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April 14, 2015

Wisconsin Restaurant Industry Leaders Honored with Faces of Diversity Award

John “JD” Draper and Caitlin Suemnicht were selected as Wisconsin finalists for the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation’s Faces of Diversity – American Dream award.

The American Dream award celebrates members of the restaurant and foodservice industry who are the best representation of how, through hard work and determination, one can achieve the American Dream in this industry.

John “JD” Draper, CEO, Viridian Group, LLC and Multi-State, Multi-Unit Franchisee with Pie Five Pizza Co.
“JD” as he’s known, has over 43 years of retail and operational management experiences. He was part of the team at V & J Holdings Companies, Inc. in Milwaukee from 1994 until a new opportunity as CEO of the Viridian Group presented itself in early 2015. Draper and his son, John Draper II, have been awarded up to 55 franchise units of Pie Five Pizza Co. The father-son team plans to introduce the concept throughout Michigan as well as in cities in Wisconsin. Draper, who has been recognized for his ability to multi-task and develop teams, attended Wayne State University where he majored in business administration. Throughout his career he’s had direct responsibility for over 100 restaurants including Pizza Huts, Burger Kings, Auntie Annie’s, Coffee Beanery’s, Cinnabon Bakeries, Haagen Dazs shops and MyYoMy yogurt shops. In sharing his story he revealed, “My parents taught me to stay focused and to always be hospitable. Which is really the reason why I choose the food industry.” He also revealed this observation from his many years working in the industry, “regardless of age, race or religion, people are people and if you can find that common bond, you can achieve success.” He’s done that, having been appointed to the International Franchise Association Diversity Institute as a board member and being named their Ronald E. Harrison Diversity Award recipient for his accomplishments in diversity and inclusion.

Caitlin Suemnicht, Food Fight Restaurant Group, Madison
Suemnicht began working at Madison restaurant group Food Fight’s Johnny Delmonico’s as a junior in college. After earning her degree in Sociology she worked her way through the ranks: server, maître d’, manager, event planner and now is one of five managing partners with the 17 unit restaurant group where she is in charge of Fresco, DLUX, Bassett Street Brunch Club and Cento. She played a key role in coming up with the concepts and design of several of those locations and became a certified sommelier in 2012 to assist with many of the restaurant’s wine dinners/events, staff education and wine list management. When asked about challenges in her career, she shared, “In the early 2000s there weren’t as many female manager in the restaurant business as there are now, so I looked at that as a challenge and when I was studying to become a sommelier, that was also a male-driven field, so I’m proud that I was able to establish myself in both fields as a young female.” In describing what the American Dream means to her she said, “a career with advancement options and opportunity for growth, a career that inspires you, rewards you and makes you proud.”

The national winners for the Faces of Diversity American Dream Awards will be honored during the National Restaurant Association’s annual Public Affairs Conference, April 14 – 15 in Washington, DC. Draper and Suemnicht did not win at the national level.

For more information and for a list of the national winners of the Faces of Diversity Awards, visit the National Restaurant Association’s web site at http://www.nraef.org/Build-Talent/Industry-Awards

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Since 1933, the Wisconsin Restaurant Association has been dedicated
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