January 04, 2024

National Restaurant Association and National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation Name 2024 Boards

Washington, D.C. – The National Restaurant Association and the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF) today announced their 2024 board officers, directors, and trustees. 
Jeff Lobdell, president and founder of Restaurant Partners Management, LLC., will serve as chair of the National Restaurant Association Board of Directors, and Shaun Beard, senior vice president of SAVOR Hospitality, will serve as chair of the NRAEF Board of Trustees. 

“The restaurant industry is changing along with the expectations of the customers and communities we serve,” said Michelle Korsmo, president & CEO of the National Restaurant Association and CEO of the NRAEF. “As chairs of the Association and Foundation Boards, Jeff and Shaun bring a passion for exceptional dining experiences and community-based leadership. We’re also pleased to welcome our newly elected Board members who represent the breadth and depth of our industry. Their collective knowledge and insights will be critical as we work to advance a thriving restaurant and foodservice industry.”  

Vice Chair Richard Schneider, chief development officer of Areas USA, and Treasurer Mike Axiotis, CEO and president of the Lehigh Valley Restaurant Group, complete the Association’s 2023 Board leadership. 

“The restaurant industry has provided more than sixty percent of the adult workforce in this country with skills that have added to their value in the professional world. The NRAEF is dedicated to keeping those skills on the restaurant industry career ladder. I look forward to working with Shaun and the Trustees to develop the opportunity and support needed for today and tomorrow’s workforce,” said Rob Gifford, president of the NRAEF.  

Other NRAEF officers include Vice Chair Bill Kohl, principal of Greenwood Hospitality Group, and Treasurer Carrie Leishman, president and CEO of the Delaware Restaurant Association.   

Each of the officers will serve a one-year term. The following is the list of 2024 board officers:  

National Restaurant Association 

Chair: Jeff Lobdell is the president and founder of Restaurant Partners Management, LLC. Lobdell has been passionate about the hospitality industry, his restaurant businesses, and the communities that they operate in for more than 35 years. He supports many local non-profits focused on supporting local kids and families. He also serves as a member of the Grand Rapids Police Foundation Board and is active within the Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association. Lobdell is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Hospitality.  
Vice Chair: Richard Schneider is chief development officer of Areas USA, where he is responsible for company growth, government affairs, community affairs, brand and concept development, and construction. Throughout his career, Schneider has developed many strong culinary relationships across the country in multiple verticals to help design award-winning concepts. He helped to create the Areas Cares program to support the communities they serve and has also led the company’s community education program supporting local high school culinary programs to help build opportunities for students. 

Treasurer: Mike Axiotis is CEO and president of the Lehigh Valley Restaurant Group, a locally owned and operated franchisee of Red Robin. Through tireless hard work, love of the hospitality business and people, and his commitment to excellence, Axiotis worked his way up the ranks at LVRG, eventually being elected as CEO in 2018. His history in the industry extends back nearly 40 years, starting with his family’s restaurant. Axiotis believes his success is an opportunity to give back through impactful community involvement and support of the team members of LVRG.  

The National Restaurant Association also added several new members to the board. The newly elected directors include: 
  • Madelyn Alfano, Maria's Italian Kitchen 
  • Dagmar Boggs, The Coca-Cola Company 
  • Greg Flynn, Flynn Restaurant Group 
  • Michael Gonda, McDonald’s Corporation 
  • Victoria Gutierrez, Sysco 
  • GJ Hart, Red Robin International 
  • John Horne, Oysters Rock Hospitality, Anna Maria Oyster Bar, and Café L’Europe 
  • Bill Kitsilis, Axios Hospitality 
  • Amber Moshakos, LM Restaurants 
  • Sam Sanchez, Third Coast Hospitality 

National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation 

Chair: Shaun Beard is the senior vice president of SAVOR Hospitality, where he is responsible for establishing and growing the SAVOR brand for parent company ASM Global Facility Management, while increasing operating income through operating restaurants, catering, concessions and large special events. He previously served as vice president at CENTERPLATE in Spartanburg, S.C., where he directed planning and executed strategies across the U.S. and Canada. Beard holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Colorado, has completed the Executive Management Program at the University of Florida, and earned certificates at the Culinary Institute of America.  
Vice Chair: Bill Kohl oversees the strategic and operational direction of Greenwood Hospitality Group's portfolio of hotels. Additionally, he directs the company's activities in restaurant development, concept design, and re-positioning. During his 35-year career, Kohl has received several honors including The Pennsylvania Tourism and Lodging Association's General Manager of the Year and the American Hotel and Lodging Association's State Leadership Award. He is founder of Très Bonne Année, a series of wine and food events and international wine auction for charity, which raises more than $400,000 annually. A native of Springfield, Pa., Kohl is a graduate of Penn State University with a Bachelor of Science in Hotel, Restaurant, and Institution Management. 

Treasurer: Carrie Leishman is president and CEO of the Delaware Restaurant Association (DRA) and the Delaware Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. Leishman is a passionate and fearless advocate for the industry and is credited with strengthening the DRA into one of the most influential business organizations in the state. The DRA created the first industry training for substance abuse awareness and prevention, and for this work, received recognition from the White House in 2018. Leishman grew up in upstate New York and graduated from the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. 

In addition to naming its new board officers, the NRAEF also introduced its new board trustees. They include: 
  • Mateo Cidre, Sobao Bakery & Restaurant 
  • Damian Hanft, Inspire Brands 

About the National Restaurant Association

Founded in 1919, the National Restaurant Association is the leading business association for the restaurant industry, which comprises more than 1 million restaurant and foodservice outlets and a workforce of 15.5 million employees. Together with 52 State Associations, we are a network of professional organizations dedicated to serving every restaurant through advocacy, education, and food safety. We sponsor the industry's largest trade show (National Restaurant Association Show); leading food safety training and certification program (ServSafe); unique career-building high school program (the NRAEF's ProStart). For more information, visit Restaurant.org and find @WeRRestaurants on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

About the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation

As the supporting philanthropic foundation of the National Restaurant Association, the NRAEF’s charitable mission includes enhancing the industry’s training and education, career development, and community engagement efforts. The NRAEF and its programs work to Attract, Empower, and Advance today’s and tomorrow’s restaurant and foodservice workforce. NRAEF programs include: ProStart® – a high-school career and technical education program; Restaurant Ready/HOPES – Partnering with community based organizations to provide people with skills training and job opportunities; Military – helping military servicemen and women transition their skills to restaurant and foodservice careers; Scholarships – financial assistance for students pursuing restaurant, foodservice and hospitality degrees; and the Restaurant & Hospitality Leadership Center (RHLC) – accredited apprenticeship programs designed to build the careers of service professionals. For more information on the NRAEF, visit ChooseRestaurants.org. Click here for the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation’s 2021 Annual Impact Report.