Monday, September 30, 2013

Restaurant Performance Index edged down in August amid fading operator expectations

Same-store sales and customer traffic levels rose: Operator outlook for sales growth and the economy softened

Due to a softer outlook among restaurant operators for sales growth and the economy, the National Restaurant Association’s Restaurant Performance Index (RPI) declined for the third consecutive month.  The RPI – a monthly composite index that tracks the health of and outlook for the U.S. restaurant industry – stood at 100.5 in August, down 0.2 percent from July’s level of 100.7.  Despite the recent declines, the RPI remained above 100 for the sixth consecutive month, which signifies expansion in the index of key industry indicators.

NRA Restaurant Performance Index
Values Greater than 100=Expansion
Values Less than 100=Contraction
“The August decline in the RPI was due almost entirely to a dip in the expectations indicators, with restaurant operators becoming less bullish about sales growth and the economy in the months ahead,” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of the Research and Knowledge Group for the Association. 

“In contrast, operators reported positive same-store sales and customer traffic levels in August, and a majority of operators reported capital expenditures for the fourth consecutive month,” Riehle added.

The RPI is constructed so that the health of the restaurant industry is measured in relation to a steady-state level of 100. Index values above 100 indicate that key industry indicators are in a period of expansion, while index values below 100 represent a period of contraction for key industry indicators. The Index consists of two components – the Current Situation Index and the Expectations Index.

The Current Situation Index, which measures current trends in four industry indicators (same-store sales, traffic, labor and capital expenditures), stood at 100.7 in August – up 0.6 percent from July and the first increase in three months.  In addition, the Current Situation Index stood above 100 for the fifth consecutive month, which signifies expansion in the current situation indicators. 

Final lesson of National Food Safety Month

Each week during the month of September, the Louisiana Restaurant Association has brought you different aspects of serving guests safely with food allergens. Based on the newly-released National Restaurant Association online training course—ServSafe Allergens—we’ve learned about the Big 8 and cross-contact, reading labels, preventing cross-contact in the front of the house, purchasing and transportation and finally, separation in equipment and storage.

One of the main ways to prevent cross-contact is to keep food and equipment separate. Use separate equipment and utensils when preparing food for people with food allergies, and store food containing food allergens separately from other food.
Equipment and utensils that have touched a food allergen can spread that allergen to other food. So it’s important to always wash, rinse and sanitize all equipment and utensils correctly. One extra step that can be taken is having designated equipment for food that contains allergens. This equipment should be stored separately and it should be labeled in some way to signify that it is only to be used on food allergens.

One common designation is to use purple-colored equipment and utensils for food containing allergens.
When storing food that contains food allergens, keep it separate from other food. A good way to do this is to store the allergen-containing food in separate, sealed containers. It should then be kept in a completely separate area from other food that does not contain allergens.

Visit for downloadable activities to help you and your staff understand the tenants of serving guests with food allergies safely.

Friday, September 27, 2013

SCAM ALERT! Entergy disconnection threats

A scam originally targeting residents earlier this spring was making the rounds through the New Orleans area restaurant industry Friday. The Louisiana Restaurant Association received a phone call this afternoon from a member who unfortunately fell victim to the Entergy disconnection scam.

As they have since late spring, con arts give you a call and say that your electric bill payment is past due and that your service will be disconnected within the hour if you don’t pay up. Then you are directed to transfer funds electronically, sometimes through the system known as “MoneyPack.”
LRA member Keith Dusko, owner of Chiba restaurant in the Riverbend neighborhood, was immediately suspicious and avoided getting duped by scammers. He shares his encounter will readers here.

Entergy doesn't want you to fall victim to this scam and reminds you:
  • While the company does place courtesy calls if you are at risk for disconnection, these are recorded calls, and are not calls from live customer service representatives. Entergy NEVER demands immediate payment.
  • While you may pay your Entergy bill by phone or credit card, it is ONLY through BillMatrix, a third-party vendor we use for this purpose.
  • You shouldn't give your personal information to strangers. If a call sounds suspicious, call 1-800-ENTERGY (1-800-368-3749) to speak with an Entergy customer service representative.
You should only use authorized methods and legitimate banking information to pay your Entergy bill. 

