Tom Bené
National Restaurant Association

The 30-year veteran is returning to the beverage distribution sector as CEO of Breakthru Beverage Group starting October 4.

National Restaurant Association CEO Tom Bené Resigns

The leader is moving on a little more than a year after taking the post. 

The National Restaurant Association announced Tuesday that Tom Bené is resigning as president and CEO.

The 30-year veteran is returning to the beverage distribution sector as CEO of Breakthru Beverage Group starting October 4. While he takes on that new role, Bené will remain with the organization in an unnamed leadership role. CFO and Chief People Officer Marvin Irby, who has more than 30 years of leadership experience with prior roles at Kraft Foods, PepsiCo, and Disney, will serve as interim CEO.

“We appreciate Tom’s leadership and commitment to the industry during this difficult time,” said Brian Casey, board chair and owner of the Oak Hill Tavern and the Company Picnic Company, in a statement. “Tom’s unique industry experience was invaluable in helping the Association and Foundation navigate a once-in-a-lifetime global pandemic.”

Last year, Bené was picked to replace Dawn Sweeney, who led the trade association for a dozen years before leaving at the end of 2019. His tenure began in June roughly two and a half months after COVID hit the U.S, a time when the entire food and drink industry was hemorrhaging billions of dollars. Under his leadership, the Association vigorously fought for direct aid to the restaurant industry, including the passage of the $28.6 Billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund.

Only one-third of applications received funding and about 177,000 requests totaling $43.6 billion are still pending, according to the Association. The trade group has urged Congress to replenish the fund and has publicly shown appreciation for the introduction of the $60 billion Restaurant Revitalization Replenishment Act and the $60 billion ENTRÉE Act.

A task force is being formed to oversee the search for a new president and CEO.

“I am incredibly proud of the work this team has done and all that we have accomplished together during this incredible time,” Bené said in a statement. “Whether it's the significant impact we've made to support the industry through our advocacy efforts; the new governance model that we put in place to drive deeper engagement and more effectiveness; or the restructuring of the organization to meet the changing needs of the industry, our state associations, and our members, it has been a truly collaborative effort. I know the Association and Foundation—and these teams—are well-positioned for continued success.”