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Dawn Sweeney and Cicely SImpson National Restaurant Association

The Power List 2017: Dawn Sweeney and Cicely Simpson

NRN presents The Power List 2017, our fourth annual list of the most powerful people in foodservice. The Top 10 on the list are leading the restaurant industry today, and shaping its future.

The restaurant industry has many challenges to navigate in coming years: the issue of labor, both recruiting and costs; healthcare regulations; weak same-store sales and traffic industrywide; joint-employer regulations; menu labeling; and overtime regulations.

With the election now over, and Donald Trump named president-elect, some government policies are becoming clearer, but an unprecedented period is still to come.

Guiding the industry through these challenging times are Dawn Sweeney, president and CEO of the National Restaurant Association, and Cicely Simpson, the recently appointed executive vice president of policy and government affairs for the association.

Sweeney was appointed to the top role at the NRA in 2007, and has received a number of accolades for her work, including from NRN. This is her third appearance on The Power List. 

Simpson came to the NRA in 2015 from Dunkin’ Brands Group Inc., where she served as vice president of government affairs for seven years, giving her an operator’s-eye view of major issues that will likely inform her work for the broader restaurant industry at the NRA.

“We are taking a holistic approach to advocacy, listening to our members and prioritizing our main areas of focus,” Simpson told Nation’s Restaurant News in September amid the presidential election. 

With the installment of Trump as president, the NRA will likely find an administration that is much friendlier to the interests of its membership of more than 500,000 restaurant businesses. 

Following the election results, Sweeney said the NRA congratulated Trump and looked forward to working with him “to protect and expand the contributions restaurants make” to communities.

“We are committed to working with both sides of the aisle to find solutions that grow our economy and help all Americans succeed in the workforce,” she said.

With policies both current and future — such as the Affordable Care Act, overtime regulations and menu labeling — swinging in the favor of business under the forthcoming administration, Sweeney and Simpson will have the opportunity to significantly shape the restaurant industry.

For instance, consider the Affordable Care Act, which has helped many individual Americans secure healthcare, but which has also burdened businesses. This healthcare regulation passed under President Barack Obama has been a key concern for the NRA since its inception.

President-elect Trump and Congressional Republicans have made plain that a priority will be dismantling this law. How successful this attempt will be remains to be seen, but there is no doubt that the new administration’s plans for the regulation coincide with the NRA’s position.

That’s not to say that the next four years will be smooth sailing for the NRA or for the industry. Sweeney and Simpson will continue to lead the organization when it comes to advocating for restaurants and achieving an industry sustainable for both the present and the future. 

Contact Marcella Veneziale at [email protected]

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