The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF) announced its 2016 Restaurant Neighbor, Faces of Diversity, and Ambassador of Hospitality award winners. The winners will be honored at a gala on April 12 during the National Restaurant Association’s annual Public Affairs Conference in Washington, D.C.
Divided into three groups, the awards elevate philanthropic initiatives, celebrate diversity and recognize exemplary leadership. Nominations for the 2016 awards were accepted through fall 2015. Industry leaders convened earlier this year to review hundreds of applications and select eight winners for the three categories.
“The abundant opportunity for advancement and philanthropic engagement within the restaurant industry is apparent in the 2016 Industry Award recipients. This is an industry for people of all backgrounds and abilities,” says Rob Gifford, executive vice president of the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. “The desire to achieve the American Dream and better their communities is why these restaurateurs are being honored today, and we look forward to all they will continue to accomplish within their careers and for their communities.”
American Express’ Restaurant Neighbor Awards
For nearly 20 years, the Restaurant Neighbor Award, developed in partnership with American Express, has highlighted outstanding charitable service and philanthropy in the hospitality industry. Recipients of the 2016 Restaurant Neighbor Award receive a $10,000 contribution to continue supporting their charitable initiatives. The winners are:
- Carr’s Steakhouse (Mayfield, Kentucky): Carr’s Restaurants have been a community pillar in rural Mayfield for more than 60 years. Since the steakhouse’s inception six years ago, employees have worked to help their neighbors and better their community by organizing numerous events. Fundraising efforts, which raised roughly $50,000, have allowed children in their community’s school district to enroll in youth sports. Their pinnacle event last year was raising funds to keep the local movie theater alive. They served a free meal to the community in exchange for donations to the movie theater and raised thousands of dollars to keep the establishment in business.
- Gregg’s Restaurants & Pubs (East Greenwich, Rhode Island): For the past 20 years, Gregg’s Restaurants & Pubs have worked with non-profit groups to support families, the homeless, the forgotten, and the elderly. Through an annual event called the Giving Tree, employees, customers, friends, family and vendors have distributed more than 325,000 Christmas gifts to those in need in the community over the past two decades. Other charitable initiatives include Gregg’s Giving Cake, which donates a portion of cake proceeds to Hasbro Children’s Hospital; Cake for the Cure, which supports the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation; and the Rhode Island Community Food Bank which Gregg’s has supported through monetary donations for the past seven years.
- Cornerstone Humanitarian: Harald Herrmann, President, Darden Specialty Restaurant Group (Orlando): Harald Herrmann opened the flagship Yard House in 1996, years after he launched his restaurant industry career as a part-time dishwasher during high school. Feeling a need to give back to the community, Herrmann began his largest philanthropic initiative, Round It Up America, in 2009. The program enables guests to round up their check total, donating the extra change to a charity of the participating restaurant’s choice. Yard House alone has raised more than $2 million through Round It Up America and approximately $3.2 million has been raised in total since 2009.
- Firehouse Subs (Jacksonville, Florida.): For more than 10 years, Firehouse Subs has played a role in fundraising to increase the safety of communities in 44 states and Puerto Rico. In 2005, they established Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation and have granted more than $17 million to 1,250 fire, police, EMS, and public safety organizations in over 1,000 communities. The programs supported by the Foundation provide life-saving equipment, prevention and safety education, public safety scholarships, military support, and disaster relief.