The “Best” In Diversity and Inclusion, Community Service and Hospitality Honored by the Restaurant and Foodservice Industry

National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation Announces 2017
Faces of Diversity, Restaurant Neighbor and Ambassador of Hospitality Award Winners
Watch their stories here
WASHINGTON, D.C. – March 28, 2017 – From local bistros to national chains, restaurants play an essential role in shaping communities and neighborhoods across the nation, and creating opportunities for people everywhere.  To celebrate the “best of the best” in diversity and inclusion, community service and hospitality leadership, the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF) announced today the 2017 Restaurant Neighbor, Faces of Diversity and Ambassador of Hospitality award winners.
Seven winners were selected from more than 400 nominations to be honored by the NRAEF at a special VIP dinner in Washington, D.C.  Their incredible stories of overcoming personal challenges, achieving their dreams and giving back to the community will be shared with industry icons and members of Congress.
“We have a long tradition of encouraging diversity and inclusion across our industry and for celebrating community engagement,” said Rob Gifford, Executive Vice President, NRAEF.  “There are over one million restaurants in the U.S. that are opening doors of opportunity for people of all backgrounds and cultures, and playing a key role in supporting and improving the communities where we work and live.  Each year, the Foundation is excited and honored to recognize the people and businesses that truly embody these values and principles.”
Regarded as one of the most prestigious award events in the restaurant and foodservice industry, the evening coincides with the National Restaurant Association’s annual Public Affairs Conference and is sponsored by American Express, PepsiCo Foodservice and EcoLab.
Restaurant Neighbor Awards
The Restaurant Neighbor Award, developed in partnership with American Express, highlights outstanding local and national charitable service and philanthropy. Recipients of the 2017 Restaurant Neighbor Award receive a $10,000 contribution in their name to support the charitable organization or program of their choice. This year’s winners:
Dairy Queen:  Since 1984, the Dairy Queen system has raised more than $120 million for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. This year alone, franchisee donations from Dairy Queen’s Miracle Treat Day totaled approximately $4 million and directly benefited more than 170 Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals throughout the U.S. and Canada.
Gecko’s Grill & Pub - Sarasota, FL:  For 25 years, Gecko’s Grill & Pub has made philanthropy a key ingredient in its company culture.  In the process, Gecko’s has become a pillar of the Sarasota community through its support of the 4-H Foundation, local law enforcement, military and combat veteran groups and youth services.
The Red Barn Restaurant - Augusta, ME:  The Red Barn Restaurant is the centerpiece of giving in Augusta, Maine.  The restaurant puts community first through donations to veterans, local schools, statewide food banks and animal welfare organizations.
Faces of Diversity American Dream Award
The Faces of Diversity American Dream Award, sponsored by PepsiCo Foodservice, honors champions of diversity and inclusion and restaurateurs who have achieved the American Dream.  This year’s winners include:
Roshara Sanders, Chef de Cuisine, Compass Group Flik Hospitality – Bridgeport, CT:  Following her service in the U.S. Army, Roshara Sanders spent three years at the Culinary Institute of America. In 2015, she competed on the Food Network’s “Chopped,” where she won the $10,000 prize and donated all of her winnings to No Kid Hungry.
Raveen Arora, Owner, The Dhaba India Plaza – Tempe, AZ:  Featuring Punjabi cuisine, Raveen Arora’s Dhaba restaurant and Indian marketplace takes guests on a cultural journey.  Born in India, Arora came to America in 1981 and became a successful restaurateur and community leader. 
Farouk Diab, Franchisee, Wienerschnitzel – Sacramento, CA:  As an 18-year old immigrant from the Middle East, Diab had dreams of a better life. He came to the U.S. to study engineering but took a job as a Wienerschnitzel janitor to make ends meet. Forty-one years later, he is Wienerschnitzel’s leading franchisee with 21 stores.
Thad and Alice Eure Ambassador of Hospitality Award
Named in honor of Thad and Alice Eure, the Ambassador of Hospitality Award, sponsored by Ecolab, is bestowed upon an industry leader who displays an unwavering commitment to elevating and advancing the restaurant and foodservice industry.
Xavier Teixido, Owner, Harry’s Hospitality Group – Wilmington, DE:  Xavier Teixido began cooking professionally in his teens, and is now owner of Harry’s Hospitality Group and operates some of the state’s premiere restaurants.  He is on the board of the Delaware Restaurant Association, and has chaired both the NRAEF and National Restaurant Association.  Teixido was also instrumental in developing the NRAEF’s signature ProStart program, and organized the annual Delaware Share Our Strength’s Taste of the Nation dinner for the past 26 years - raising more than $1 million.
For more information on each winner, including images and videos, go to:  https://chooserestaurants.org/Industry-Involvement/Awards
About the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF)
As the philanthropic foundation of the National Restaurant Association, the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation is dedicated to enhancing the industry’s training and education, career development and community engagement efforts. The NRAEF and its programs work to attract, empower and advance today’s and tomorrow’s restaurant and foodservice workforce.  NRAEF programs include:  ProStart – a high-school career and technical education program; Restaurant Ready – partnering with community based organizations to provide “opportunity youth” with skills training and job opportunities; Military – helping military servicemen and women transition their skills to restaurant and foodservice careers; Scholarships – financial assistance for students pursuing restaurant, foodservice and hospitality degrees; and, the Hospitality Sector Registered Apprenticeship Project – a partnership with the American Hotel & Lodging Association providing a  hospitality apprenticeship program for the industry.