Monday, March 30, 2015

LRA Blog moves to

The Louisiana Restaurant Association launched its new and improved website at With this makeover comes fresh graphics, easier navigation and other enhancements. Of them, a news function on its website, which will replace this blog going forward. Content from this blog has been migrated to the new site. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

LRA Education Foundation offers $70,000 in hospitality scholarships

Scholarship Fund to aid students for fifth consecutive year

The Louisiana Restaurant Association Education Foundation (LRAEF) is now accepting scholarship applications through April 10, 2015. The LRAEF Scholarship Fund was created in 2009 to support the continuing education of individuals pursuing a career in the culinary and/or hospitality industry.

Applicants must be currently enrolled or accepted in a bachelor and/or associate degree seeking program, pursuing a career in the restaurant, foodservice, tourism or hospitality industry. Courses of study can include, but are not limited to: culinary, hospitality, tourism, business and management programs. Scholarship awards may vary based on available funds and are merit-based.

The 2015 scholarships will be awarded from the following funds: 
  • Jim Funk Scholarship: The LRAEF’s most prestigious award, the scholarship is named for former LRA President & CEO Jim Funk, who was instrumental in founding the LRAEF and was a culinary education champion during his 30 years of service to the LRA. This scholarship is renewable on an annual basis for up to four years, provided that minimum GPA and enrollment standards are met.
  • LRAEF/NRAEF ProStart® Scholarship: Awarded exclusively to students who achieve the ProStart Certificate of Achievement. ProStart is a nationwide, two-year program for high school students that develops the best and brightest talent into tomorrow’s industry leaders.
  • LRAEF Culinary & Hospitality Leadership Scholarship: Awarded to Louisiana students who intend to pursue a career in the restaurant, foodservice, tourism or hospitality industry.
  • LRA CENLA Chapter Scholarship: Presented by the LRA CENLA Chapter, this scholarship is awarded to qualified applicants from the chapter’s 11 parish area- Avoyelles, Beauregard, Catahoula, Concordia, Grant, LaSalle, Natchitoches, Rapides, Sabine, Vernon and Winn parishes.
  • Louisiana Seafood Scholarship: Established through a generous gift from the Louisiana Seafood Promotion & Marketing Board, this scholarship is awarded to qualified applicants who show an interest in cultivating, protecting and promoting Louisiana seafood.

Available for download at, the application must be completed and postmarked by Friday, April 10, 2015.

“The LRAEF is proud to offer financial assistance to students both beginning and furthering their education in the culinary and hospitality fields,” said LRAEF Executive Director Alice Glenn. “Our industry offers great opportunities for rewarding careers and advancement. Our goal is to support promising future leaders as they prepare for the many lucrative restaurant careers in Louisiana.”

The LRAEF, a 501 (c)3 non-profit organization, exists to enhance the restaurant community through expanded educational and career opportunities, the formation of strategic partnerships and the elevation of professional standards and practices. If you would like to make a donation, please contact Alice Glenn, or (504) 636-6526.

The LRAEF is grateful to its nine LRA chapters and its sponsors: 5 Diamond—Acme Oyster House, Auto-Chlor Services, Louisiana Hospitality Foundation, Louisiana Restaurant Association, Louisiana Seafood and the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation; 4 Diamond—Performance Foodservice-Caro; 3 Diamond—Atmos Energy, Camellia Brand, Drago’s Seafood Restaurant, Louisiana Culinary Institute, New Orleans Wine & Food Experience and Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers; 2 Diamond—Louisiana Gas Association, Whole Foods Market and Chef Paul Prudhomme’s “Sea of Hope.”

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Calling Louisiana Chefs: Your opportunity to vie for King/Queen of Louisiana Seafood

In keeping with a tradition now entering its eighth year, the Louisiana Seafood Cook-Off will take place at the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience (NOWFE) in New Orleans, Saturday, May 23, 2015 at 11 a.m. at the New Orleans Morial Convention Center. During NOWFE’s Grand Tasting event, where patrons experience cuisine from more than 50 restaurants and wine from vineyards far and wide, Cook-Off organizers will crown the King or Queen of Louisiana Seafood.

Ten Louisiana chefs will compete for the honor and join the ranks of past winners—Chef Brian Landry of Borgne (2008); Chef Tory McPhail of Commander’s Palace (2009); Chef Chris Lusk of Restaurant R’evolution (2010); Chef Cory Bahr of Cotton (2011); Chef Keith Frentz of Lola (2012); Chef Cody Carroll of Hot Tails (2013); and reigning king, Chef Aaron Burgau of Patois.

