January 25, 2018

National Restaurant Association announces new board officers for 2018

Washington, D.C. — The National Restaurant Association and the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation  today announced the swearing in of officers to its Board of Directors and Board of Trustees, respectively. Jay Stieber, executive vice president and general counsel of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, will serve as chair of the NRA board, and Sam Facchini, co-founder/co-owner and operator of Metro Pizza, will serve as chair of the NRAEF board.

“As we head into 2018, our newly-elected Board of Directors will provide critical leadership to ensure that restaurants will continue to support the American dream for our employers and employees,” said Dawn Sweeney, President and CEO of the National Restaurant Association. “Chairs Jay Stieber and Sam Facchini bring years of experience and a passion for our industry to their new roles. At this important time for restaurants, their first-hand knowledge and dedication will provide valuable insights regarding the challenges our industry faces.”

The NRA board consists of about 60 voting directors, representing every facet of the restaurant and foodservice industry throughout the nation. These leaders provide strategic guidance to the NRA as it seeks to advance and protect the interests of the restaurant and foodservice industry.

National Restaurant Association’s 2018 Board Officers

Chair: Jay Stieber is Executive Vice President and General Counsel of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, operator of over 40 different concepts in more than 120 locations in 11 states. He is also a partner and member of the Executive Committee and has been with Lettuce since 1995. Stieber is a past chair of the Illinois Restaurant Association, where he serves on its Executive Committee. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce and the Board of the Chamber’s PAC. Stieber is a graduate of DePaul University and earned his Juris Doctorate from Northwestern University School of Law.

Vice Chair: Joe Essa is President and CEO of Wolfgang Puck Worldwide, where he leads the company’s initiatives to grow its casual-restaurant and consumer-products businesses. Prior to that, he served as Vice President of Operations at TOSCORP, a Manhattan-based, fine-dining Italian restaurant group. Essa also founded restaurant companies in North Carolina and Connecticut.  Essa graduated from Boston College with a bachelor of science in accounting and finance. He is a Certified Public Accountant.

Treasurer: Melvin Rodrigue is President and CEO of Galatoire’s Restaurants, located in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, La. He has dedicated his career to cultivating the traditions and experiences of one of America's grandest fine dining institutions, Galatoire’s, which has been in business since 1905, and showcases New Orleans as a world-class dining destination.  Under his leadership, Galatoire’s iconic, flagship restaurant received the highest of culinary distinctions from the James Beard Foundation in 2005, as the Most Outstanding Restaurant in the United States. Rodrigue also serves as President of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans. Heis a past President of the Louisiana Restaurant Association as well as a Director of the New Orleans CVB Board.

In addition, the NRA added new members to its board. The newly-elected directors include:

Norman Abdallah, Chief Executive Officer, Del Frisco’s Restaurant Group, Southlake, Texas

Mike Axiotis, President, Lehigh Valley Restaurant Group, Allentown, Pa. (Red Robin franchisee)

Genna Gent, Vice President, U.S. Government Relations, McDonald’s Corporation in Washington, D.C.

Steve Johnson, President and CEO, HMSHost Corp., Bethesda, Md.

National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation’s 2018 Board Officers

Chair: Sam Facchini is co-founder/co-owner of Metro Pizza, which has seven full-service locations serving the Las Vegas area for more than 37 years.  Facchini also is a past Chair of the Nevada Restaurant Association. Facchini and his business partner, John Arena, were named Nevada's Restaurateur of the Year in 1999 and Pizza Operator of the Year at Pizza Expo in 1986.  Metro Pizza was named Best of Las Vegas 19 times by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, and, over the years, has received numerous national accolades such as being named one of America's Top 10 Pizzerias from USA Today, Food Network and Pizza Today magazine.  Facchini is dedicated to the NRAEF’s ProStart program and to the education, growth and success of future restaurateurs. Over the years, he has created local high-school scholarships and a hospitality scholarship program at the University of Las Vegas.  In 2005, he was given the Keys to the City of Las Vegas by the city's Mayor, for service to his hometown. He is a graduate of St. John's University, and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting. He earned his CPA from the State of Nevada in 1984.

Vice Chair: Geoff Hill is Managing Director of Roark Capital Group, which owns 19 restaurant brands covering 15,000 locations worldwide. He is responsible for leading sourcing activity for franchise and multiunit acquisitions as well as portfolio management for several of Roark’s Restaurant investments. Previously, Hill was President of Cinnabon, a Roark-owned company. He started his hospitality career at Bristol Hotel Company and attended Cornell University’s Hotel and Restaurant School.

Treasurer: Stan Harris is President and CEO of the Louisiana Restaurant Association. Before that, Harris spent 27 years with TJM Restaurant Management, which was the largest franchisee of Ruth’s Chris Steak House, including stints as President and CEO of the firm. In 2007, he became CEO of the Forefront Group, North America’s largest supplier of golf accessories. Most recently, Harris served as managing partner of The H Group, a management advisory firm focused on business-process improvement and team development, serving family businesses and entrepreneurs. Harris is a past President of the Council for State Restaurant Associations as well as a Director on the New Orleans CVB Board. He is a graduate of Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.

In addition, the NRAEF added new members to its board. The newly-elected trustees include:

Roger Kaplan, founder, RK iNNOVATION, Dallas, Texas

Curtis Wilson, Vice President and General Manager – National Client Group, American Express Company New York City


About the National Restaurant Association

Founded in 1919, the National Restaurant Association is the leading business association for the restaurant industry, which comprises 1 million restaurant and foodservice outlets and a workforce of more than 14.7 million employees. We represent the industry in Washington, D.C., and advocate on its behalf.  We operate the industry's largest trade show (NRA Show May 19-22, 2018, in Chicago); 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 us on Twitter @WeRRestaurantsFacebook and YouTube


About the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation

As the philanthropic foundation of the National Restaurant Association, the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation’s mission of service to the public is dedicated to 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 – partnering with community based organizations to provide “opportunity youth” 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 Hospitality Sector Registered Apprenticeship Project – a partnership with the American Hotel & Lodging Association providing a  hospitality apprenticeship program for the industry. For more information on the NRAEF, visit ChooseRestaurants.org.