New coalition aims to prepare for the workforce of the future

The National Restaurant Association has taken on expanded leadership roles in the Emma Coalition to help prepare for changes brought by emerging technologies.
Photograph courtesy of the National Restaurant Association

Artificial intelligence, robotics and other emerging technologies are beginning to change the way restaurant businesses operate—and the impact on the U.S. workforce isn’t far off.The so-called technology-induced displacement of employees (TIDE) will mean a big evolution in how employers train, how employees adapt and compete and how policymakers write labor laws, experts say.

The National Restaurant Association in May took on expanded leadership roles in the Emma Coalition to help prepare for the changes. The nonpartisan group aims to bring together small and large American businesses across industries, labor representatives, academic experts and others to advocate for ways that today’s employees and employers can evolve and adapt together as more technologies enter the market.

A chief aim of the group is to encourage Congress to take a new approach to workforce education and policy. “Government, industry and policymakers all have an opportunity to examine TIDE issues today, and forge consensus around policies that can help us prepare in advance for the technology and workforce of the future,” said the Association’s Vice President of Public Policy Shannon Meade, who serves as the coalition’s executive director.

With a workforce of 15.3 million, “the restaurant industry is at the epicenter of this dramatic transformation,” Meade said. “We are excited to help lead this conversation.”

The Association co-founded the coalition with Littler, the world’s largest employment and labor law practice representing management. Dawn Sweeney, president and CEO of the National Restaurant Association and its Educational Foundation, serves on the coalition’s board.

The coalition’s new report, “Automation & Artificial Intelligence: TIDE at the Tipping Point,” documents the pace of technology change and disruption as well as activities policymakers can take to address TIDE at local, state and federal levels. News reports often focus on negative implications of automation, but many economists have found automation leads to positive effects on the labor market, economic growth, reduced prices and increased demand.

Visit to learn more.

Members help make our journalism possible. Become a Restaurant Business member today and unlock exclusive benefits, including unlimited access to all of our content. Sign up here.


Exclusive Content


Struggling I Heart Mac and Cheese franchisees push back against their franchisor

Operators say most of them aren't making money and want a break on their royalties. But they also complain about receiving expired cheese from closed stores. "Don't send us moldy product."


In California, jobs are up, but traffic is down

The Bottom Line: Limited-service restaurants have not cut jobs in California, despite the $20 fast-food wage. But that doesn't mean it hasn't had an impact.


First-party catering emerges as a new frontier for restaurant tech

Tech Check: As catering booms, more tech companies are offering restaurants the tools to do it themselves.


More from our partners