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Wolfgang Puck’s Joe Essa named chairman of the National Restaurant Association

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Joe Essa, CEO of Wolfgang Puck Worldwide, has been named the 2019 chairman of the National Restaurant Association, and Geoff Hill, managing director of Sonic Drive-In and Buffalo Wild Wings parent Roark Capital, has been selected as chairman of the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF).

Joe Essa 

Joe Essa

The two were part of a new slate of officers and directors announced Jan. 31 by the Association. Named as vice chairmen of the Association and its educational arm were, respectively, Melvin Rodrigue, CEO of 114-year-old Galatoire’s in New Orleans, and Stan Harris, the former Ruth’s Chris Steak House franchise operator who now serves as CEO of the Louisiana Restaurant Association. Under the National Restaurant Association’s rules of succession, Rodrigue and Harris will move up to chairman in 2020.

Brian Casey, president-owner of the Oak Hill Tavern and Company Picnic Co. catering firm in North Kingstown, R.I., will serve as the 2019 treasurer of the National Restaurant Association. Susan Adzick, SVP of sales and strategic relationships for the foodservice division of McLane Co., was elected treasurer of the NRAEF. Both will move up to vice chairman next year and chairman in 2021.  

The National Restaurant Association and the NRAEF also announced the new directors who were appointed to the group’s boards of directors.  

Seven industry executives have joined the main Association’s 70-person board:

John Cywinski, president of Applebee's
Jean-Marie Clement, VP of food and beverage for Walt Disney World
Don Balfour, VP of Waffle House 
John Teza, director of private-equity firm NRD Capital Management
Dan Rowe, CEO of Fransmart
Brad Anderson, president of Anderson Management Group
Jett Mehta, CEO of Indus Hospitality Group

Five individuals were introduced as new directors of the NRAEF:

Brett Ladd, CEO of Sodexo Government
Derek Small, Director of Culinary Training for Troop Cafe
Joel Neuman, VP of legal and industry affairs, Coca-Cola Foodservice
Greg Barber, VP of global business development, PepsiCo
James Fripp, chief diversity and inclusion officer for Yum Brands

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