Alan Kneeland, Kneeland

Alan Kneeland Named First Black President Of Greater Kansas City Restaurant Association

The Greater Kansas City Restaurant Association has named Alan Kneeland, co-owner of The Combine, the first Black president in its long history.

The Greater Kansas City Restaurant Association has named its first Black president in its long history. Alan Kneeland, co-owner of The Combine, told the Kansas City Star, “It’s very humbling.”

“It is something that I didn’t necessarily see myself doing, and if you would have asked me 15 years ago, I would have said that’s impossible,” he added. “But when you have a passion for something and you really put your heart into it, anything is possible.”

The association, which formed out of the Missouri Restaurant Association, has been around since 1916 when it was the Kansas City Business Men’s Association. The organization governs restaurants in the Kansas City area and helps them maintain bonds.

Post-pandemic, some restaurants have refused to evolve by not offering to-go options for customers or embracing delivery services like DoorDash. Kneeland says that change is inevitable in the restaurant business. “A lot of restaurants have had to change their concepts and change the way they do business to switch things up because the things that people were doing 10 years ago in the restaurant industry are definitely not what they’re doing now,” he told the Star.

Kneeland wants to use his position to generate interest in the restaurant industry in Kansas City’s schools to change the perception that the food service industry is a dead-end job. He believes that the emergence of more Black-owned businesses in the Kansas City area might be the key, even though that’s not a new concept.

“I think it is wild that Black-owned restaurants are looked at as something new in the metro,” Kneeland said. “For some reason, we don’t look at Gates or Arthur Bryant’s, which are some of the oldest eating places in the city and started by Black people in a time where Black people weren’t allowed to do very much.”

Kneeland hopes his ideas to engage the youth can awaken a desire to be business owners and entrepreneurs earlier than they awoke in himself, telling the Kansas City Star, “I think a lot of younger kids kind of look down at working in the food industry now. I didn’t realize that I wanted to be a restaurant owner until after being in the industry for at least eight years, but now I don’t think many kids think there is a point trying to work your way up.”