Kessler Foundation Awards $500K in Grants to Strengthen Restaurant Work-Readiness Training for People with Disabilities

Washington, D.C. – March 30, 2023 – The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF) will strengthen its work readiness training for people with disabilities through its “Hospitality Pathways” project thanks to $500,000 in Signature Employment Grant funding from Kessler Foundation.

Two Restaurant Ready trainees with disabilities

Thanks to grant funds from Kessler Foundation, the Hospitality Pathways project aims to expand access for people with disabilities to Restaurant Ready work-readiness resources, as well as job and career opportunities in the restaurant and foodservice industry.

The “Hospitality Pathways” project builds on the NRAEF’s commitment to attracting and retaining restaurant and foodservice workers from all backgrounds by equipping them with training and education. Thanks to grant funds from Kessler Foundation, the project aims to expand access for people with disabilities to Restaurant Ready work-readiness resources, as well as job and career opportunities in the restaurant and foodservice industry. Originally awarded as a $250,000 Signature Employment Grant in late 2022, the project was recently approved for a second year of Kessler Foundation funding worth an additional $250,000.

“We’re excited about the progress we’ll achieve, thanks to these funds, in improving Restaurant Ready’s efforts to increase the access of people with disabilities to work-readiness training and career opportunities,” said Rob Gifford, president of the NRAEF. “With the support of Kessler Foundation, we’re making strides to ensure everyone can take advantage of the job and growth opportunities that are abundant in the industry.”

“Jobs in the hospitality sector continue to grow as the economy recovers from the pandemic,” said Elaine E. Katz, senior vice president of grants and communications at Kessler Foundation. “We are hopeful that this project brings a new pool of talent to the attention of employers to consider beyond entry level positions.”

With the help of state restaurant associations and community-based organization partners in Colorado, Delaware, and Michigan, the NRAEF will strengthen its materials, Restaurant Ready delivery, and career pathway and apprenticeship opportunities to increase access options for people with disabilities. The updated Hospitality Pathways Universal Design for Learning enhancements will be piloted with a group of 100 participants through the following state restaurant associations and community-based organizations before being disseminated to more than 60 partner sites across 22 states and shared with the overall hospitality industry:

  • Colorado Restaurant Association & Skills Academy Vocational Center
  • Delaware Restaurant Association & Food Bank of Delaware
  • Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association & Peckham Human Services

As one of the NRAEF’s signature programs, Restaurant Ready helps people acquire basic job and life skills necessary to pursue industry jobs. Through a partnership with state restaurant associations and community-based organizations, individuals receive training in six work-ready competency areas, defined by the hospitality industry, that are designed to help them acquire skills, discipline, and confidence to start a job in the industry and remain employed. The NRAEF’s state restaurant association partners link these participants to local employers, and community-based organizations provide further wraparound services to eliminate success barriers. Learn more at

About The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF) 

As the supporting philanthropic foundation of the National Restaurant Association, the NRAEF’s charitable mission includes 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/HOPES – Partnering with community based organizations to provide people 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 Restaurant & Hospitality Leadership Center (RHLC) – accredited apprenticeship programs designed to build the careers of service professionals. For more information on the NRAEF, Click here for the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation’s 2022 Annual Impact Report.

About Kessler Foundation

Kessler Foundation, a major nonprofit organization in the field of disability, is a global leader in rehabilitation research. Our scientists seek to improve cognition, mobility, and long-term outcomes, including employment, for adults and children with neurological and developmental disabilities of the brain and spinal cord including traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, stroke, MS, and autism. Kessler Foundation also leads the nation in funding innovative programs that expand opportunities for employment for people with disabilities. For more information, visit


Hannah Oliver

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