QA with Susan Crystal-Mansour, NRAEF: HOPES Rehabilitation Program

Largest grant in NRAEF history helps provide second-chance jobs in restaurant industry

The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF) was awarded $4.5M in July by the U.S. Department of Labor—the largest grant in NRAEF’s history. The NRAEF is developing “pathways from the justice system to employment for young adults” through the historic HOPES program. HOPES stands for Hospitality Opportunities for People (re)Entering Society. Here, Restaurant C-Suite Magazine receives more insights into this new program from Susan Crystal-Mansour, PhD, vice president, Program Impact at NRAEF.

Restaurant C-Suite Magazine: Congratulations on the grant from the Department of Labor. Can you provide examples of how the HOPES program might impact the markets involved: Boston, Chicago, and the Richmond and Hampton Roads, Virginia areas?

Susan Crystal-Mansour: The HOPES program officially began enrollment last Friday, November 15th. To prepare and train justice-involved young adults, we are actively partnering with departments of corrections, community-based organizations and state restaurant associations in the cities of Boston, Chicago, Richmond, and Hampton Roads. Each organization will utilize an NREAF training framework with individuals at participating correctional facilities as well as after release and during parole. Once a HOPES participant completes training, the individual will be placed in a local restaurant and/or foodservice position.

We’ll be sure to keep you updated on our progress as we enroll individuals and help train them through this program.

Susan Crystal-Mansour of the NRAEF reveals more about the HOPES program to Restaurant C-Suite Magaine. Photo by NRAEF.
Susan Crystal-Mansour of the NRAEF reveals more about the HOPES program to Restaurant C-Suite Magazine. Photo by NRAEF.

RCS: Restaurant owners have been known to provide second-chance foodservice careers. How will HOPES help accelerate the foodservice industry’s role in forging that path from correctional systems to sustainable restaurant careers?

SC: The restaurant industry is an industry of first jobs and second chances. The goal of HOPES is to develop pathways from the justice system to employment for young adults through community partnerships by directly placing justice-involved individuals in restaurant careers. With the unemployment rate of formerly-incarcerated people nearly five times higher than that of the general U.S. population, we know there is a strong need to support these individuals looking to become productive and responsible members of society. The restaurant industry has incredibly strong potential to offer these individuals the opportunities they need to accomplish that.


We also have countless success stories of justice involved individuals as well as the people committed to supporting them. For example, Karim Webb, a Buffalo Wild Wings franchisee, is an incredible advocate for young justice-involved individuals whom he helps employ through his restaurants and works to train through his community engagement efforts.

RCS: Can you provide some details of other programs created in concert with the DOL and describe their community impacts?

SC: Another instrumental initiative we are working on with the USDOL is our apprenticeship program; in fact, we just finished celebrating National Apprenticeship Week with over 2,000 individuals enrolled in the nation’s first registered restaurant management apprenticeship program. The response from industry on apprenticeship has been tremendously positive: the program is advancing individuals in entry level positions towards salaried, management careers. It has proved beneficial for companies of all sizes, from small businesses to large restaurant chains, which has allowed us to establish training opportunities for restaurant employees
in communities across the country.

RCS: Please tell us if the program will be expanded to markets beyond what the grant covers thus far. SC: The NRAEF has the opportunity to receive additional long-term funding from the USDOL in 2020. Dependent upon the levels of additional funding and success achieved with the program, we would welcome the opportunity to expand the HOPES program to additional markets.

About Susan Crystal-Mansour, NRAEF

Susan Crystal-Mansour serves as vice president of Program Impact, leading the implementation and execution of NRAEF’s portfolio of programs and research, including the HOPES grant. Dr. Crystal-Mansour oversees the Foundation’s programs, which include launching the first ever restaurant manager apprenticeship program for the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) and Restaurant Ready, a partnership with community collaboratives nationwide dedicated to teaching industry job and life skills to disengaged populations. Other programs spearheaded by the Foundation include ProStart, Military and Scholarships.

This article was originally published in the winter issue of Restaurant C-Suite Magazine. Catch more insightful and data-driven articles at

Photo credit: Photo by Eiliv-Sonas Aceron (featured), NRAEF (inline)

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