WASHINGTON — Dawn Sweeney, president and chief executive officer of the National Restaurant Association, has announced her intent to step down as head of the association when her current contract expires at the end of 2019. She will spend the next several months assisting the N.R.A.’s board in the search for a new c.e.o. and in helping gain approval for a 2020-24 strategic plan.

“Serving and leading the restaurant industry during this historic timeframe, when food service has grown to an $863 billion business employing over 15 million professionals, has been the most fulfilling experience of my career,” Ms. Sweeney said.  “We have accomplished much together, including important public policy victories at all levels of government, a broadened membership base representative of the industry at large, and a revitalized organization that has expanded and bolstered its advocacy and business capabilities. I have had the privilege of serving for 12 years — the longest tenure of any position in my career. It is vital to me that we work to ensure the association and foundation have a smooth and seamless transition to plan for the future.”

Ms. Sweeney joined the N.R.A. in 2007. During her tenure, the association’s membership has grown by nearly 50%, and the organization has added members from every sector of the industry. She also was responsible for refocusing the Educational Foundation “to attract, empower and advance the future workforce of the restaurant industry,” the N.R.A. said.

Prior to the N.R.A., Ms. Sweeney was president of AARP Services, the taxable subsidiary of AARP. Earlier, she worked for nearly a decade at the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. She began her career at the International Dairy Foods Association.

Ms. Sweeney is active in several organizations, including the Women’s Foodservice Forum, Save the Children, and the Bryce Harlow Foundation.