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A Focus on Workforce Development:

The restaurant industry is in the people business. We are only as good as the people that we employ in our restaurants, and our employees are our biggest asset. It is important from an association standpoint that the Georgia Restaurant Association (GRA) focuses on workforce development initiatives to enhance the economic stability of not only the restaurant industry, but also for our community.

The restaurant industry is currently facing a labor shortage. Recruiting and retaining top talent remains to be a top challenge for operators. There is so much competition among other industries for employees. Workforce demographics are shifting as the younger labor pool is shrinking, and there is a greater proportion of older workers.

On the other hand, there are people out there who are unemployed, dislocated workers or low-income adults and youth. Through workforce development programs, we can seek to improve the job training and marketability of Georgia’s workforce while helping the restaurant industry create a solution for labor shortages. The GRA is involved in several initiatives to create solutions for both employers and potential employees.

Kennesaw State University (KSU) offers an excellent culinary program to students interested in the culinary arts. Not every student is interested or financially able to attend a four-year program, yet they may have a passion for the culinary arts and for getting a job within the restaurant community. KSU’s program is based on four hours of classroom per week coupled with 15 hours in that same week working in an established restaurant or catering facility. Each student completes four seven-week apprenticeships to successfully complete the course. Classroom study is immediately put to practice so that the knowledge and skill base stays with the student throughout the program.

United Youth of America is a non-profit organization servicing the needs of underprivileged young people, ages 7 to 17. This organization works with several counties throughout Georgia to place students in paid apprenticeship programs. The county agrees to cover a certain amount of the wages and labor taxes during a six-month period.

Westside Works Culinary Academy is a partnership between Westside Works, Levy Restaurants and the Arthur Blank Foundation. This eight-week culinary academy introduces students to kitchen safety protocols, international cuisines, baking and pastry and restaurant simulations and provides an opportunity to receive ServeSafe Certification. Graduates will have a path to employment through Levy Restaurants venues, as well as dining establishments throughout metro Atlanta.

The GRA believes that these programs will create opportunities and a brighter future for job seekers. The restaurant industry will be able to employ a disciplined, dynamic, dedicated and well-trained group of workforce professionals. We want to help bridge the gap between talent-ready participants and employers that seek to provide a pathway to a good career.


Karen Bremer, CAE
CEO, Georgia Restaurant Association


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