The Multicultural Foodservice & Hospitality Alliance (MFHA) announced that president and Founder Gerry A. Fernandez will be retiring effective December 31, 2023. Beginning next year, Gerry will support MFHA in an advisory role.
After 27 years at the helm of MFHA and nearly 50 years in the restaurant and hospitality industry, Gerry leaves a legacy of advancing diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and creating opportunities for people from all backgrounds.
Under Gerry’s leadership, MFHA has helped countless restaurant, foodservice and lodging businesses improve their cultural competency, create diverse and inclusive work environments and attract more diverse talent, especially in leadership positions. He also developed a supplier diversity directory and conducted the industry’s first diverse practices survey. In 2022, MFHA, the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF) and Cornell University issued a new DEI Report outlining the effectiveness of DEI practices among restaurant employees. An outcome of the report was MFHA’s launch of ELEVATE, an award-winning comprehensive framework and toolkit that any restaurant can use to build a successful DEI program.
Gerry and MFHA are well-known throughout the industry for sharing best practices and offering products, services and solutions that are relevant to today’s ever-changing DEI landscape. Gerry is also well-known for his knowledge-based workshops, webinars, research, programs, speaking engagements and consulting services. This year, MFHA is hosting a series of Leadership Roundtables for MFHA members and non-members to learn more about current DEI trends, issues and challenges facing the foodservice and hospitality industry.
“Gerry has a gift for convening thought leaders and for putting plans into action in service to our industry,” said Michelle Korsmo, President & CEO of the National Restaurant Association and CEO of the NRAEF. “His innate leadership, commitment to others’ success, and passion for hospitality have helped thousands of restaurant and foodservice workers build a future of opportunity.”
“Gerry’s focus on access and training have allowed companies large and small to significantly enhance their DEI strategies and attract and retain a more diverse workforce,” said Rob Gifford, President, NRAEF. “He is highly regarded as a leading DEI expert and is not afraid to tackle cultural and DEI issues head on. I’m confident Gerry will continue to be on the front lines of advancing our industry and its people for many years to come.”
MFHA Chair, Max Langenkamp added, “Gerry always has his finger on the pulse of what’s happening both at the corporate level and with the people this industry depends on. He understands the impact social and cultural changes have on us all and what we can do together to effect positive change.”
Gerry earned his bachelor’s degree in Foodservice Management and a degree in Culinary Arts from Johnson & Wales University and successfully managed operations at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, Hemenway’s Seafood Grill, Oyster Bar and The Capital Grille. He transitioned into foodservice research and development at General Mills, which supported him in the launch of MFHA.
Awards and recognition include – honorary doctorate in Business Administration from Johnson & Wales University, special recognition as a top leader and innovator by Nation’s Restaurant News, Lodging Magazine, and Black Meetings & Tourism, as well as The Black Culinary Alliance and the Rainbow/P.U.S.H. Coalition. Gerry is also an honorary Board Member of the Rhode Island Community Food Bank and life member of the NAACP and the Women’s Foodservice Forum (WFF).
MFHA will be conducting a national search for his successor.