Editor’s note: The following commentary was contributed by Dawn Sweeney, president & CEO of the National Restaurant Association. The content may be edited for clarity, style and length.

Often veterans hear, “Thank you for your service.” In 2019, the National Restaurant Association is adding to that, “Now, how can we serve you?”

As the country’s second largest private-sector employer, the food-service industry can add actions to our words with meaningful job and career opportunities for our veterans and their families. Today, more than 238,000 veterans are working in restaurants and food-service operations, and we expect their ranks to grow as the industry adds 1.6 million new jobs by 2027.

The training, discipline, teamwork and practical skills taught by the military make our veterans highly qualified for a variety of restaurant careers, including management and upper management positions. In fact, 14 percent of veterans working in restaurants hold management positions versus 8 percent of nonveterans.

To help, our National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF) offers a variety of programs designed specifically to assist veterans, service members and their families transition their skills to the restaurant industry. Last year, the NRAEF announced its participation in the Department of Defense Military Spouse Employment Partnership, connecting military spouses with more than 390 partner employers who have committed to recruit, hire, promote, and retain military spouses.

During the National Restaurant Association Show in May, the NRAEF will host a three-day event for service members featuring presentations by industry experts on key topics including nutrition, customer service, cost control, and resource management. Attendees from all branches will participate in a project presentation, interactive seminars, and mentoring sessions that build food-service management experience they can apply to their current food-service duties and future employment in the restaurant industry.

In addition to career development, the NRAEF’s Travelers program inspects and reviews land- and sea-based military food-service installations around the world. Following a rigorous ranking process, the best food-service operations are recognized at a special awards ceremony hosted during the National Restaurant Show in Chicago.

To all those who served, we are extremely grateful, and we are eager to introduce you to the numerous opportunities the restaurant industry has to offer.

Dawn Sweeney is the President and CEO of the National Restaurant Association and National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation.

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