Get to Know: Jack Crawford

Chairman, National Restaurant Association; President and CEO, Ground Round

Why Crawford? Some say the NRA has a message problem when it comes to its stance on hot-button topics; they’ve got a good story to tell but are being beat by unions and lawmakers. Will its newest chairman make a difference? He might, based on his past at Ground Round Grill & Bar, based in Freeport, Maine.

Crawford started with Ground Round corporate in 1981, then became a franchisee in the ‘90s. Later that decade, the brand was taken private with a lot of debt, eventually forcing the home office to shut down. Instead of going down with the ship, Crawford led a franchisee buyout, completed in 2004, convincing franchisees to reinvest in a suffering brand that he believed still had legs.

Fast forward 10 years, franchisees—all of whom are brand shareholders—have recouped their investment, with Crawford at the helm. Now he’s bringing that leadership to the NRA, taking on the voice of its 40,000 members.

In this role, which began in January, he’ll use his “rounded perception” to alter the dialogue, getting more people involved in the NRA’s advocacy efforts and telling its story, he says. To do so, he’ll spend the year traveling, familiarizing operators with the NRA’s efforts and hoping they’ll drink the Kool-Aid.

We know the big ones—the ACA, NLRB—but what are some of the other pain points you hope to address in the coming year?

Those are the big ones for sure. I think health care is probably the most important one ... And I think immigration is going to come back. We employ 13.5 million people and, in many cases, as we continue to grow and want to grow our business, we need to have a better system and structure for people to gain citizenship and keep adding to our workforce.

What keeps operators up at night?

One [thing] is recruitment ... A recent survey said that 70 percent of those in the industry plan to stay and have careers in our industry. Those are the stories we need to tell and make people understand, because there’s this notion that’s not what we are, and that’s only going to hurt our recruitment.

Are any of these issues you personally hope to have an impact on?

The two [issues] that I do have a lot of passion for: one is to tell our story and what we mean to the community, to employment, to society, what we provide to people. And two is to help encourage our industry to stand up for our business and to get people involved in our advocacy efforts. 

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