National Restaurant Association Showcases “People Behind the Plate”

It’s no secret that restaurants were hard hit during the pandemic. A new initiative is spotlighting the contributions people in the industry made to their communities, all while struggling to keep their businesses—and employees—afloat.  

Even though restaurants experienced severe hardships because of the pandemic, many persevered and are coming out on the other side. To highlight their personal stories, the National Restaurant Association recently launchedPeople Behind the Plate.” The initial phase of the campaign features stories of six restaurant owners, operators, and chefs who worked hard—against long odds—to keep their doors open.

“‘People Behind the Plate’ is an important first component in a wider vision around the opportunity in the restaurant industry,” said Tia Mattson, the association’s executive vice president of enterprise marketing and communications. “We are the nation’s second-largest private sector employer, and the last industry where an individual can join at entry level and rise to ownership or upper management.”

The devastating reach of the pandemic caused labor shortages, rising costs, and supply chain delays, which pushed restaurants to the edge. “People Behind the Plate” highlights the hyperlocal nature of restaurants. “One thing the pandemic taught us was that our restaurants are so important to our communities,” Mattson said. “They’re a center for gathering.”

The initiative will also help tell the industry’s survival stories to Congress. The association has been vocal on Capitol Hill about the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, a Small Business Administration grant program that aims to help eligible restaurant businesses recover from pandemic-related revenue loss.

“We’ve been working in areas such as Texas, Michigan, and Oregon where we want to make sure we have stories in front of Congress so they can see the importance these restaurants play in their communities and they can help us keep them open,” Mattson said.

The national association partnered with state-level counterparts, which have helped to identify stories and share them with local media outlets. “Our members have also been really great at participating,” Mattson said.

The group captures video through Zoom, which has accelerated its ability to generate content quickly and inexpensively. A staff videographer uses video editing software to produce the final products.

“If we are able to tell positive, great stories, create a place to curate those, and then leverage them for local media—which we have been doing—that feels like a great success for us,” Mattson said.

The first six videos in the series “showcase personal accounts by restaurant owners and operators and how their restaurants have a tangible impact on the people around them,” the association said in a press release. “From supporting deployed troops, to providing free meals for those in need, to serving meals to frontline workers during the pandemic, their stories provide a snapshot of what the people in the restaurant industry are doing to help others.”

“Our people make the restaurant industry special, and it is part of the association’s mission to help grow our workforce and their prestige as professionals,” Mattson said.

(FG/E+/Getty Images Plus)

Lisa Boylan

By Lisa Boylan

Lisa Boylan is a senior editor of Associations Now. MORE

Got an article tip for us? Contact us and let us know!