Invest in future employees with donations to NRAEF fund

“Will it matter?” How often has this question been asked, or better yet, how often have you asked it yourself? “If I do this, what difference will it make?” In today’s foodservice industry, this question is often asked when considering whether or not to make a charitable donation—especially for those activities that support the development of our industry. You think, “My restaurant is doing just fine. We have customers coming through the doors. We have employees at every position. We’re doing fine, so I don’t think I’ll contribute this time.”

Well, consider this: This year there are an estimated 12.8 million employees working in foodservice. The industry is one of our nation’s largest employers, accounting for more than 9 percent of the country’s jobs. In the next 10 years, our industry is expected to add an additional 2 million jobs, raising the total number to nearly 15 million employees. So what is your organization doing to plan for a trained, educated and qualified workforce?

The National Restaurant Association [3] Educational Foundation, or NRAEF, can help. The NRAEF is a not-for-profit organization, dedicated to fulfilling the educational mission of the National Restaurant Association. While you probably are familiar with the NRAEF’s ServSafe and ServSafe Alcohol brands, you may not be aware that you could have a graduate of its ProStart program or a ManageFirst student on your staff. In addition, the NRAEF each year awards $1.4 million in scholarships to students and teachers currently pursuing or sustaining careers in the restaurant and foodservice industry. That amount comes from the generosity of fellow industry leaders who have donated in both large and small amounts. Every bit helps.

The NRAEF Scholarships and Mentoring Program is dedicated to providing the needed financial support to students working towards a college degree in restaurant and foodservice management. These are your future managers and leaders who will make a career in the industry. The NRAEF is able to support them through the generous donations made by individuals and industry organizations across the country. While the $1.4 million awarded helps more than 500 students and teachers each year, it does not come close to covering the number of individuals currently needing financial aid to pursue the their educations and realize their dreams of careers in the foodservice industry.

We need your help. We need your help to support 1,000 students, and then 1,500, and then 2,000. We need your help to keep our industry thriving.

Again, though, what’s the return? Well, in order to measure the success of the scholarship program, the NRAEF has developed a set of metrics designed to demonstrate how effective the program is in recruiting the talented workforce of tomorrow. The current project has followed random samples of NRAEF scholarship recipients and program participants from 2003 and 2004. Three years into the study, we are seeing exciting and positive results. Across all categories of NRAEF scholarship recipients—more than 1,000 students and teachers—we see that an astonishing 75 percent to 94 percent still are working and/or studying in the industry three years after receiving their scholarship. To put it simply, at least three out of four of the NRAEF scholarship recipients are continuing their careers in the industry. This translates into an educated and motivated workforce, ready to grow with the industry.

So, what’s in it for you is a workforce that has the knowledge, skills and dedication to help move your operation forward. According to People Report’s 2006 Survey of Unit Level Employment Practices, the average turnover rate for hourly employees is 111 percent, with a cost of more than $2,300 to replace each employee. Annual managerial turnover is 35 percent, with a staggering replacement cost of almost $20,000 per manager. When you employ a workforce with a proven commitment to pursuing a career in the industry, you are saving yourself thousands of dollars each year. The return-on-investment speaks for itself.

If you would like to support the NRAEF’s scholarship program, you can make a donation online at www.nraef.org or call (312) 261-5336. If you would like more information on how to become involved with the program, please contact Sue Vogel, NRAEF scholarships and mentoring program director, at (312) 715-6780. We can’t do it without your help.

Ruben Villavicencio is chairman of the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. [4]