Military individuals are often “industry naturals” because of leadership skills they’ve developed in the service, and their supervisory and managerial experience.

To help service men and women transition into civilian careers after military service, the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation offers a series of programs to help them acquire the skills and training needed to develop careers in the restaurant industry.

The industry is a logical professional choice for many service men and women, says Ed Walden, the Foundation’s director of military programs. He notes that a number of them already have foodservice experience and crave the stability the industry can offer.

“Our goal is to provide opportunities for these men and women so they can come into our industry and learn, train and develop,” he said. “They can move into manager positions or go from being cooks to chefs. Our mission is to help them grow and get promoted from there.”

Walden adds that military individuals are often “industry naturals” because of leadership skills they’ve developed in the service, and their supervisory and managerial experience.

The Foundation currently offers:

  • Restaurants Recruit: The Foundation relies on its strong industry connections and partnerships to put vets, military members (transitioning to civilian life) and their spouses, and Guard/Reserve members in touch with restaurant, foodservice, and hospitality employers actively looking to hire military and veteran applicants. By providing the Foundation with their experience and contact information, these service men and women are put in contact with the industry employers with whom their unique skills align. Sign up for free
     
  • The Restaurant Manager SkillBridge Program: This 12-week apprenticeship initiative prepares service members getting ready to enter civilian life for employment as restaurant managers. It combines e-instruction with work experience in a supervised real-world environment. The program focuses on front-of-the-house knowledge and service culture, restaurant kitchen knowledge, product quality and cost controls, and branding and marketing. This apprenticeship, recognized as part of the U.S. Department of Defense’s SkillBridge program, allows military members still on active duty to work with civilian companies for three months to better prepare themselves for careers after their military service ends.
     
  • VALOR Apprenticeship: The Foundation’s Hospitality Sector Registered Apprenticeship program, developed in partnership with the American Hotel & Lodging Association Foundation, offers restaurant and lodging management apprenticeships.
           The hospitality program is available in 44 states at more than 300 apprenticeship sites. Recently, the Foundation received a $9.2 million multi-year contract from the U.S. Department of Labor to expand the program.
           Since launching HSRA, the Foundation has developed new programs and made them more available to the nation’s transitioning military service members through the Veteran Apprenticeship and Labor Opportunity Reform (VALOR) Act.
  • The Hormel Heroes Scholarship Program: Each year, Hormel Foods, in partnership with the Foundation, presents $10,000 scholarships to two female service members pursuing degrees in the culinary arts or foodservice management. The 2020 winners are Christina Gilman, a U.S. Marine, who plans to become a special events coordinator and caterer after she retires from service, and Air Force veteran Angela Thompson, who currently manages a small hospitality business.

Fewer than 1% of American citizens volunteer to wear the uniform, according to Walden. “That's a very small percentage of individuals across this nation. They have answered the call and made the ultimate commitment to defend our country. It’s something special that these individuals can step up, some at the age of 18, and leave home to serve. That’s why Veteran's Day is an opportunity for the country, and us, to say thank you.”