Industry Leaders Fund ProStart Program

Chicago, Jan. 4, 2011 – The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF) has launched a fundraising initiative for its ProStart program – a two-year, culinary arts and restaurant management education program for high school students – with the goal of raising $3 million in 2011. Donations will provide the essential funds needed to strengthen this unparalleled, industry-driven program, and establish a solid foundation upon which to grow the program significantly in the next five years from its current base of 90,000 students.

Fundraising efforts, under the leadership of Carlton Curtis, Vice Chair of the NRAEF Board of Trustees and an executive at The Coca-Cola Company, have made significant progress, with more than $1 million in donations secured to-date. Supporters across the industry, from operators and manufacturers to distributors and service providers, have made their commitments to ProStart for 2011. This includes $250,000 commitments from Brinker International and The Coca-Cola Company, a $150,000 commitment from the J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation, $100,000 commitments from Popeyes® Louisiana Kitchen,  PepsiCo Foodservice Division, and Sysco, a $50,000 commitment from Golden Corral, $25,000 commitments from the American Express Foundation and McCormick for Chefs, and additional commitments from Yard House and Firehouse Subs as well as individual contributions of more than $50,000.

“I encourage the industry to join us in supporting the ProStart program. It is a proven, high-impact program that has changed the lives of countless students and the industry at large,” said Doug Brooks, Chairman of the Board, President and CEO, Brinker International, Inc. “No other program so effectively brings the restaurant industry and the classroom together to provide students and teachers with access to relevant, real-world educational opportunities.”

“ProStart provides students with an unparalleled opportunity to not only learn but become inspired and passionate about a future career in our business,” said Cheryl Bachelder, CEO of AFC Enterprises, Inc. and president of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen.  “We are proud to support a program that delivers real-world education and life-changing experiences.”

This ProStart fundraising initiative is seeking resources to support a five-year strategic plan to develop program enhancements and achieve substantial growth. The annual fundraising goal will continue to be increased each year through 2015 to support the growth plan.  Top priorities to strengthen and expand ProStart include:

  • Strengthening the ProStart program currently in place through additional human and capital resources at the state and national level
  • Increasing the number of students and schools participating in the ProStart program
  • Awarding additional ProStart National Certificate of Achievement student scholarships and Professional Development Scholarships for Educators
  • Supporting the NRAEF as it implements a national communications plan, program enhancements for ProStart, and expanded fundraising efforts

“ProStart’s industry-driven program provides students with practical skills to succeed and opens doors for a fulfilling career,” said Carlton Curtis, Vice Chair of the NRAEF Board of Trustees and Vice President of Industry Affairs for the Foodservice and Hospitality Division of The Coca-Cola Company. “Investing in ProStart now is an investment in the future of our industry and the next generation of restaurant and foodservice leaders.”

Representing the restaurant and foodservice industry’s support of ProStart, leaders from all segments have formed the ProStart Initiative Cabinet and are engaged in the fundraising effort.  Led by Cabinet Chair Carlton Curtis, this group includes volunteer leadership from Doug Brooks, Brinker International, Cheryl Bachelder, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, Ted Fowler, Golden Corral, Ted Balestreri, The Cannery Row Company, Jim Hope, Sysco and Michael Norris, Sodexo, as well as 19 other industry executives who serve on the cabinet.

The NRAEF is seeking additional support for ProStart and if you are interested in supporting the program please contact the NRAEF at 800-765-2122 or visit


About ProStart


90,000 students in 45 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and 14 U.S. military bases, at home and abroad, participate in ProStart, a two-year educational program offered by the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation in partnership with state restaurant associations. The career-building program blends classroom learning with mentored work experience to teach high school students the management and culinary skills needed for a career in the restaurant and foodservice industry. When students meet academic standards, complete a checklist of competencies, and work at least 400 hours in the industry, they are awarded the ProStart National Certificate of Achievement that signifies they are well qualified to enter the industry workforce. For more information on the ProStart program, visit or find us on Twitter or Facebook.



As the philanthropic foundation of the National Restaurant Association, the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF) enhances the restaurant industry’s service to the public through education, community engagement, and promotion of career opportunities. The restaurant and foodservice industry comprises 945,000 restaurant and foodservice outlets and a workforce of nearly 13 million employees, making it one of the nation’s largest employers. The NRAEF is focused on working with the Association to lead America’s restaurant industry into a new era of prosperity, prominence and participation by providing the valuable tools and resources needed to educate our current and incoming employees. For more information on the NRAEF, visit