If you believe you're a victim of this scam, you should notify the proper authorities, such as the local police or the state attorney general's office. If you believe your Entergy account has been affected, call 1-800-ENTERGY (1-800-368-3749) to speak with an Entergy customer service representative.

Gulf Coast Seafood Finder, a new mobile app

The Gulf & South Atlantic Fisheries Foundation recently launched the Gulf Coast Seafood Finder, a mobile app for Apple and Android, to give restaurant owners a competitive advantage with today’s savvy customers. Make it easy for them to find locate your restaurant by signing up for your free listing as a dealer of premium Gulf Coast Seafood today. Along with easy to use search options, the app also serves up great tips and original recipes.

Let more about the customer retail and restaurant promotions at

Thursday, September 26, 2013

More than 1,000 restaurateurs take advantage of NRA notification tool ahead of Oct. 1 deadline

More than 1,000 restaurateurs have taken advantage of the National Restaurant Association’s Notification Tool, an online resource designed to help employers meet the Oct. 1 deadline to notify employees about government-run health insurance exchanges.

“The National Restaurant Association’s Notification Tool guides an employer through the law’s required information process and creates a company-specific landing page that can be used to properly notify employees,” said Phil Kafarakis, Chief Innovation and Member Advancement Officer, National Restaurant Association. “This is new ground for a trade association and the response from our members tells us we are providing a valuable resource.”

Among other provisions, the health care law creates a new section of the Fair Labor Standards Act that requires employers to provide existing employees with basic information about exchanges by Oct. 1, including letting employees know they may be eligible for federal tax subsidies to buy health plans through exchanges. The mandate applies to all employers covered by the FLSA. Starting in 2014, employers will be required to provide employees with the FLSA notice within 14 days of hiring.

The NRA Notification Tool, which is an exclusive member benefit, helps employers inform employees of new requirements around health care coverage; track and report which employees received the notice; and create records to verify compliance.

“Turnkey solutions like the Notification Tool are typical of the ways the NRA supports our members,” Kafarakis added. 

The Notification Tool, available at, is part of the National Restaurant Association’s Health Care Reform Headquarters. The one-stop shop offers NRA members information about how the law affects restaurant businesses, including a Health Care Law Primer that covers key aspects of the law for restaurant employers. The Health Care Reform Headquarters will later offer a marketplace to help restaurant employers and employees shop for Affordable Care Act-compliant health plans.

Interested in Opening a New Restaurant? Let the LRA be your guide

There is so much to know and learn when opening a new restaurant and the Louisiana Restaurant Association (LRA) has your guide to what you need to know. First up- you need to know if the value of LRA membership. We can assist you as you get your footing in the business through a number of programs and services designed especially for budding restaurateurs.

The LRA offers a number of benefits to members. The first is the LRA Self Insurer’s Fund for Workers’ Compensation program. In Louisiana, it is mandatory to have workers’ compensation for your business. Workers’ compensation protects employees who are injured on the job. It is the law that “all” Louisiana employers must maintain comp coverage. Those failing to meet this requirement are subject to individual fines per occurrence, with the potential total penalty reaching $10,000 per business.  To get a quote for your workers’ comp, please call the LRA at (504) 454-2277.
A business must possess an alcoholic beverage permit to sell such beverages in Louisiana. The guide contains information for operators to obtain their liquor license from the Alcohol Tobacco Control and your local municipality. Also, it is also mandatory in Louisiana that anyone serving alcoholic beverage obtain a Responsible Vendor Permit. The LRA is the first and only provider in the state of these permits to offer the two-hour course online at

Beyond these necessities, there’s your food permit required by the Louisiana State Sanitarian Code, through the Department of Health and Hospitals. The law requires all foodservice licensees must have a valid food safety certificate. The LRA is the largest provider of the required eight-hour course through the nationally-recognized ServSafe food safety and sanitation course. Click here for a complete schedule of classes offered statewide.
From the average wage for various restaurant positions, to wage and hour laws and overtime calculations, the LRA’s Opening a New Restaurant guide covers this and so much moe.  Other important information like copyright laws if you intend to play music – live or recorded; reporting newly-hired workers, opening checklists, dual membership in the National Restaurant Association and what you need to know about the Affordable Care Act are also included in the guide.

