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Tom Bené leaves National Restaurant Association for Breakthru Beverage Group CEO position

After 15 months, Association president, CEO returns to beverage-sector executive role

Tom Bené will be stepping down as president and chief executive of the National Restaurant Association and CEO of the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. Bené has joined Breakthru Beverage Group as its new CEO. According to the Association, Marvin F. Irby, CFO and chief people officer, will serve as its interim CEO.

Bené joined the Association last June. Under his short tenure, the restaurant industry was able to access additional protections and funding during COVID-19 and better-navigated the pandemic. In addition, the National Restaurant Association took a majority stake in Winsight Holdings, a major foodservice-facing publisher and provider of events and expositions for the industry.

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At Breakthru Beverage Group, Bené will lead the company in the next stage of its growth journey. The company is a major alcohol wholesaler in the United States and the largest broker in Canada.

“I am incredibly proud of the work this team has done and all that we have accomplished together during this incredible time,” said Bené. “Whether it’s the significant impact we’ve made to support the industry through our advocacy efforts; the new governance model that we put in place to drive deeper engagement and more effectiveness; or the restructuring of the organization to meet the changing needs of the industry, our state associations, and our members, it has been a truly collaborative effort. I know the Association and Foundation —and these teams—are well-positioned for continued success.”

The 30-year foodservice veteran holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from the University of Kansas. He also serves as a member of the University of Kansas Business School Advisory Board. Over the past 23 years, Bené held prominent leadership positions at PepsiCo leading to his ascent to the role of president from 2011 to 2013. Prior to joining the Association, Bené served as president and chief executive at Sysco, the number one US broadline foodservice distributor by revenue.

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“We appreciate Tom’s leadership and commitment to the industry during this difficult time,” said Brian Casey, National Restaurant Association Board chair and owner of the Oak Hill Tavern and the Company Picnic Company. “Tom’s unique industry experience was invaluable in helping the Association and Foundation navigate a once-in-a-lifetime global pandemic.”

Having held executive positions at Kraft Foods, PepsiCo, and Disney, Irby has also spent three decades of experience in food and beverages. The interim CEO joined the Association in 2010.

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