WASHINGTON D.C. — National Restaurant Association president and chief executive Steven Anderson has resigned from his post, effective Feb. 23. Anderson has led the restaurant lobbying group since 1999.
According to the NRA, Anderson is leaving to take a similar position at the National Association of Chain Drug Stores.
"I really hate leaving the National Restaurant Association, but this is an extraordinary opportunity for me," Anderson said. "Hopefully I have been a good steward here the last eight years. However, the board will stay the same and the staff is terrific. I'll hand the keys to somebody else and they will do very well."
According to a report on the Nation's Restaurant News Web site, Anderson and the NRA's board had clashed in recent years over a move to buy parts of the National Restaurant Association's Educational Foundation, the NRA's educational arm. However, Anderson told FastCasual.com that the story was erroneous.
Joining forces within the industry
Anderson is widely credited for helping the NRA increase its lobbying strength on Capitol Hill and in states around the nation.
"Under Steve's leadership, the National Restaurant Association has achieved its strongest position in many years," said NRA chairman Edward Tinsley. "On behalf of the entire board family, the Association's officers thank Steve for his leadership over the past eight years and for his contributions to our association and the restaurant industry."
Anderson said that during his tenure NRA membership increased 73 percent, and for the past seven years the organization has run a financial surplus. He also is responsible for spearheading a number of NRA programs, including the Cornerstone Initiative, launched in February 2000 and designed to reshape the image of the industry.
"With our Cornerstone initiative, we've repositioned the restaurant industry to focus on the fact that restaurants are the cornerstone of the nation's economy," Anderson said.
The success of that initiative was largely due to all areas of the restaurant industry working together to accomplish a common goal, he said.
While independent operators had grassroots influence in their local communities, larger operators had the staff and resources to address larger issues.
"We didn't segment the industry into QSRs, fine dining and the other segments we've got," Anderson said. "Everybody brought something to the table."
Taking on Britney's ex
One of Anderson's last acts as NRA president was to send a letter to Jerry Jurgensen, Nationwide Financial Services Inc. chief executive officer, voicing the NRA's opposition to a planned Super Bowl advertisement featuring musician Kevin Federline going from being a rapper to working in a fast-food restaurant.
The advertisement, part of Nationwide Insurance's "Life Comes at You Fast" campaign concept, shines a negative light on working in the foodservice industry, Anderson said.
"Little did I know that my last act will be taking on K-Fed," Anderson said. "I never envisioned that."
The NRA board has assembled a search committee to hire a new CEO.