The LRA is your advocate on local, state and federal issues impacting the restaurant industry in Louisiana. For more information about the LRA’s suite of benefits available to members, visit today or call us at (504) 454-2277.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Reach the LRA’s membership with your company’s products & services

A La Carte is the official publication of the Louisiana Restaurant Association and is published quarterly for the membership. It is a four-color publication that features articles of interest concerning the foodservice and hospitality industries in Louisiana. It also show photo spreads of the various chapter events, programs and LRA activities held throughout the year.

Advertising in A La Carte gives you something that no other advertisement can give you in Louisiana—instant access to more than 4,000 decision makers in the Louisiana restaurant industry. It’s an opportunity to bring thousands of potential clients into your showroom.
Owners and managers of the top independent and chain restaurants in the state read A La Carte. The LRA membership is comprised of the leaders in the foodservice industry and your advertisement will be seen by these decision-makers. Reach all your potential customers quickly, efficiently and effectively with an ad in A La Carte. Our readers are your buyers.

Advertising with us is also your most cost-effective means of reaching these industry professionals. In addition to our reasonable rates, there’s never an additional charge for color printing. A 10 percent discount is offered to LRA members as well as standard industry discounts to recognized advertising agencies.
Our current advertisers are: Blue Williams, BMI, Borden/LaFleur Dairy, Brown’s and Barbe’s Dairy, Community Coffee, Fisher & Phillips LLP, Heartland Payment Systems, Hollis Companies, Johnson, Johnson, Barrios & Yacoubian, Louisiana Foodservice & Hospitality EXPO, Louisiana Sweet Potato Commission, LRA Self Insurer’s Fund for Workers’ Compensation, Performance Foodservice-Caro, Reinhart Food Service, ServSafe Alcohol Online, SYSCO Foodservice, Thompson Packers and U.S. Foodservice.

For more information, call Erica Burns at (800) 256-4572 or (504) 454-2277 or via email at

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Employee Notification Deadline Oct. 1

The phone is ringing off the hook at the Louisiana Restaurant Association with questions about the upcoming deadline to notify employees of the Health Care Marketplace/exchanges opening Oct. 1, 2013.

What does that mean for you as an employer? It means that first you need to determine if you are a large or small employer. To calculate your full-time equivalent employees, download the free National Restaurant Association Health Care Primer here.

Once you’ve determined your size (large or small) under the Affordable Care Act, then you will complete the notification form and distribute to your employees to read it and sign that they understand.

What individuals need to know? If you work for a small company and are not eligible for coverage through your employer, you must obtain coverage on the Health Care Marketplace beginning October 1, 2013 to February 28, 2014. Based on your annual salary, you may be eligible for government subsidies through the marketplace at
To view the previous blog post about the Employee Notification Tool from the National Restaurant Association and the Restaurant Health Care Alliance, click here.

If you have questions, please call the LRA at (504) 454-2277 today and we’ll be happy to help.

Need funding for your restaurant? Economic development low interest loans available

The South Central Planning and Development Commission (SCPDC) has three low interest loan programs designed to assist those business owners who’ve been declined by a bank for a loan. Each loan program corresponds to a specific map indicating which parishes are eligible.

The Innovations Loan ($50,000 to $500,000) is available at 1 percent interest. This is program expires Jan. 31, 2014. The initial requirements include:
·         Declined letter from bank*
·         A signed copy of your last 3 years personal and business (if established business) taxes
·         Business Plan
·         Last three years of financial statements (if established business)
·         Proof of business ownership structure
·         Resumes of company owner/partner
·         With new jobs created
·         Minimum $75,000 annual gross revenue.
Applications for equipment should be submitted by November 2013 for the best chance of funding.

