Jeff Davis: Restaurant industry is a gateway to career opportunity

National Restaurant Association Chairman Jeff Davis says the restaurant industry is made up of self-starters and rewards dedication, hard work and commitment.

“We provide career opportunities, not just jobs,” he says. “Hard-working, dedicated employees can climb the career ladder from hourly employee to manager to even operating their own restaurant one day.”

Davis, who has achieved great success, started humbly.

Today, as chairman of United States Beef Corporation (US Beef) in Tulsa, Okla., Davis is the largest franchisee of Atlanta-based Arby’s Restaurant Group, with more than 360 stores in eight states. In addition, his company owns and operates six Taco Bueno restaurants in northwest Arkansas. He also is serving a one-year term as the 2017 chairman of the National Restaurant Association.

In that role, he says his No. 1 priority is to help tell the restaurant industry’s story and educate lawmakers on how damaging regulations weaken business and job creation.

“It starts with us,” he says. “Our voices need to be loud. With a new Congress and administration, there’s a real opportunity for us to seize the moment. We’ve helped millions of Americans through high school and college, and millions more have stayed with us to make careers in this industry.”

Among his priorities for action as NRA Chairman this year are promoting common-sense overtime rules, continuing to fight for reforms to the Affordable Care Act and ramping up the NRA’s grassroots efforts.

Davis, who has been in the restaurant business his entire life, did not have an easy start. He helped his father, Bob, mother, Connie, and his siblings open an Arby’s restaurant they’d saved up to buy in Tulsa in 1969. They worked hard to succeed and eventually opened a second store in 1972.

“I got my start in the back of the house, working as a dishwasher and making 60 cents an hour,” he says. “By junior high school, I’d worked my way to the front counter, where my mother taught me the hospitality side of our business. It was hard times, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It made me who I am today and made me love this industry.”

That work ethic continues to serve him well today—that, and the priority he places on surrounding himself with good people who care for the guests, their associates and the foodservice industry in the same way he does. He says hiring great employees who are dedicated to his company’s core values and standards has contributed to his success.

“That’s one of the things I’m proudest of—finding talented people to help me build US Beef; people who are the best in our industry.”

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