After 15 months at the helm, Tom Bené is stepping down as president and CEO of the National Restaurant Association to join a beverage distribution company, the organization announced Tuesday. Marvin Irby, the association’s chief financial and people officer, will serve as interim while a search is conducted for a replacement.
Bené has been named president and CEO of the alcohol distribution company Breakthru Beverage Group, effective Oct. 4. The move is a return to the supply side for Bené, who served previously as CEO of Sysco Corp. before joining the restaurant association on June 1, 2020.
Bené at the time replaced long-time CEO Dawn Sweeney, who retired at the end of 2019 after 12 years at the helm of the Washington, D.C.-based association.
The challenges of COVID-19 have made the past 18 months a particularly difficult time for the restaurant industry. Bené has worked with restaurant operators, manufacturers and distributors to bolster the industry’s recovery efforts, the association said.
“We appreciate Tom’s leadership and commitment to the industry during this difficult time,” said Brian Casey, National Restaurant Association 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.”
Bené also steps down as CEO of the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation.
In a statement, Bené said he was incredibly proud of the work the association accomplished. “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.”
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