The Revolving Capital Fund ($10,000 to $250,000) is available at 4 percent interest. The initial requirements are:
·         Declined letter from bank*
·         A signed copy of your last 3 years personal and business (if established business) taxes
·         Business Plan
·         Last three years of financial statements (if established business)
·         Proof of business ownership structure
·         Resumes of company owner/partner

The Revolving Loan Fund ($10,000 to $250,000) is available at 4 percent interest. The initial requirements are:
·         Declined letter from bank*
·         A signed copy of your last 3 years personal and business (if established business) taxes
·         Business Plan
·         Last three years of financial statements (if established business)
·         Proof of business ownership structure
·         Resumes of company owner/partner

*A decline letter can be in the form of a total decline, or a statement that they would only fund a portion of the project.

In all programs, funding is limited. For more information, call the SCPDC at (985) 655-1051 today or download the loan application here.


Monday, September 23, 2013

Purchasing and transportation focus of National Food Safety Month Week 4

Part of the ServSafe Allergens training and the National Food Safety Month: Week 4 Activity covers the role purchasing and transportation plays in serving guests with food allergies safely. Special care should be taken to read the labels and prevent cross-contact when purchasing and transporting food.

Not all brands are the same. The same product can be made with very different ingredients by different companies. Additionally, food vendors can change the recipes of their items without notice. Therefore, it is always important to read labels when purchasing food. Some operations even use specialty suppliers to provide food without certain allergens.
Regarding transportation, it’s also important to ensure that there was no cross-contact when the food was being transported. Food items containing any of the Big 8 allergens should be packed separately from other food. For example, if a carton of eggs breaks and leaks onto a bag of lettuce below them, the lettuce will be contaminated by the eggs. Packages should be checked to ensure there was no damage or leakage during transport. Items showing damage or evidence of cross-contact should be rejected.
ServSafe Allergens is a 90-minute interactive, online course designed to educate front of the house and back of the house staff on the various techniques and actions to take when serving a guest with food allergies. For the $22 cost of ServSafe Allergens, you and your staff could prevent illness, even death and potentially negative publicity for your establishment.

Friday, September 20, 2013

LRA Baton Rouge Chapter hosts its 11th Annual Silent Auction

If you’re looking for a great event filled with the Baton Rouge area’s hottest restaurants, the Louisiana Restaurant Association (LRA) Greater Baton Rouge Chapter’s 11th Annual Silent Auction is where it’s at! Join the fun Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013 at 6:30 p.m. at the Renaissance Hotel for unique silent auction items and celebrity bartenders. 

A new component of this year’s event is the crowning of a LRA Greater Baton Rouge Top Tailgating Chef. Participating restaurants, Ruffino’s, Walk On’s, Mestizo’s, Bistro Byronz, Little Village, Le Creole, Stab’s, Tallulah, Don’s Seafood Hut and L’Auberge Baton Rouge, will serve their tailgate specialties and vie for the crown. Event attendees will vote on their favorite restaurant which will determine the winner.

“With the excitement in the Capitol Region surrounding LSU Football, it was a natural progression to award this unique new title to one of our participating restaurants,” said LRA Greater Baton Rouge Chapter President Ryan Nizzo.

In addition, celebrity bartenders, Todd Graves, Founder of Raising Cane’s; Matt Saurage, President of Community Coffee; and Brandon Landry and Jack Warner, owners of Last In Concepts, will be serving up their specialty one-of-a-kind libations.

Attendees will have the chance to bid on outstanding items such as: A crawfish or shrimp boil for 20 of you closest friends at your home donated by Don’s Seafood Hut in Gonzales; a progressive wine dinner for 8 or 10 of your nearest and dearest with stops at Ruffino’s, Juban’s and Beausoilel, including transportation; a private dinner for 10 at Eighteen Steakhouse at L’Auberge Baton Rouge; LSU Baseball suite tickets; artwork; wine baskets; tailgating gear and the list goes on.

“The Silent Auction benefits the LRA Education Foundation, which is doing fantastic work through its statewide ProStart program, which trains students for careers in the restaurant industry,” said Nizzo. “This is one of two fundraisers our chapter hosts annually to support our charitable foundation.”

The event also features a Cork Pull for wine, spirits and gift certificates to various area restaurants. One pull is $20 and you’re guaranteed an item valued at $25 or more.

