National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation Shines a Spotlight on Excellence in Community Service

Month-long campaign features journeys that inspire brought to you by American Express

WASHINGTON, DC – November 3, 2021 – Today, the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF) launched the second installment of its “Restaurants Advance: Journeys that Inspire” campaign, spotlighting excellence in community service throughout November. The series of inspiring stories, brought to you by American Express, features three restaurant companies who demonstrated exceptional resilience and adaptability during the pandemic, and then extended that strength by supporting their local communities.

“These stories remind us that restaurants are the heartbeat of our local communities, creating jobs, stimulating the economy, and serving as a place for people to come together,” said Rob Gifford, president of the NRAEF. “Even when their doors may have been temporarily closed, these businesses found a way to engage with their communities, always putting the well-being of their employees and guests first.”

Among the many U.S. restaurants who have experienced significant change during the pandemic while also giving back to their communities, NRAEF is spotlighting the following companies:


Seattle, Washington

Third-generation owners Mark and Brian Canlis personify reinvention and resilience. When they were forced to temporarily close their fine-dining restaurant, they transformed their business into a drive-in movie theater, roadside BBQ and a crab shack. They launched Canlis Community College, live streaming classes on food & wine, raising $60,000 for local hunger relief and job training.

Read more.


Elephants Delicatessen
Portland, Oregon
This Certified B Corporation “uses the power of business to solve social and economic problems,” adopting a low-income apartment building and stocking its food pantry. Aiming to “help people help people,” Elephants introduced the “Good Neighbor Menu,” featuring well-priced meals that can be purchased, donated, and delivered to shelters, healthcare workers, and first responders.
Read more.

Lebanese Taverna Group
Washington, D.C., Metro Area
This Mediterranean restaurant has grown to 12 locations since it was founded by the Abi-Najm family in 1979, just a few years after escaping the Civil War in Lebanon. Largely responsible for introducing “hommus” to the region, the family is very active in the community. They prepared 1,000 meals for Afghan refugees arriving to the city after a harrowing journey and raised $150,000 for the Lebanese Red Cross and World Central Kitchen immediately following an explosion in Beirut in 2020.
Read more.


“We are honored to partner with the NRAEF to share the journeys of these small and mid-sized restaurant companies,” said Curtis Wilson, Vice President/General Manager of National Client Group at American Express. “These restaurants demonstrated not only their resilience but their ability to look forward during a very difficult time, and that is to be commended.”

All friends and fans of NRAEF are invited to support the restaurant industry and spread a little joy by sharing these uplifting stories across social media.  Visit and follow NRAEF on FacebookInstagramLinkedIn, and Twitter to “like” and “share” these stories as they unfold throughout the month of November.



About the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation:
As the philanthropic foundation of the National Restaurant Association, the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation’s mission of service to the public 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 and justice-involved individuals 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.  To learn more about the NRAEF and its work, visit


Tori Hyndman
National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation

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