Jessica Dunker is president and CEO of the Iowa Restaurant Association. She likes to tell people that she spends her days “eating and drinking” her way across the state, but in actuality her focus is on the “business of hospitality.” (Although she does spend a great deal of time appreciating the food and beverage of Iowa’s many fine hospitality establishments.)
As the association’s lead executive she serves as an advocate, educator, and promoter for the industry with legislators, media, and the public. She also works with owners, operators, purveyors, and related industry professionals to find ways to help Iowa’s restaurants and bars operate more effectively and profitability.
She has been an especially vocal and visible advocate for credentialing programs in the hospitality industry and has helped oversee the exponential growth in the number of certified food protection managers in restaurants across the state, as well as the significant expansion of the ProStart Culinary Arts and Restaurant Management programs in Iowa high schools.
Once a Silicon Valley-based high technology marketing executive, Jessica never her lost her passion for working with creative spirits and entrepreneurs. She finds the same skills that once helped her develop outbound marketing and branding programs for personal computers, software and gaming systems have translated well into the highly competitive retail food industry.
Jessica sits on the boards of directors for the Iowa Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) and the National Council of State Restaurant Associations (CSRA). Jessica and her family spend much of their free time working with the resettled refugee community in Des Moines through a program called STARs (Serve, Teach, Advocate, Reach) operated through Zion Lutheran Church.