A new study reports that the top executives at foodservice chains in the U.S. are mostly college educated, while nearly a quarter have post-graduate degrees.

The study from Plummer & Associates, an executive search firm based in New Canaan, Connecticut, found that 68 percent of CEOs at the top 100 U.S. foodservice chains are college educated.

Meanwhile, 18 percent of CEOs hold Master of Business degrees, 4 percent hold Law degrees, and 2 percent hold Master of Arts or Master of Science degrees.

A release from Plummer & Associates suggested the restaurant industry today needs better-educated executives because smaller, regional companies have grown into larger, consolidated businesses.

“For years the food service industry was known for its career path from ‘dishwasher to CEO,’” the release said.

“Our research indicates that while this may have been a viable path in the past, the current trend is for a minimum of a college degree and there is an increasing importance placed on advanced degrees. This demonstrates the importance of the sophisticated intellectual tools and the strategic vision gained through higher education.”

A number of disciplines are required to run a foodservice company today, the Plummer & Associates’ release said, including knowledge in marketing, merchandising, supply chain management and logistics, finance, legal, human resources, information technology, and global reach.

“This new breed of food service businesses are intensely competitive and are constantly looking for cost and marketing advantages to enhance their market position,” the release said.

The release went on to note that Ohio State University produced three of the top 100 CEOs, with two each coming from the University of Kentucky and the University of Central Florida. The Graduate School of Business at Harvard, meanwhile, graduated four of the CEOs with MBA degrees.

By Sam Oches