The Greater Kansas City Restaurant Association and the Greater St. Louis Restaurant Association, supported by the Kitchen Cabinet programs in those areas, co-sponsored the NAACP’s 2017 Legislative Day at the Capitol and the celebration of African American History Month. The event was held February 17 in Jefferson City. Governor Eric Greitens gave the keynote address. Rep. Todd Richardson, Speaker of the Missouri House of Representatives, and Rep. Alan Green, Chairman of the Missouri Legislative Black Caucus, also spoke to those in attendance.
Attendees also heard the amazing story of the restaurant industry in Missouri and America. On hand to speak on behalf of the industry, was MRA CEO, Bob Bonney. His remarks are included below.
It is a pleasure for the restaurant industry, which is among the most culturally diverse and inclusive in America, to stand beside the NAACP – an organization that has worked since its founding in 1909 to ensure a society in which all individuals have equal opportunity.
My remarks today focus on opportunity.
I recently read a study entitled, “One in Seven.” The title is derived from the percentage of young Americans who are neither working nor in school. This group, comprised of adolescents and young adults between the ages of 16 – 24, represents 6 million people. Rather than laying the foundation for a productive life, the study noted, these disconnected youth find themselves adrift at society’s margins, unmoored from the systems and structures that confer knowledge, skills, identity, and purpose.
Each day in America, a thousand of our young people give up on their education and quit school.
This sad situation creates a natural partnership between the NAACP and the restaurant industry. An opportunity for an organization that has worked for equality for well over a hundred years and an industry that creates a thousand jobs a day.
Our work begins in high school with the ProStart School-to-Career program where over 5,000 of Missouri’s outstanding young people receive two years of culinary and restaurant management training.
It continues with college scholarships – in 2016 for 54 students in amounts as high as $7,000 each.
Presently, we are designing an eight-week training program to place learners on the fast track toward a promising career in the restaurant industry. The program will be offered at no charge.
One in three Americans gets their first job in a restaurant. That first job is an important milestone in the life of a young person. It has been demonstrated that employment during the adolescent years is a predictor of greater success, higher educational achievement, and increased earnings across the lifespan.
In Missouri, restaurants employ 12% of the state’s workforce. We are an industry where a person can begin with no experience, and no formal education, and reach the middle class and beyond. The industry is the second largest private sector employer in America and Missouri and employs more women and minorities in management positions than does any other.
As I said earlier, restaurants currently create an average of 1,000 jobs a day, each and every day. From historical data, we know that from this group that begins in an entry-level, hourly position will come 90% of tomorrow’s restaurant managers, and 80% of future owners. What an extraordinary measure of upward mobility!
The next time you dine in a restaurant, notice what you find. Our food and our people mirror the melting pot that is uniquely American. Over the most recent five-year period, when the overall number of restaurants in the nation grew by 12 percent, the number of minority-owned restaurants increased at a rate over four times greater.
The restaurant industry creates middle-class jobs at a rate four times higher than the national economy as a whole. Friends, the restaurant industry in America remains an industry of opportunity.
As the NAACP and Missouri’s restaurants know, amazing things happen when you provide a young person with an opportunity and a ladder to success. I am proud to be a life member of the NAACP, and I encourage you to join this storied organization. I am also proud to represent the Missouri restaurant industry.
On behalf of the Greater Kansas City Restaurant Association and the Greater St. Louis Restaurant Association, both affiliated chapters of the Missouri Restaurant Association, I wish you a successful legislative day. We are happy to join you in the celebration of African American History Month.
Thank you for your kind attention. I am honored to have this opportunity to visit with you about the restaurant industry.