Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Examining leadership in Louisiana's restaurant industry

The Louisiana Restaurant Association (LRA) is in a new phase in its development. With the retirement of its former president and chief executive officer in 2010, the volunteer leaders conducted a national search—the first time for many of them—for someone to lead them into a new era for your association. That individual is Stan Harris—a former successful restaurateur with a strong business acumen and an active leader.

The LRA Executive Committee charged Harris with bringing a solid business approach to the association and leading a strategic restructuring to align the LRA and its highly-valued Self Insurer’s Fund forWorkers’ Compensation. Another task is to raise awareness of the Louisiana ProStart® program, the two-year, restaurant management and culinary curriculum offered in 50 high schools statewide.

While much of that work has began at the staff level in 2011, the real work begins this year as members of the state board and the nine LRA chapter presidents will evaluate themselves and begin to set the course for the future of our association and industry. Enhancing the industry’s identity and reputation is at the forefront of this initiative.

Developing the next generation of industry leaders
Given the level of involvement necessary to evolve the LRA, 2012 LRA Chair Melvin Rodrigue appointed LRA Past Chair Glen Armantrout as Chapter Leadership Chair this year. In preparation and in conjunction with LRA senior staff, the first Chapter Leadership Conference was instituted this past December. All nine chapter presidents attended as well as the nine chapter vice presidents.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Business of Bourbon Street -- Melvin Rodrigue

From Napoleonville to New Orleans, a pre-med major turns hospitality into his lifelong career and runs one of the most notable, old-line restaurants in the heart of the French Quarter.

Many successful restaurateurs initially had other careers in mind upon entering college. 2012 LRA Chair Melvin Rodrigue was no different. At 19 years old, the Napoleonville native was enrolled at Tulane University, with plans to study medicine. A sister’s suggestion, however, put Rodrigue on the path to where he is today.  In 1991, he found himself working at the newly-opened Palace Café on Canal Street.

“I was driving home every weekend and my sister encouraged me to stay in the city, get a job with her at Palace and the rest is history, really,” Rodrigue says.

Best laid plans…
In a few short months, he was running the kitchen at Palace Café with 30 direct reports.

“I just loved it…the excitement, the responsibility and working with some of the industry greats, like Dickie Brennan and my mentor, Steve Pettus.”

Pettus laughed in an interview, “I’m too young to be a mentor. But, in all seriousness, Melvin is a sponge. He listens, he thinks and he considers all angles before he reacts. That’s the mark of a truly great leader.”