and their staffs (often referred to as “family”).

The NRA, the largest food service trade association in the world, supports nearly 500,000 restaurant businesses through four main areas of action including advocacy and representation, education and networking, tools and solutions, and research and insights.  While its partners’ bottom lines are always top-of-mind, the NRA also places a strong emphasis on social responsibility.  Between its Kids LiveWell initiative, showcasing an industry commitment to provide healthy children’s food options, and its ProStart program, providing culinary education and opportunities for high school students, the NRA demonstrates its unwavering support for the community.  The NRA also supports our troops through its Military Foundation and partners with Share Our Strength, a mission-driven food venture, in a fight against childhood hunger.

Adrienne was drawn to the balance of sustaining both industry profits and social impact that comes with her role at the NRA.  When speaking to the trend toward sustainability in the food industry, Adrienne explains that, “They’re doing it because it makes business sense.  If you’re not in the black, it’s tough to be green….and when you are doing the right things, you end up benefiting the mission and the margin.”

Given the restaurant industry’s abundance of community and charitable work, combined with its intense focus on profitability, Adrienne emphatically recommends jobs in this space to any student pursuing a business career involving social impact.  “It’s a very relatable industry – food is the great equalizer.”