Texas Restaurant Group CEO to Join National Association in Industry Relations Role

The National Restaurant Association has named Emily Williams Knight, president and CEO of the Texas Restaurant Association, to the new role of chief collaboration officer, the trade group said Monday.

The Washington, D.C.-based association said Knight would assume the position May 3 with the additional title of executive vice president of industry relations. A spokesperson said she would continue to work with the TRA through August.

“Knight will focus on collectively advancing and protecting the industry by strengthening partnerships with state restaurant associations and by developing new products, services and capabilities designed to meet the changing needs of current and prospective members,” the association said.

Brian Casey, chair of the National Restaurant Association and president and owner of Oak Hill Tavern and The Company Picnic Co. in North Kingstown, R.I., said partnerships are important at all levels as the industry emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Independent restaurants, such as mine, are facing a unique set of challenges as we begin to reopen and rebuild our businesses,” Casey said in a statement. “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 was named CEO of the Texas Restaurant Association in May 2019, succeeding Richie Jackson, who had served as CEO of the state group for 34 years.

“I learned first-hand in Texas that when we bring all voices together, from independents to our chain operators, our collective voice becomes a roar that can drive change and help us secure the needed resources and support to return the industry to growth,” Knight said.

Before joining the Texas association, Knight served as managing director of higher education for North America at the Study Group, a provider of international education. She also served as president of Kendall College, where she expanded culinary arts education into Latin America and the Middle East, and as a senior sales and marketing leader at Pearson.

Knight began her career in Pizza Hut’s management training program in Key West, Fla., and went on to serve as catering sales manager at the iconic Casa Marina and The Reach resorts in Key West.

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

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