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January 25, 2022

Executive Compensation at the National Restaurant Association (2019)

by Anne Paddock

The National Restaurant Association had a windfall of about $170 million in 2018 when they sold the “National Restaurant Association Show” to a unrelated private company Winsight, LLC – an information services company focused on the food and beverage industry. Consideration received included a promissory note (about $150 million) and an equity investment in Winsight, LLC. A sponsorship agreement provides annual royalty payments equal to 2% of the gross revenues of the show for 45 years, beginning in 2019.

The National Restaurant Association is the largest food trade organization in the world. Governed by a Board of Directors comprised of 68 independent individuals (although the Form 990 indicates there are 70 independent board members – 58 males and 12 females – because of timing differences) in the industry, the National Restaurant Association is a professional trade association, a tax-exempt non-profit organization based in Washington, DC.

In 2019, the National Restaurant Association reported total revenue of $108 million (compared to $289  million in 2018 due to the sale of assets), most of which came from two (2) sources:  the sale of inventory which appears to be trade data ($69 million) and investment income ($23 million).  Membership dues – often the biggest source of revenue for trade associations – provided only $4 million to the organization in 2019.

Expenses totaled $111 million in 2018 (compared to $118 million in 2018) with the five (5) highest expenses being:

  • Compensation ($51 million)
  • State Restaurant Assoc Payments ($15 million)
  • Office-Related Expenses ($12 million)
  • Fees for Services ($9 million)
  • Travel/Conferences ($7 million)

339 employees were compensated $51 million, which equates to an average compensation of $155,000. However, only 122 employees received more than $100,000 in compensation. The 13 most highly compensated employees were reported to be:

  • $5,891,851:  Dawn Sweeney, President and CEO
  • $1,427,471:  Terry Erdle, COO
  • $1,175,743:  Marrin Irby, CFO
  • $1,002,135:  Sherman Brown, EVP, Training and Certification
  • $  795,534:  John Rodgers, EVP, General Counsel, and Corp Secretary
  • $  702,848:  Kevin Steele, CIO
  • $  536,067:  Sean Kennedy, EVP, Policy and Gov’t Affairs
  • $  440,144:  Hudson Riehle, SVP, Research and Knowledge
  • $  434,430:  Perry Quinn, SVP, Business Innovation Development
  • $  419,043:  Clinton Wolf, SVP, Health Insurance Services
  • $  390,829:  Angela Amador, SVP, Legal Advisory and Regulatory Council
  • $  387,964:  Daniel Roehl, VP, Fed Gov’t Affairs
  • $  285,790:  Cicely Simpson, EVP, Development and Industry Relations*

A “*” indicates the compensation was severance pay.

As illustrated above, the 13 most highly compensated employees received $14 million in compensation.  9 of the 13 most highly compensated employees are male while 4 of the 13 are female (note:  gender is not reported on the Form 990; conclusions were made based on name and google searches).

The National Restaurant Association paid for first class or charter travel, travel for companions, and health or social club dues or initiation fees.  In addition, the organization made gross up payments or provided tax indemnification.  For details on these expenses, see the Form 990, Schedule J, Part III, Supplemental Information.

In conclusion, the National Restaurant Association is a trade organization that relies primarily on  the sale of trade data for revenue.  The President and CEO, Dawn Sweeney received nearly $6 million in compensation in 2019 while the organization paid for first class travel, companion travel, a club membership, and provided gross up payments on a long-term disability policy. In addition, 12 other employees received $8 million in compensation.  It is unclear why these executives were so highly compensated.

To read the IRS Form 990 (2019), click here.

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