The winner of the Louisiana Seafood Cook-Off will go onto to represent Louisiana in the Great American Seafood Cook-Off, Saturday, August 8, 2015 at the Louisiana Foodservice & Hospitality EXPO in New Orleans at the Morial Convention Center.

Chefs interested in competing must be an executive chef for a restaurant in Louisiana that is an acclaimed free standing restaurant. Restaurants associated with a luxury country club, resort or hotel is also eligible. Restaurant must be a member of the Louisiana Restaurant Association. No institutional chefs, i.e. food service distributors, hospitals, culinary school instructors, caterers or corporate chefs for chains having 10 or more restaurants are eligible to compete.

Each chef will be responsible for plating up to five entrees for judges with Louisiana seafood as the main protein. Each chef is responsible for his or her own travel and ingredient costs. Those traveling from more than 100 miles away may be eligible for a travel stipend of $100.

There are 10 spots available and entry forms will be accepted until Friday, April 10, 2015 and will be considered in the order they are received until all 10 spots are filled by eligible participants. Contestants will be notified of their eligibility by Friday, April 17, 2015.

For details and entry form, click here.  Please return your completed form to Tiffany Hess to by April 10, 2015

Monday, March 23, 2015

Restaurant workforce demographics are shifting

The teen labor force participation rate declined sharply in recent years, a development that directly impacted the restaurant workforce.  Although restaurants are still the economy’s largest employer of teenagers, the shrinking teen labor pool has led many restaurant operators to look to alternative age cohorts to fill their staffing needs, according to the NRA’s chief economist Bruce Grindy.  His Economist’s Notebook commentary and analysis appears regularly on and Restaurant TrendMapper.

The Great Recession and its aftermath had a significant impact on the U.S. labor force. The labor force participation rate fell to a 37-year low, with many people who lost jobs deciding not to return to the workforce. Contributing to this decline was the retirement of baby boomers, as well as a growing proportion of teenagers choosing to remain on the sidelines.

As the nation’s second largest private sector employer, the restaurant industry was directly impacted by these shifting labor demographics in recent years. Of significant note for the restaurant industry was the sharp decline in the teenage labor pool.

At its peak in the late 1970s, roughly 58 percent of 16-to-19-year-olds were in the labor force. This participation rate remained above 50 percent until 2001, when it started trending downward. The Great Recession exacerbated this decline, with the teen labor force participation rate plunging from 41.3 percent in 2007 to just 34.0 percent in 2014 – a record low.

The net effect was a decline of 1.4 million teenagers in the labor force between 2007 and 2014, a development that was reflected in the restaurant workforce. In 2007, 16-to-19-year-olds represented 20.9 percent of the restaurant workforce. By 2014, these teens made up only 16.6 percent of restaurant employees. 

To be sure, the restaurant industry is still the economy’s largest employer of teenagers, providing jobs for 1.5 million individuals between the ages of 16 and 19. Put another way, one-third of all working teenagers in the U.S. are employed in a restaurant. However, the shrinking teen labor pool has led many restaurant operators to look to alternative age cohorts to fill their staffing needs.

With teen representation in the restaurant workforce declining, a majority of the new restaurant jobs went to millennials in recent years. The share of restaurant jobs held by 20-to-24-year-olds rose from 21.4 percent in 2007 to 24.2 percent in 2014, while 25-to-34-year-olds also took on a larger role in the restaurant workforce.

Although older adults still make up a relatively small proportion of the restaurant workforce, they were the fastest growing demographic group in recent years. In fact, the number of adults aged 55 or older working in the restaurant industry jumped 38 percent between 2007 and 2014, an increase of 218,000 individuals. This trend is expected to continue in the years ahead, as older adults make up a larger share of the U.S. labor force.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Optimize hot water temperature

You don’t overcook your food, so why make water hotter than you need it?

You pay for hot water three ways and those costs add up. But one clear way to save on your water heating costs is to check your water heater and optimize the temperature setting. The best part of this exercise is it's a no-cost project.

Water temperature is set by health code mandates. Typically that means 120 degrees Fahrenheit at hand sinks and 140 degrees at dish machines, and you must meet those requirements. If you are setting the water hotter, however, you're wasting energy that could cost hundreds of extra dollars per year.

Spending just a few minutes at the hot water tank to adjust and optimize the settings can conserve both energy and money.

Monday, March 16, 2015

LRA Past Chair Richard Brennan Sr. died at 83 in New Orleans

Richard J. Brennan, Sr., New Orleans Restaurateur, born in the Irish Channel, passed away the evening of Saturday, March 14, surrounded by his family and loved-ones.  Brennan was the first in the family to serve as a Chair of the Louisiana Restaurant Association (LRA) in 1961-1962, and to serve on the National Restaurant Association Board of Directors.

