The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation has launched “Restaurants Advance: Journeys that Inspire,” spotlighting excellence in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. The series of uplifting stories features members of the restaurant, foodservice, and hospitality industry who represent high standards in DEI and achieved the American Dream, according to the NRA.
“The pandemic and the past 18+ months have been challenging for the restaurant industry and its employees, but there are so many inspiring stories of resilience and finding new opportunities,” said Rob Gifford, president of the NRAEF, in a statement. “We want to celebrate those who took positive steps to further DEI, support their communities, and be an example for us all.”
Those highlighted include:
Raveen Arora, owner, The Dhaba in Tempe, Arizona.
This 2017 NRAEF Faces of Diversity honoree with “a business mind and a servant heart” was born in a refugee camp in India and grew up in poverty. Having achieved success as a business consultant and small restaurant owner, Arora’s devoted to enriching the lives of the less fortunate. Read more.
Elisia Flores, CEO, L&L Hawaiian BBQ, Honolulu, Hawaii
This second-generation CEO is awed by the company’s impact on future owner-operators, many of whom are immigrants or come from disadvantaged backgrounds and are creating wealth and a legacy of their own. “It’s my dad’s story 100 times,” says Flores. Read more.
Ivan Flores, CEO & founder, Buffalo Spot, Long Beach, California
This self-taught, up-and-coming entrepreneur and creator of the “world-famous buffalo fries” is a mentor to future franchisees. “It’s a neat experience to watch them invest their time and resources and grow alongside you,” says Flores. He looks for leaders who share his values of hard work, customer service and quality, and tells them to “never stop dreaming.” Read more.
Austina Smith (pictured above), chef, Grand Living at Bridgewater, Coralville, Iowa
Since winning NRAEF’s Faces of Diversity award in 2020, Smith has felt empowered to have deeper conversations about race with residents at her senior living community, as well as at her sons’ school. “I can tell a story through food, which brings people together and builds trust,” she says. Read more.