The VIP Preview Party starts at 5:30 p.m. at Tallulah in the Renaissance Hotel and tickets are $70. General admission tickets are $50 and the event begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Renaissance Hotel. For more information, or to purchase your tickets, call Courtney Waguespack at (225) 328-2163 or email

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Oct. 2 premiere of Top Chef New Orleans

City of New Orleans and state of Louisiana are stars of Bravo's 'Top Chef' season 11 as the popular food show locates in the Crescent City

The stars have aligned for New Orleans and Bravo's Emmy and James Beard Award-winning series 'Top Chef' as it prepares to launch season 11 of the culinary competition series, and locals are being asked to tune in to help create a ratings bonanza. The New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation (NOTMC) is requesting that every business with a television and every person at home tune into the show on Bravo at 9:00 p.m. Central on October 2, and then throughout the season.

After bringing the show to New Orleans for its finale in 2008, NOTMC was instrumental in bringing the show back for season 11 in 2013. The show premieres on Bravo on Wednesday, October 2.

"New Orleans has always been proud of the fact that the Top Chef finale episode  in 2008 garnered the best ratings the show had ever received," said Mark Romig, President and CEO of NOTMC. "Now we have an opportunity to best ourselves and help make sure this entire season has the best ratings ever. We are urging everyone in the city to tune in all season."

Chef Michael Sichel
Fifty-three locations were filmed in New Orleans throughout the season, along with segments in nine Louisiana cities including Baton Rouge, Lafitte, Chalmette, Gretna, Harahan, Husser, Lacombe, Metairie and Slidell.

Two local chefs, Michael Sichel of Galatoire's and Justin Devillier of La Petite Grocery, were chosen to compete in a pre-premiere digital video series, "Padma's Picks," sponsored by Cigna and Available on "Padma's Picks" gives New Orleans most talented chefs the opportunity to cook their way on to the actual show. Host and Judge Padma Lakshmi visits some of the Big Easy's most celebrated establishments to find ten of the best and brightest chefs from New Orleans.

Chef Justin Devillier
"I ask every citizen of our fine city to show your pride and love of New Orleans by gathering with family and friends and tuning in to Bravo's 'Top Chef' at 9 p.m. on October 2," said Mitch Landrieu, Mayor of New Orleans. "By doing so, we will help show the nation and the world that our first-class city supports this exciting program which showcases our uniquely wonderful way of life."

Many famous national and international chefs will be spotted during the season including New Orleans locals Emeril Lagasse, John Besh, Leah Chase, John Folse, Susan Spicer and others.

The show is a love story to New Orleans and gives nods and bouquets to many of the city's neighborhoods, as well as its food, architecture, music, art, and nightlife.

'Top Chef' will feature returning host and judge Lakshmi, alongside lead judge, Tom Colicchio, and series judges Gail Simmons, Hugh Acheson, and New Orleans' own Lagasse. So where will 'Top Chef' go from New Orleans for this season's finale show? Stay tuned and don't forget to watch!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

LRA announces 2014 Louisiana Foodservice & Hospitality EXPO theme

If you’ve exhibited in, sponsored or attended the Louisiana Foodservice & Hospitality EXPO, you are aware of all the exciting opportunities that exist those three days on the show floor. The projected growth in Louisiana’s hospitality industry is attributed to the mix of the number of new restaurants opening, increased visitors to the state and emerging companies.

The 2014 EXPO theme, “Opportunities Abound” captures the momentum of the industry’s growth AND your potential as an exhibitor, sponsor or attendee. 

Exhibitors in the 2013 EXPO had a 100 percent satisfaction rating, according to the 2013  post-event survey and 76.5 percent of respondents indicated that they were planning to exhibit in 2014. The number one reason they exhibit in the EXPO is to attract new customers, followed by meeting with current customers, company exposure and to showcase a new product. 

“If you exhibit or attend, you know how helpful the EXPO is to your business,” said Stan Harris, President/CEO, Louisiana Restaurant Association. “As a former restaurateur for nearly 30 years, a time-saving event like this is invaluable and convenient to a company or an attendee.” 

Attendees shared their feedback in their own post-2013 EXPO survey and ranked the opportunity to meet with so many companies face-to-face and in one place as the number one benefit of the EXPO. Trying new food products, learning about new services and informative discussions about restaurant operations best practices were just a few comments given indicating that attending the EXPO was time well spent. 

