Emily Williams Knight
Emily Williams Knight
Chief Collaboration Officer & EVP of Industry Relations
National Restaurant Association

In May 2019, Dr. Emily Williams Knight was appointed CEO of the Texas Restaurant Association and Education Foundation and officially assumed this leadership role on August 1, 2019. With more than 50,000 restaurants employing 1.3M Texans and posting sales of 70B in 2019, in her first year, Knight is at the forefront of leading one of the most important industries through the COVID 19 pandemic. Knight has been recognized as a fierce and effective leader, quickly securing several waivers from Governor Abbott while also lobbying and securing federal support to help the restaurant and foodservice industry survive.

Knight has more than 20 years of experience and success in national and global leadership positions. Prior to leading the TRA, Knight served as Managing Director of Higher Education North America at Study Group, a leading provider of international university education. Knight worked with top university leaders across the U.S. and Canada to build international student recruitment and education pathway programs. Her career includes senior leadership roles at Laureate and serving as President of Kendall College, a leader in hospitality and culinary arts education. During her time as Kendall’s president, Knight expanded access to culinary and hospitality education throughout the Midwest, Latin America, and the Middle East. She worked closely with the Illinois legislature to advance the industry and partnered with the Mayor of Chicago, Choose Chicago, and the Illinois Restaurant Association to drive Chicago visitors to a record 50 million per year.

Knight led student recruitment for two of the top five hospitality schools in the world located in Switzerland. She has partnered with private equity firms, associations, and the U.S. government to build veteran and at-risk training and certification programs and is a fierce advocate for the importance of career and technical education. Knight has extensive experience working with industry, workforce investment boards, and community colleges to create skills training programs designed to fill the growing number of restaurant and hospitality job openings.

Early in her career, Knight held several leadership roles at Pearson, including head of marketing for teacher education and head of sales for the west region. Out of undergraduate studies, she was recruited into Pizza Hut’s Management Training Program and served as a Catering Sales and Event Manager for Marriott’s Key West Resorts.

Knight holds a Doctorate in Higher Education Leadership from Walden University; an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Newbury College; a Master of Science in Management from Troy University in Alabama; a B.S. in Hospitality Administration from Boston University, where she was a Trustee Scholar and an A.S. in Hotel and Restaurant Administration from Newbury College where she was a Presidential Scholar and captain of the women’s basketball team.

Dr. Knight is a member of several boards, including the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF), where she serves as Treasurer. Knight serves on the Texas Travel and Tourism Board, the University of North Texas School of Hospitality Advisory Board and the Texas Business Roundtable. She is an adjunct faculty member at Southern New Hampshire University teaching courses in International Business, Management, Leadership and Consumer Marketing. Knight lives in Southlake, Texas with her husband and their 15-year-old twin daughters.

Knight is transitioning from her role as CEO of the Texas Restaurant Association after being selected as the Chief Collaboration Officer and EVP of Industry Relations for the National Restaurant Association located in Washington, D.C..

Emily Williams Knight
Emily Williams Knight
Chief Collaboration Officer & EVP of Industry Relations
National Restaurant Association

In May 2019, Dr. Emily Williams Knight was appointed CEO of the Texas Restaurant Association and Education Foundation and officially assumed this leadership role on August 1, 2019. With more than 50,000 restaurants employing 1.3M Texans and posting sales of 70B in 2019, in her first year, Knight is at the forefront of leading one of the most important industries through the COVID 19 pandemic. Knight has been recognized as a fierce and effective leader, quickly securing several waivers from Governor Abbott while also lobbying and securing federal support to help the restaurant and foodservice industry survive.

Knight has more than 20 years of experience and success in national and global leadership positions. Prior to leading the TRA, Knight served as Managing Director of Higher Education North America at Study Group, a leading provider of international university education. Knight worked with top university leaders across the U.S. and Canada to build international student recruitment and education pathway programs. Her career includes senior leadership roles at Laureate and serving as President of Kendall College, a leader in hospitality and culinary arts education. During her time as Kendall’s president, Knight expanded access to culinary and hospitality education throughout the Midwest, Latin America, and the Middle East. She worked closely with the Illinois legislature to advance the industry and partnered with the Mayor of Chicago, Choose Chicago, and the Illinois Restaurant Association to drive Chicago visitors to a record 50 million per year.

Knight led student recruitment for two of the top five hospitality schools in the world located in Switzerland. She has partnered with private equity firms, associations, and the U.S. government to build veteran and at-risk training and certification programs and is a fierce advocate for the importance of career and technical education. Knight has extensive experience working with industry, workforce investment boards, and community colleges to create skills training programs designed to fill the growing number of restaurant and hospitality job openings.

Early in her career, Knight held several leadership roles at Pearson, including head of marketing for teacher education and head of sales for the west region. Out of undergraduate studies, she was recruited into Pizza Hut’s Management Training Program and served as a Catering Sales and Event Manager for Marriott’s Key West Resorts.

Knight holds a Doctorate in Higher Education Leadership from Walden University; an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Newbury College; a Master of Science in Management from Troy University in Alabama; a B.S. in Hospitality Administration from Boston University, where she was a Trustee Scholar and an A.S. in Hotel and Restaurant Administration from Newbury College where she was a Presidential Scholar and captain of the women’s basketball team.

Dr. Knight is a member of several boards, including the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF), where she serves as Treasurer. Knight serves on the Texas Travel and Tourism Board, the University of North Texas School of Hospitality Advisory Board and the Texas Business Roundtable. She is an adjunct faculty member at Southern New Hampshire University teaching courses in International Business, Management, Leadership and Consumer Marketing. Knight lives in Southlake, Texas with her husband and their 15-year-old twin daughters.

Knight is transitioning from her role as CEO of the Texas Restaurant Association after being selected as the Chief Collaboration Officer and EVP of Industry Relations for the National Restaurant Association located in Washington, D.C..