As president and chief executive officer of the National Restaurant Association, Dawn Sweeney leads the primary business association for the restaurant industry. The National Restaurant Association represents all types of restaurant and foodservice concepts, including quick service, fast casual, managed foodservice, casual and fine dining – along with manufacturers, suppliers and distributors – for an industry of nearly one million restaurant and foodservice outlets and 13 million employees.
Since taking the helm at the National Restaurant Association in late 2007, Sweeney has been instrumental in developing a unique, multi-year strategic plan for the organization, highlighting key areas of opportunity within the restaurant industry that guide the enterprise toward its vision of enhancing the quality of life for all it serves.
She has also led the Association to several major legislative victories and has launched the first-of-its-kind children’s menu initiative – Kids LiveWell. Under Sweeney’s leadership, the Association’s annual trade show – the National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show: the largest restaurant and hospitality industry trade show in the United States – has seen solid growth, while many other trade shows have struggled.
Sweeney also serves as the CEO of the National Restaurant Association’s Educational Foundation, a philanthropic foundation dedicated to enhancing the industry’s service to the public. The Foundation’s major goal is to educate students in the culinary arts through the ProStart program – which runs in high schools across the country – and through providing educational scholarships.
Before taking the helm of the National Restaurant Association, Sweeney was president and CEO of AARP Services, the wholly owned taxable subsidiary of AARP. She grew annual revenues from $175 million to $785 million during her tenure — revenues used to support AARP’s mission. Nearly 11 million AARP members used AARP Services products.
Her 25 years of marketing, advocacy and policy experience also include leadership positions at the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, a membership organization of consumer-owned electric utilities serving over 30 million individuals, and the International Dairy Foods Association, the trade association for the nation’s dairy foods industry.
Sweeney has been named one of the perennial top association CEOs in the country, chosen from interviews with hundreds of CEOs, Washington insiders and executive recruiters as published in the September 2011 edition of “CEO Update.”
She serves on the boards of Save the Children, the U.S. Travel Association and the Women’s Foodservice Forum. Sweeney is an active member of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Committee of 100, the International Women’s Forum, and the Committee of 200, an international network of female executives. She is also a charter member of Child Obesity 180; a unique multi-sector initiative of private, public, non-profit and academic leaders who have made a commitment to assuring a leadership role in preventing childhood obesity through evidence-based initiatives.
A native of Maine, she is a graduate of Colby College and earned her MBA at George Washington University. Sweeney lives in northern Virginia with her husband and teenage son.