U.S – In a significant milestone for the Multicultural Foodservice & Hospitality Alliance (MFHA), President and Founder Gerry A. Fernandez has announced his retirement, effective December 31, 2023, culminating a remarkable career spanning nearly 50 years in the restaurant and hospitality industry.
Following his retirement, Fernandez will continue to support MFHA in an advisory capacity, ensuring a smooth transition and ongoing commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives.
Gerry A. Fernandez’s legacy is one of unwavering dedication to advancing DEI and creating opportunities for individuals from diverse backgrounds within the restaurant, foodservice, and lodging sectors.
Over his 27-year tenure at MFHA, he has been instrumental in guiding countless businesses toward cultural competency, fostering diverse and inclusive work environments, and attracting diverse talent, particularly in leadership roles.
Fernandez’s journey in the hospitality industry began with a bachelor’s degree in Foodservice Management and a degree in Culinary Arts from Johnson & Wales University.
He managed operations at esteemed establishments such as the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, Hemenway’s Seafood Grill, Oyster Bar, and The Capital Grille. Later, his transition into foodservice research and development at General Mills laid the groundwork for the launch of MFHA.
Under Fernandez’s visionary leadership, MFHA has achieved numerous milestones in promoting DEI, including the development of a comprehensive supplier diversity directory and conducting the industry’s first survey on diverse practices.
In 2022, MFHA, in collaboration with the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF) and Cornell University, published a groundbreaking DEI Report.
This report laid the foundation for MFHA’s launch of “ELEVATE,” an award-winning framework and toolkit designed to assist restaurants in building successful DEI programs.
Fernandez and MFHA have earned a sterling reputation throughout the industry for sharing best practices and offering relevant products, services, and solutions to navigate the ever-evolving DEI landscape.
Fernandez’s knowledge-based workshops, webinars, research contributions, programs, speaking engagements, and consulting services have been instrumental in driving positive change.
In 2023, MFHA is further extending its impact by hosting a series of Leadership Roundtables aimed at keeping both MFHA members and non-members informed about current DEI trends, issues, and challenges facing the foodservice and hospitality industry.
Michelle Korsmo, President & CEO of the National Restaurant Association and CEO of NRAEF, commended Fernandez, stating, “Gerry has a gift for convening thought leaders and for putting plans into action in service to our industry. His innate leadership, commitment to others’ success, and passion for hospitality have helped thousands of restaurant and foodservice workers build a future of opportunity.”
Rob Gifford, President of NRAEF, added, “Gerry’s focus on access and training has allowed companies, both large and small, to significantly enhance their DEI strategies and attract and retain a more diverse workforce. He is highly regarded as a leading DEI expert and is not afraid to tackle cultural and DEI issues head-on. I’m confident Gerry will continue to be on the front lines of advancing our industry and its people for many years to come.”
Fernandez has received numerous awards and recognitions throughout his illustrious career, including an honorary doctorate in Business Administration from Johnson & Wales University and special recognition as a top leader and innovator by Nation’s Restaurant News, Lodging Magazine, Black Meetings & Tourism, The Black Culinary Alliance, and the Rainbow/P.U.S.H. Coalition.
He is also an honorary Board Member of the Rhode Island Community Food Bank and a life member of the NAACP and the Women’s Foodservice Forum (WFF).
Max Langenkamp, MFHA Chair, emphasized Fernandez’s deep understanding of the industry’s corporate landscape and its people.
“Gerry always has his finger on the pulse of what’s happening both at the corporate level and with the people this industry depends on. He understands the impact social and cultural changes have on us all and what we can do together to effect positive change,” he stated.
As Fernandez prepares to embark on this new chapter, MFHA has initiated a national search for his successor, ensuring a seamless transition and the continuation of MFHA’s mission to drive diversity, equity, and inclusion within the hospitality industry.
Fernandez’s retirement marks the end of an era but also heralds the beginning of a promising future for MFHA and the pursuit of a more inclusive and diverse hospitality sector.