The 61st Annual Louisiana Foodservice & Hospitality EXPO will be held August 2-4, 2014 in New Orleans. Visit the LRA EXPO website to find out what you need to know about exhibiting, sponsoring or attending.


Monday, September 16, 2013

Front of the house food allergens training is key to serving guests safely

By Wendy Waren, VP of Communications, Louisiana Restaurant Association
Since last week’s National Food Safety Month article, I’ve dined out with my co-worker with a gluten allergy. Her food allergy awareness is always top of mind at a restaurant and since I dine with her, it is for me as well. 
In preparation for our lunch meeting, I called ahead to let them know that a member of our party had a gluten allergy. In a perfect world, that call would have triggered a series of events that would have led to a really enjoyable dining experience. 
She notified the server who took our drink order that she had a gluten allergy. Another server came to take our order. When the questions about gluten-free options started flying, the second server didn’t have the knowledge and rushed off to the kitchen for answers. At this time, the first server returned and gave a rundown of what was gluten-free. 
“Try the chicken. It’s fantastic and gluten free,” the first server urged.
When the entrees were presented, my co-worker noticed that the garnish was flash fried and her entrée had to be removed. Again, there was confusion from a different server who questioned whether or not the entrée would be able to be eaten if just the garnish was removed. 
In Week 3 of National Food Safety Month, we’re exploring cross-contact and the front of the house operations. After taking the new ServSafe Allergens online course, I have a whole new appreciation for the front of the house staff’s role in serving guests safely with food allergies.  
Remember, cross-contact occurs when one food comes in contact with another food, and their proteins mix. It can also occur when the same equipment and utensils are used to prepare or serve food, such as scooping pine nuts, then raisins with the same spoon. 
Cross-contact can happen easily in the front of the house, especially if surfaces aren’t cleaned carefully. There are several things that you can do to keep your customers who have food allergies safe: 
  • Even if a table was cleaned after the last guest seating, there may still be allergens on the surfaces. Start by removing utensils and other items from the table and then clean and sanitize it. Use a disposal paper towel, not the same cloth used previously. 
  • Salt and pepper shakers, other condiments and sugar and sweetener packages can also be a source of cross-contact. They should be cleaned or removed from the table entirely. 
  • Laminated menus should be cleaned on a regular basis. Guests with food allergies may also request to have them cleaned and sanitized upon arrival. 
  • Work stations should be cleaned just as carefully as other areas to prevent cross-contact.
Following our meal, the chef made his rounds and visited our table. I walked back to the kitchen with him to let him know what we had experienced. He shared that there had been no communication with the kitchen about my co-workers food allergy and apologized profusely.

We took all the proper steps to ensure that the meal served was in fact gluten free, but the front of the house staff’s lack of communication with the kitchen resulted in a dining experience fraught with near misses and apologies.

ServSafe Allergens online training course is just $22 and the knowledge I gained was invaluable. The benefit for restaurant staff—both front and back of the house—saves time, wasted meals and possible negative publicity for any establishment.

Visit to learn more.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

LRA SIF rewards claims free track records

For 15 years, safety dividends and safety awards have been distributed to Louisiana Restaurant Association Self Insurer’s Fund (LRA SIF) members. Those who had a loss ratio that didn’t exceed 50 percent, attended a safety seminar or webinar and implemented a written safety program received a dividend in December. In addition, safety awards are distributed annually to members who have filed no claims during the entire previous year, which many of them display in their establishments as a point of pride.

Stan Harris
“Seventy-four percent of LRA SIF members met the challenge and received a safety award this year,” said Stan Harris, LRA SIF President/CEO. “It is evident that the majority of LRA SIF members promote and provide a safe working environment for their staff.”

Updates to LRA SIF safety dividend criteria began this year. Given the resounding success of the use of the Second Injury Board Knowledge Questionnaire to recover claims costs for pre-existing injuries, the LRA SIF Board of Trustees voted to make it mandatory in 2013 as part of our safety dividend requirements for members to have this questionnaire completed for all of its employees.

