Restaurant Association Undergoes Major Restructuring

Posted March 1, 2009 at 9:37am

Updated: 5:49 p.m.

As part of a recently approved strategic plan, the National Restaurant Association is undergoing a complete reorganization that includes major changes to its government relations operation.

The association will no longer separate its team of more than 20 lobbyists based on federal and state issues. Instead, according to NRA spokeswoman Sue Hensley, the operation will have four issue areas: jobs and careers, sustainability, profitability, and food and healthy living.

Employees will be expected to have both federal and state lobbying expertise.

John Gay, senior vice president of government relations, sent an internal e-mail Friday afternoon discussing the expected changes to its lobbying presence.

“In order to best align staff to our recently-finished strategic plan it was announced this afternoon that the NRA government relations function would be completely reorganized as of April 3,” Gay wrote. “No current positions (including mine) exist in the new organizational chart but [government relations] staff may apply for newly created positions.”

Employees in the government relations division are encouraged to apply for the newly created positions, Hensley said. The association is opening the jobs up to the public as well.

“The organization has a good reputation for being a strong public policy advocate,” Hensley said. The realignment “is going to make us stronger and more effective.” The NRA spent more than $3.1 million on lobbying in 2008, with BKSH & Associates and Kathleen Michael on retainer, according to Senate lobbying disclosures.

The association’s membership and product services divisions also are being realigned.

The NRA decided to undergo a review of operations after Dawn Sweeney joined the trade group as its chief executive officer in July 2007.

The NRA does not expect to cut staff, according to Hensley. When it brought its education foundation into the association’s larger operation last January, the NRA grew from about 100 employees to 250.