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NRA, NRAEF boards approve ServSafe change

WASHINGTON The boards of the National Restaurant Association and the NRA Educational Foundation have voted to align certain operations with the specific goal of boosting revenues.

Under the plan, the NRAEF’s lucrative ServSafe certification programs would be marketed to the restaurant industry by the NRA and its state association affiliates. The NRAEF would receive royalties for permitting the associations to sell the food-safety and beverage-training regimens under a 20-year licensing agreement.

The NRA would focus on government relations, the NRAEF would concentrate on scholarships and other efforts to promote education, and the new marketing collaboration would attempt to market ServSafe more efficiently. The expected higher profits would flow into new businesses and services as well as to the NRA and its state affiliates, according to officials who asked that their names not be used. The plan was confirmed by NRA chief executive Dawn Sweeney through a spokeswoman.

The vote by the boards came as the NRA, the industry’s largest association, is striving to redefine its long-term strategy. Officials are speaking of the need to add membership services and tap additional revenue wells without detracting from the group’s traditional mission of protecting the industry’s political and regulatory interests.

Association directors said the newly approved arrangement would allow the situation’s three major stakeholders — the NRA, the NRAEF and the state associations — to share in the revenues from ServSafe, which are believed to exceed $20 million a year. ServSafe provides certificates to foodservice managers who have undergone training in food safety or responsible alcohol service and passed an exam.

Insiders say the NRA and the NRAEF have been searching for almost four years for a way to allow the Washington-based NRA to share in the flow of funds from ServSafe. An earlier proposal called for an outright sale of the programs by the NRAEF to the NRA, but some state associations and directors from both national groups strongly objected, blasting the deal as unfavorable to some of the parties. State officials asserted that they would not adequately participate in the proceeds from ServSafe, which many re-sell after buying the programs at a steep discount from the NRAEF. They voiced fears that their business model would change, with a significant drop in revenues.

Some NRAEF and NRA board members also were concerned that the sale of ServSafe would leave the educational group with insufficient funds to pursue its mission.

Insiders say the new arrangement was carefully crafted after more than a year of negotiations to share revenues in a more equitable split. Some noted that it is not dissimilar to the setup that is used at the AARP, organization that was formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons. Sweeney moved to the NRA, effective today, from the AARP, where she led its services operation.

The NRA-NRAEF collaboration is expected to be finalized before the end of the year, with a targeted start date of Jan. 1.

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