I have worked in restaurants and foodservice my entire career: army foodservice, college bars and an early entrant to the world of chain restaurants, enlisted by Norman Brinker at Steak and Ale. Feeding people is something that I care about. My family will tell you that I am personally responsible for every extra pound and corresponding diet for the past four decades (sort of guilty).

In 1993, I got promoted to my dream job, CEO of TGIFridays. I loved that job for many reasons. First and foremost, I got to meet so many passionate, talented and creative people in the industry. They were leaders around the world who left their imprint on my personal and professional life. That same year, I got a phone call from a guy in D.C. who was running an anti-hunger non-profit that had started by collaborating with independent chefs. He thought it would be great to meet and see if it made sense for chain restaurants to get involved too.

First, I found out that my wife, Joni, was already sending his non-profit money every Christmas. Then, I met him. Any of you who know the man, the co-founder of Share Our Strength, Bill Shore, also know where this story is headed.
In those early conversations, I realized that the restaurant industry was already a force for good, a part of every community and an employer of millions who are on the frontlines of service. Billy is a persuasive man; I wanted to help, but wasn’t sure how.

Eventually, I started to understand that even in the ranks of our own and the communities where we trade, there were people going hungry. I learned that millions of kids in the US were food insecure and hungry, especially when they were out of school. Ultimately, it dawned on me: the restaurant industry is positioned uniquely and perfectly to solve this issue. We feed people. I came home.

In the years since, I’ve joined the board of Share Our Strength. I have traveled to schools and communities in New York, Oakland, Dallas, New Orleans, the Rio Grande Valley and many more. I have met many in need and many working to end that need. I have learned the power of “bearing witness” to the children and neighborhoods that don’t show up in marketing plans or feasibility research. I have also learned that it is impossible to say “no” to Billy Shore.

So, I have spent the past decade working on the Dine Out for NoKidHungry. I am thrilled by the industry leaders and chefs who continue to step up to do more and the competitors who are working side by side. It’s also why I dusted off an old bike, started training a couple of short months ago and am going to do my best to finish the Dallas Chef’s Cycle on October 18th. If you can’t join our Texas riders, any small contribution matters. The kids thank you. I thank you humbly and with pride. This is still an amazing industry.

 

— Wally Doolin

Chairman and Co-Founder of Black Box Intelligence (formerly TDn2K), Lead Director of Share Our Strength | @BoomerCEO