National Restaurant Association names Emily Williams Knight chief collaboration officer, VP of Industry Relations

She joins Association after leading TRA since 2019

Emily Williams Knight, Ed.D. will join the National Restaurant Association as chief collaboration officer and executive VP, Industry Relations. Her new role will start May 3, 2021 as she transitions away from her current role as president and chief executive of the Texas Restaurant Association (TRA).

The National Restaurant Association has charged Knight with “unifying the industry as ONE,” according to a statement. It’s a moment to work toward inclusiveness, engaging restaurant owners and operators of all sizes across the country. In addition to Association engagement at the local level, Knight will develop new products and services for current members, as she strengthens its relationship with state associations.


Knight became the head of the TRA in July of 2019, doubling new members and expanding TRA’s influence and reach in just a short time.

Brian Casey, chair, National Restaurant Association and president & owner of Oak Hill Tavern and The Company Picnic Company, commented, “Independent restaurants, such as mine, are facing a unique set of challenges as we begin to reopen and rebuild our businesses. Our road to recovery is long and uncertain. Emily’s experience, including as a state restaurant association executive,working with restaurants of all business models, will benefit the National Restaurant Association members and strengthen our national, state, and local partnerships.”

Knight served as managing director of Higher Education North America at Study Group, an international education provider. She also worked for Kendall College, where she was president of the established hospitality and culinary arts institution. With Knight at the helm, the school expanded education across the Midwest, Latin America and the Middle East.

Working with the Illinois legislature, she advanced tourism in Chicago to a record number, in partnership with Chicago’s Mayor and Choose Chicago.


Earlier in her career, Knight worked for Pearson, Pizza Hut and Marriott’s Key West Resorts. She earned a Doctorate in Higher Education Leadership from Walden University; an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Newbury College; and a Master of Science in Management from Troy University in Alabama. Also, she holds a B.S. in Hospitality Administration from Boston University, where she was a Trustee Scholar.

Tom Bené, president & chief executive of the National Restaurant Association, added, “Emily is a proven leader, adept at identifying and implementing solutions that address the needs of every restaurant, from beloved chains to local favorites. We are looking forward to adding her experience in hospitality, education, and coalition building to our Association leadership team.”

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