Washington, Regynald G. 1954(?)–
Regynald G. Washington 1954(?)–
Foodservice management professional
Regynald G. Washington has risen within the ranks of the restaurant business to become a highly respected, high-profile industry professional. He has held various top managerial posts, most prominently with Walt Disney World and Disney Regional Entertainment/ESPN Zone. He also has occupied significant industry leadership positions, notably as a member of the board of directors, vice-president, treasurer and board chairman of the National Restaurant Association, whose membership includes 878,000 restaurant and foodservice outlets.
Washington was born around 1954 in Marathon, a town in the Florida Keys. His work ethic and enthusiasm may be linked to his parents, both of whom were teachers. “They always said, ‘A chip on your shoulder earns a lack of respect from colleagues, friends and family,’” he told Whit Smyth in Nation’s Restaurant News, an industry trade publication. “‘Your attitude will determine your altitude.’”
To supplement his allowance, Washington started bussing and waiting tables in local restaurants at age 13. He became entranced by their atmosphere, and eventually announced his intention to become a restaurant industry professional. His parents, who had hoped that he would opt for a career in law, medicine, or architecture, were less than delighted. “They did not see careers for minorities in this industry,” he explained to Dina Berta in Nation’s Restaurant News in 2003. “They didn’t see it as a professional career…. Waiting tables and preparing food was viewed as parallel to slavery time. We’re in a different period now, and it’s now time to move beyond that.” He added, “I found my place in the sun when I found the restaurant industry. I would not trade one day of my life for any other career opportunity.”
Washington earned an Associate of Science degree in hotel and institutional management from Miami Dade Community College and a Bachelor of Science degree in international hotel and restaurant administration from Florida International University; he also received dual certification as a Foodservice Management Professional from the Educational Foundation of the National Restaurant Association, was designated a Certified Food & Beverage Executive by the Educational Institute of the American Hotel & Lodging Association, and graduated from Executive Techniques of Chicago.
In the mid-1970s, Washington took his first professional job as manager of the food-and-drink concession for one of his former employers, the Indies Resort Inn and Yacht Club in Duck Key, FL. He then relocated to Phoenix as general manager of the Magic Pan Restaurant; other early-career jobs included supervisory posts at Air Terminal Services, located at what is now Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C., and Motorola, Inc. in Chicago. As he moved from job to job and city to city, Washington built up his resume and established his reputation. “Each job prepared me for the next experience,” he noted in Nation’s Restaurant News.
Eventually, Washington settled in Atlanta and worked for Concessions International, which operates dutyfree/food/beverage/gift/newspaper
At a Glance…
Born Regynald G. Washington c. 1954 in Marathon, FL. Education: Miami Dade Community College, AB, 1960s; Florida International University, BS, 1970s.
Career: Indies Resort Inn and Yacht Club, manager of food-and-drink concession, 1970s-80s; Magic Pan Restaurant, general manager, 1970s-80s; Air Terminal Services, general manager of food and beverage operations, 1970s-80s; Motorola, Inc., supervisor of foodconnected operations, 1970s-80s; Concessions International, various titles, c. 1980s-96; Washington Enterprises, Inc., founder and president, c. 1990s-; Sylvia Wood Enterprises, president and chief operating officer, 1996-97; Epcot Center, Walt Disney World, general manager of food and beverage services, 1997-2001; Walt Disney World, director of resort food and beverage operations, Walt Disney World, 2001; Disney Regional Entertainment/ESPN Zone, vice president-general manager, 2001–.
Selected memberships: National Restaurant Association, member of the board of directors, vice-president, treasurer, board chairman; National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation, trustee; Florida Restaurant Association, member of the board of directors; Georgia Hospitality & Travel Association, member of the board of directors; Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, member of the board of directors.
Awards: Nation’s Restaurant News, Top-50 Tastemaker, 1999.
Addresses: Office —c/o Disney Regional Entertainment, 500 S. Buena Vista Street, Burbank, CA 91521-8392.
and magazine emporiums in U.S. airports. It was here where he gained invaluable experience, as he climbed the corporate ranks. “Concessions International was very small when I started,” he told Nation’s Restaurant News, “and I wore a lot of hats.” Washington eventually became the company’s corporate executive vice president and was responsible for establishing the majority of its outlets.
During the early 1990s, he founded Washington Enterprises, Inc., an Atlanta-based foodservice management and consulting firm, to serve as the base for his expanding business dealings. He eventually resigned from Concessions International. One of his more highprofile undertakings with Washington Enterprises was securing the financing for and designing the Atlanta version of Sylvia’s Restaurant, a nationally famous Harlem, New York-based soul food eatery. Washington decided to automate much of the restaurant’s operations; it opened in 1997. “We’re moving the concept to the 21st century,” he told the Atlanta Business Chronicle. “Atlanta will be our model.” Before its opening, Washington became president and chief operating officer of Sylvia Woods Enterprises. According to the Nation’s Restaurant News, Washington was “spearheading what is probably the single-most-ambitious African-American-owned dinner-house development in the industry today.”
