Deadline for Faces of Diversity, Restaurant Neighborhood Awards fast-approaches

October 7 is NRAEF’s deadline to apply or nominate for awards

The deadline for three significant restaurant industry awards, organized and hosted by the National Restaurant Educational Foundation (NRAEF) is fast-approaching. The NRAEF will accept applications/nominations for 2020 Faces of Diversity Awards, Ambassador of Hospitality Award and Restaurant Neighborhood Awards until October 7. PepsiCo sponsors the Faces of Diversity Award. It honors individuals in the restaurant industry who have achieved the “American dream through hard work, dedication, and supporting others to do the same.”

Awards represent grand achievement in restaurant industry

Last year’s winners included Adenah Bayoh, a franchisee of IHOP; the Abi-Najm Family, owners of Lebanese Taverna; and Francisco “Paco” Vargas, owner of Rudy and Paco Restaurant & Bar. The 2019 Faces of Diversity Award Winners were honored with a $2,500 scholarship in their names. As with the 2020 Restaurant Neighborhood Awards, the 2020 Faces of Diversity Awards will be presented at a VIP dinner. The NRAEF will recognize the achievement in Washington, DC next spring.

American Express sponsors the Restaurant Neighborhood Award, which “honors restaurants and restaurateurs for their philanthropic efforts and dedication to their communities.” The NRAEF will award the three winning restaurants $10,000 each to support a charity or community project. In 2019, the winners were Tropical Smoothie Cafe, LLC, Southern Hospitality Ventures (SHV), Inc. dba Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers, and Great Full Gardens (GFG),


2019 Faces of Diversity Award Winners

Below are the 2019 Faces of Diversity Awards with the descriptions provided by the NRAEF:

  • Adenah Bayoh, Founder, Adenah Bayoh & Company and Franchisee, International House of Pancakes, LLC (IHOP) – Irvington, NJ: As a young girl, Adenah found her life devastated when a civil war broke out in her native country of Liberia. After nearly a year in the refugee camp, she immigrated to the U.S., paid her way through college and at the age of 27, bought her first IHOP franchise, making her one of the youngest IHOP franchisees in the company’s network. She is now one of the most successful entrepreneurs in New Jersey. Watch her video here.
  • The Abi-Najm Family, Lebanese Taverna – McLean, VA: In 1976, Dany Abi-Najm traveled to the U.S. with his family to escape civil war in Lebanon. Dany and his brother started their first jobs in restaurants working as busboys. Three years later, the family purchased a local restaurant and opened the original Lebanese Taverna. Today, the family owns five restaurants, four cafes, a market and an airport location and employs hundreds of people in their restaurants. Watch their video below.
  • Francisco “Paco” Vargas, Owner, Rudy and Paco Restaurant & Bar – Galveston, TX: Francisco “Paco” Vargas traveled to the U.S. in 1978 to escape the Nicaraguan Revolution. He started out as a dishwasher and cook, quickly advanced and opened his own restaurant, the Rudy and Paco Restaurant & Bar. He created the Paco Vargas Scholarship Fund and has pledged $100,000 to benefit students in hospitality, restaurant management or service industry programs. Watch the video here.

2019 Restaurant Neighborhood Award Winners

“By demonstrating the importance of inclusion, giving selflessly through community service and showcasing exemplary leadership, these individuals continue to move the industry forward every single day,” said Rob Gifford, President of the NRAEF. Here are the 2019 Restaurant Neighborhood Award Winners and descriptions provided by the NRAEF:

  • Tropical Smoothie Cafe, LLC – Atlanta, GA: Tropical Smoothie Cafe’s company philosophy fosters a positive, “better-for-you lifestyle,” partnering with Camp Sunshine to raise national awareness and funds to provide children with life-threatening illnesses and their families a fun and relaxing place to get away from their daily challenges. Since the relationship began in 2008, Tropical Smoothie Cafe has donated more than $6.3 million and 6,600 volunteer hours, providing 2,500 members with a much-deserved getaway. Watch the video here.
  • Southern Hospitality Ventures (SHV), Inc. dba Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers – Lincoln, NE: SHV partners with Cell Phones for Soldiers, a nonprofit organization that exchanges old cell phones for calling cards given to active duty military and veterans to raise money for the Nebraska National Guard Foundation (NNGF). Since the campaign’s launch, Nebraska troops have received more than 822,000 minutes in calling cards—and SHV has helped raise over $102,000 for the NNGF. Watch the video here.
  • Great Full Gardens (GFG) – Reno, NV: In partnership with “RootED”, a grassroots nonprofit, Great Full Gardens provides local schools, veteran groups and other nonprofits with donated or fund-supported greenhouses. The greenhouses teach students how to grow enough greens and vegetables to encourage self-sufficiency and creativity, offer “Free Salad Fridays” and launch a student-run Seedling Sale. Through their efforts, GFG has donated nearly $35,000 to community programs and charities. Watch the video here.

The NRAEF will also recognize the Thad and Alice Eure Ambassador of Hospitality Award. Ecolab sponsors the award. “Individuals who have shown extraordinary achievement and leadership in the restaurant and hospitality industry” become eligible to receive the award. To apply or nominate for the 2020 Faces of Diversity Awards, Restaurant Neighborhood Awards or Ambassador of Hospitality Award, visit


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