Title: Chief Innovation and Member Advancement Officer for the National
Hometown: Silver Springs, Maryland
Hobbies: Extreme sporter; Tough Mudder; avid reader of business books and
Education: Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Northern
Arizona University; International Executive MBA from the McDonough School
of Business at Georgetown University
Favorite Cuisine: Mexican
Personal: Married, with four grown children
Favorite Sports Teams: Baltimore Ravens; Georgetown Hoya's basketball
team; Panathinaikos F.C. (Greek Soccer Club) Athens, Greece
Pet Peeves: Dealing with pessimistic people
One of the National Restaurant Association’s recent hires, Phil Kafarakis, stands at the crossroads of the organization’s future. Kafarakis, who is chief innovation and member advancement officer, is charged with helping to make restaurant operators more profitable.
“This isn’t only an association it is a hybrid business model. We have tremendous opportunities to serve the industry in so many ways by building on our mission,” says Kafarakis.
With more than 30 years of brand management, business development, and strategic planning experience in the food and beverage industry, Kafarakis is convinced he can bring real value to NRA members. With responsibilities that include membership, strategic planning, product and services, business development, innovation, strategic partnerships, and international support, clearly Kafarakis has a lot on his plate.
“Given my background this opportunity makes a lot of sense. This role lets me be at the crossroads of distributors, manufacturers, and operators,” he says. “I can’t tell you how exciting it is to be in a position to make a lot of stuff happen for operators.”
Kafarakis, who was born in Athens, Greece, boasts a career that includes leadership positions at McCormick & Co., Cargill, Aqua-Novus Corp., Jones Dairy Farm, Oscar Mayer Foods Corp., and Kraft USA. He also is active in several industry groups including the International Foodservice Manufacturers Association (IFMA), International Food Distributors Association (IFDA), International Dairy Deli Bakery Association (IFDDBA), American Meat Institute (AMI) and Sales & Marketing Executives International (SME).
Ultimately Kafarakis would like the NRA to bring the same value to its members as the National Football League. “The NRA could be like the NFL and bring the same kind of unity that it has brought to club owners. Think of the state associations like the individual NFL teams. Now that is a powerhouse, and we have that same kind of potential.”
Kafarakis says the strategy that NRA’s president and CEO, Dawn Sweeney, has been building is coming to life. “We are at the beginning of a very vibrant business model,” he says. “There are really three legs of the stool: There is advocacy, the NRA’s Educational Foundation, and the business model that we are evolving. I like to think of it as a hybrid curtain that you can look behind. As Dawn continues to build this strategy it will come to life more and more. One day soon everyone will wake up and understand we are all in this together for the greater good.”
Part of Kafarakis’ responsibility will be expanding the NRA’s membership base beyond its present 53 percent penetration of U.S. restaurant locations. “We would like to see that number get up to 60 percent of U.S. locations,” he says.