Washington’s plans to expand Sylvia’s into a national chain were scuttled when he was recruited to work at Walt Disney World’s Epcot Center in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. In mid-1997 Washington became general manager of food and beverage services at Disney/Epcot. He supervised ten fast-food and a dozen fullservice restaurants and 21 outdoor stands serving edibles from across the globe, as well as a specialevents/catering operation. He also managed 2,500 employees, oversaw restaurant renovations and coordinated the efforts of the various independent contractors operating many of the eateries. His primary mission, however, was to insure that visitors savored their epicurean experience at Epcot.
Next Washington became director of Resort Food and Beverage Operations for Walt Disney World. Based in Orlando, his duties included managing food and beverage operations at the 18 Walt Disney Resorts, in Florida and in Hilton Head, South Carolina. Then in 2001, he was named vice president and general manager of Disney Regional Entertainment, located in Burbank, California. He was charged with developing and implementing strategies leading to the expansion of ESPN Zone, the company’s national sports restaurant chain.
Among Washington’s primary attributes are his dedication to servicing his customers and his enthusiasm for his work. “We lose sleep at night if a guest leaves our facility unhappy,” he noted about Disney/Epcot in Nation’s Restaurant News, adding that “reaching for greatness is what fires me up every morning. I can’t wait to get to the office.” He continued, “If I can’t have an impact, I don’t need to be here. It would just be a job and a paycheck.” In the same article, Herman Cain, president of the National Restaurant Association, observed, “If I had to give Regynald a middle name it would be Regynald ‘Results’ Washington. The guy’s not afraid to try creative new things, and he knows what needs to be done.”
One of the keys to Washington’s running a successful operation is his focus on teamwork. “When you have a cohesive team doing things together,” he told Nation’s Restaurant News, “it removes the stress and makes work fun.” A congenial work environment, however, does not negate the emphasis on marketing a consistently superior product. At Disney/Epcot, Washington and his staff conducted impromptu walk-though inspections of individual dining facilities to insure that each was maintaining a high level of cleanliness and service.
Washington has earned a reputation as a popular and dynamic guest lecturer at restaurant-related conferences and educational forums. He has served on the advisory boards of the hospitality management programs at several universities, including his alma mater. He is a vocal advocate of community activism within the industry. “Restaurants are the cornerstones of their communities,” he told the Giornale newsletter in 2003, “and nine out of ten operators actively participate in charitable activities.”
In 1992 Washington began serving on the board of directors of the National Restaurant Association, eventually becoming its vice-president and treasurer. He topped off his 30-year career by being elected the organization’s board chairman for the 2003-2004 term. In this capacity, he has taken an aggressive role as a restaurant industry lobbyist. In September of 2003 he and 600 industry associates traveled to Washington, D.C., to, as he wrote in his Nation’s Restaurant News article, meet with lawmakers and “talk about the role restaurateurs play as cornerstones of the economy, cornerstones of career and employment opportunities for millions of Americans, and cornerstones of our local communities. Most important, we will educate them about how their laws and regulations dramatically impact us.”
Washington is a trustee of the National Restaurant Association’s Educational Foundation, and a member of the boards of the Florida Restaurant Association and the Georgia Hospitality & Travel Association. In 1999 he was cited by Nation’s Restaurant News as one of the restaurant industry’s top-50 tastemakers.
Atlanta Business Chronicle, August 8, 1997, p. 9.
Nation’s Restaurant News, January 25, 1999, p. 216; December 9, 1996, p. 1; June 9, 2003, p. 64; September 8, 2003, p. 26; September 22, 2003, p. 116.
“California, Maryland Hear Multicultural Messages,” Bridges: The Newsletter of the Hospitality Business Alliance, www.nraef.org/pdf_files/bridges_15.pdf (March 14, 2004).
“Chairman of the Board of Directors, 2003-2004: Regynald G. Washington, FMP, CFBE,” National Restaurant Association, www.restaurant.org/aboutus/chair.cfm (March 14, 2004).
“Famous Soul Food Restaurant to Open Downtown,” Biz Journals, www.bizjournals.com/atlanta/stories/1996/12/16/newscolumnl.html (March 14, 2004).
“National Restaurant Association Debuts New Ad Concept for Cornerstone Initiative Public Relations Campaign,” Foodservice, www.foodservice.com/news_homepage_expandtitle_fromhome.cfm?passid=7246 (March 14, 2004).
“Pasta Bowl Receives National Award,” Giornale: Not Your Average Newsletter, www.lorussos.com/LoRussosnews.pdf (March 14, 2004).
“Regynald Washington,” Grace Restaurant Partners, www.buffets.com/Regynald%20Bio.htm (March 14, 2004).
“Regynald G. Washington Elected National Restaurant Association Chairman of the Board,” National Restaurant Association, www.restaurant.org/pressroom/print/index.cfm?ID=665 (March 14, 2004).
“Regynald Washington: Vice President/General Manager, Disney Regional Entertainment,” Florida International School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, http://hospitality.fiu.edu/advisory_board_bio/Washington.htm (March 14, 2004).
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Washington, Regynald G. 1954(?)–