National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF) launched “Restaurants Advance: Journeys that Inspire” spotlighting excellence in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI). The series of uplifting stories, brought to you by PepsiCo, features members of the restaurant, foodservice and hospitality industry who represent the highest standards in DEI and achieved the American Dream.
“The pandemic and the past 18+ months have been challenging for the restaurant industry and its employees, but there are so many inspiring stories of resilience and finding new opportunities,” said Rob Gifford, president of the NRAEF. “We want to celebrate those who took positive steps to further DEI, support their communities, and be an example for us all.”
The NRAEF has selected the following inspiring stories from among the 12 million hard-working members of the restaurant industry:
Raveen Arora, Owner
This 2017 NRAEF Faces of Diversity honoree with “a business mind and a servant heart” was born in a refugee camp in India and grew up in poverty. Having achieved phenomenal success as a business consultant and small restaurant owner, Arora’s devoted to enriching the lives of the less fortunate. Read more.
Elisia Flores, CEO
L&L Hawaiian BBQ
This second-generation CEO is awed by the company’s impact on future owner-operators, many of whom are immigrants or come from disadvantaged backgrounds and are creating wealth and a legacy of their own. “It’s my dad’s story 100 times,” says Flores. Read more.
Ivan Flores, CEO & Founder
Long Beach, Calif.
This self-taught, up-and-coming entrepreneur and creator of the “world-famous buffalo fries” is a mentor to future franchisees. “It’s a neat experience to watch them invest their time and resources and grow alongside you,” says Flores. He looks for leaders who share his values of hard work, customer service and quality, and tells them to “never stop dreaming.” Read more.
Austina Smith, Chef
Grand Living at Bridgewater
Since winning NRAEF’s Faces of Diversity award in 2020, Smith has felt empowered to have deeper conversations about race with residents at her senior living community, as well as at her sons’ school. “I can tell a story through food, which brings people together and builds trust,” she says. Read more.
“These stories remind us that the restaurant industry is made up of people who are making an impact in their communities and together are taking steps that can spark broader changes in society,” said Anne Fink, Global Foodservice President at PepsiCo. “We’re proud to support the NRAEF in sharing these inspiring journeys that celebrate the diversity and future of our industry.”
PepsiCo, a long-time partner of the NRAEF and champion for DEI, is also partnering with NRAEF and the Multicultural Foodservice & Hospitality Alliance (MFHA) on Pathways to Black Franchise Ownership – a new innovative franchising initiative sponsored by PepsiCo that is designed to equip aspiring entrepreneurs to operate high-performing businesses, with a goal of creating 100 Black-owned franchise restaurants by the end of 2023.