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Brinker International is the parent company of Maggiano’s Little Italy and Chili’s Grill & Bar.

Brinker, Taco Mac join apprenticeship program

NRA Educational Foundation initiative to focus on training, education

Brinker International Inc. and Taco Mac have secured 300 spots in the new Hospitality Sector Registered Apprenticeship program aimed at developing careers in the industry.

Dallas-based Brinker, parent to the Chili’s Grill & Bar and Maggiano’s Little Italy brands, committed to enroll 250 apprentices, and Alpharetta, Ga.-based Taco Mac secured 50 positions in the program, which was introduced last year by the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation and the American Hotel & Lodging Association.

An NRAEF spokeswoman said the program’s other restaurant participants include Taylors, S.C.-based Café Enterprises Inc., parent to Fatz Southern Kitchen; Jacksonville, Fla.-based Firehouse Subs; Raleigh, N.C.-based Golden Corral; and Alhambra, Calif.-based Shakey’s USA Inc. Hotel and lodging brands in the program include Almbridge Hospitality, Hilton, Omni and Wyndham.

National Restaurant Association

At the Feb. 21, 2017, signing of the Hospitality Sector Registered Apprenticeship project partnership were, from left: Rob Gifford of the NRAEF, Joori Jeon of the AHLA and Jose Velazquez of the Labor Department.

The NRAEF and the AHLA last year signed a $1.8 million contract with the U.S. Department of Labor to launch the national Hospitality Sector Registered Apprenticeship project. The two groups said they aim to enroll 1,000 apprentices in the program.

With 250 apprentices, Brinker has made the largest commitment to the program.

 “The restaurant industry is known for being a stop along the way in most people’s career, but our industry is in jeopardy if we don’t show team members a clear path to long-term growth, so at Brinker we’re leading the way,” Rick Badgley, Brinker’s senior vice president and chief people officer, said in a statement.

“This apprenticeship program will provide education and training opportunities to create a more defined career path for the millions of Americans who work in restaurants, foodservice and hospitality,” said Rob Gifford, executive vice president of the NRAEF.

Taco Mac said it was granted $1,000 from the Labor Department for every apprentice registered.

“I am extremely passionate about the apprenticeship program, as it offers even more legitimacy to our industry and provides a clear pathway for what technical and soft skills are needed for the role of a restaurant manager,” said Mary Lowe, Taco Mac’s vice president of training and development.

To participate in the program, Taco Mac was required to meet at least 80 percent of the restaurant management competencies outlined by the NRAEF.

Taco Mac’s group of apprentices were internally recruited from key team members, the company said.

Apprentices who complete the program have the opportunity to obtain the Certified Restaurant Manager (CRM) professional credential being piloted by the National Restaurant Association. In addition to the CRM, there are two other new credentials in the pilot stage: Certified Restaurant Professional (CRP), and Certified Restaurant Supervisor (CRS).

“The new CRM designation signals that individuals have met the industry defined standards in areas such as leadership, business acumen and food safety management,” said Sara Anderson, the NRA’s director of workforce development. “The designation is important to apprentices because it shows employers that they have the skills and experience to do the job, which helps to impact business performance and advance that person’s career.”

Taco Mac said the apprentice program has also become an effective recruiting tool.

Taco Mac must report quarterly to the NRAEF on competency achievements and wage incentives for employees in the program.

Contact Ron Ruggless at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter: @RonRuggless

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