“Mr. Brennan was an ambassador and advocate for Louisiana’s restaurant industry,” said Stan Harris, President/CEO of the LRA. “He was a visionary, who mentored some of the most notable of chefs in New Orleans culinary history. Mr. Dick's last role for the LRA was serving as EXPO Co-Chair with his son, Dickie, in 2010.”

Brennan (better known as Dick) was the embodiment of New Orleans. His contributions to New Orleans cuisine, Mardi Gras and the overall culture of the city leave a legacy that is deeply woven into the fabric of the place he called “home.”

He was born on Third Street in the Irish Channel in November of 1931. Dick Brennan was the second youngest of six children, in what would become the first family of fine dining Creole in New Orleans. His life reads like a storybook, in which good fortune, hard work and ingenuity led to many successes.

In high school at St. Aloysius, Dick was a star basketball player.  He was all-district and all-state for his high school career, as was State MVP for three years (all except his freshman year). Coach Rupp from the University of Kentucky recruited him for their championship team. However, Dick’s mother fell ill prior to the start of school, so he opted to stay close and attend college at Tulane University in New Orleans. A star of their team, he led Tulane to victory over Kentucky in his senior year—the only game that Kentucky lost that season. For his successes on the basketball court, he was inducted into the Tulane Hall of Fame in 1991.

During college he began dating the woman who would become his wife of nearly sixty years, Lynne Trist Brennan. Dick met Lynne through his sister Dottie – Lynne’s friends from their years attending the Academy of the Sacred Heart in New Orleans. Shortly after graduating from Tulane, Lynne and Dick married. Dick completed two years of Law School before he enlisted in the Army and was stationed in Augusta, Georgia and Williamsburg, Virginia.  When he returned to New Orleans, he intended to finish Law school but his brother, Owen, and both parents passed away within a year of one another, he instead went to work at the family’s restaurant, Brennan’s on Royal Street. With his siblings, Dick was instrumental in opening Brennan’s in Houston, Dallas and Atlanta, as well as Chez Francis in Metairie, Louisiana, Mr. B’s Bistro and the Friendship House on the Gulf in Mississippi. During this time he and Lynne had two children - a daughter, Lauren, and a son, Dickie Jr.
In 1973 the Brennan’s split their restaurant interests, and Dick along with his siblings John, Adelaide, Ella and Dottie took control of Commander’s Palace. The New Orleans’ Garden District landmark had faded over the years and the siblings were tasked with reviving the nearly 100-year-old restaurant. Dick was passionate about New Orleans and America.  He recognized the sheer bounty of our region, including ingredients and talent. Instead of European chefs, he hired from the area. Paul Prudhomme and Dick collaborated on dishes that today have become synonymous with New Orleans cuisine.  He walked to work each day from his house on Third St., and each day he passed a pecan tree. He wondered why almonds were used to coat fish and not pecans that grow locally? From this simple question posed to Chef Prudhomme, pecan crusted fish was born. 

In an interview with The Times Picayune, Emeril Lagasse once said, “You could have no better mentors that Ella and Dick.  They are absolutely the best.  They are legends.  They are masters of the restaurant business.”  Emeril was the Executive Chef at Commander’s Palace from 1982 – 1989. 

Friday, March 13, 2015

American palates growing more adventurous

Nine in 10 restaurant operators say their guests are more knowledgeable about food than they used to be and pay more attention to food quality than just two years ago, according to the National Restaurant Association's (NRA) 2015 Restaurant Industry Forecast.
"As dining out has grown into an everyday activity over the last few decades, we essentially have become a generation of 'foodies' with a much wider base of experience and trial of new cuisines and flavors than previous generations," said Annika Stensson, director of research communications for the NRA. "Growth of international travel and increased diversity of cuisines offered here at home have driven today's diners to be more adventurous and generally more willing to try new things when dining out."

NRA research shows that 64 percent of consumers consider themselves more adventurous in their food choices when dining out now than just two years ago. This sentiment is even stronger among millennials, where 77 percent consider themselves more food adventurous. 

Seventy-two percent of consumers also say that restaurant food provides tastes and flavors they can't duplicate at home, which especially true for global cuisines. Roughly seven out of 10 consumers say they are more likely to try ethnic cuisines in a restaurant than they are trying to cook such dishes at home.

The rise of ethnic cuisines has been evolving for decades, resulting in ethnic cuisines and flavors increasingly making their way onto mainstream menus. Currently, more than a third of restaurant operators say they offer ethnic cuisine items outside of their main menu theme, with the highest number reported among fine-dining restaurants (51 percent) and casual-dining restaurants (48 percent). In addition, a majority of operators believe this will become even more common in the future.