As part of your new hire orientation, this will help identify in writing any pre-existing conditions that if known, may result in the Second Injury Fund covering a significant portion of a claim that ultimately can impact your workers’ comp rates.

Having a post-accident drug and alcohol testing policy can certainly reduce your workers’ comp exposure. Say you have an employee who gets high and then turns around and cuts his finger while using the meat slicer. If you have a post-accident drug and alcohol testing policy in place and the employee tests positive in excess of the limits, the employer may not be fully responsible for the entire claims costs.
Effective Jan. 1 2013, to receive a safety dividend, you must meet all five of the criteria which include:
  • Loss ratio must not exceed 50 percent
  • Written company safety program
  • Attendance at annual safety seminar or webinar
  • Second Injury Board Knowledge Questionnaire on file for every new employee; and
  • Written post-accident drug and alcohol testing policy in place for every employee and used.

Want to get started or make sure you’re eligible for your safety dividend? Contact your LRA Sales Representative or the LRA SIF Loss Prevention Dept. at 504-454-2277.
Don’t have your workers’ compensation coverage through the LRA SIF? Why not? For more than 30 years, the LRA SIF has provided workers’ compensation to the hospitality industry. Call us today to get a quote—you could start saving money tomorrow!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Oct. 1 Employee Notification of Health Care Marketplaces approaching

The National Restaurant Association has launched a new tool to help restaurateurs notify employees about new government-run health insurance marketplaces. Restaurant members of the Louisiana Restaurant Association can use this tool at no charge as they implement the notification process.

SPECIAL NRA NOTIFICATION TOOL WEBINAR--Sept. 12, 1-2 p.m. Register here.

The online employee-notification tool, available at, is designed to help employers meet an Oct. 1 federal deadline to notify employees about government-run health insurance exchanges.

“As changes begin to unfold under the health care law in the coming weeks and months, the Louisiana Restaurant Association will continue share valuable information and tools available to help our members navigate the complexities of the law,” said Stan Harris, LRA President/CEO. “The NRA’s new online notification tool is a great benefit of being a member of the LRA.”  

The online tool is available exclusively to NRA restaurant members as a benefit of membership. If you are a restaurant member of the LRA, you are automatically a member of the NRA through our dual membership program.

Among other provisions, the health care law creates a new section of the Fair Labor Standards Act that require employers to provide existing employees with basic information about exchanges by Oct. 1, including letting employees know they may be eligible for federal tax subsidies to buy health plans through exchanges. The mandate applies to all employers covered by the FLSA. Starting in 2014, employers will be required to provide employees with the FLSA notice within 14 days of hiring, according to the Department of Labor.

Exchanges are set to open in every state on Oct. 1 to begin offering millions of Americans new options for buying health insurance for 2014.

The National Restaurant Association’s Notification Tool offers online registration that guides an employer through the law’s required information process so that all employees can be properly notified when they access the site.

“Members who register to use the tool can create online portals to tell their employees about exchanges, track which employees they’ve notified, and keep on- and offline records to document which employees have received the notice,” Harris added.

The Notification Tool is part of the National Restaurant Association’s Health Care Reform Headquarters. The one-stop shop offers NRA members information about how the law affects restaurant businesses, including a Health Care Law Primer that covers key aspects of the law for restaurant employers. The Health Care Reform Headquarters will later offer a marketplace to help restaurant employers and employees shop for Affordable Care Act-compliant health plans.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Gulf Seafood Institute becomes reality with $20k grant from Ocean Conservancy

Recognizing the need for an integrated group dedicated to science and education in the Gulf, the Ocean Conservancy has pledged $20,000 in seed money for a new organization, Gulf Seafood Institute (GSI), whose vision is to establish a close working relationship with the entire Gulf’s environmental and seafood organizations.

Harvesters and processors; distributors and retailers; chefs and restaurants; academia and environmental governmental and non-governmental organizations all have a unique stake in the Gulf’s environment and the sustainability of the seafood it produces. 
According to Harlon Pearce, owner of New Orleans Harlon’s LA Fish and former Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board chairman, “there is no one group that has an outreach to all these varied interests.”   His new vision is the Gulf Seafood Institute.
Five board members of the new Gulf Seafood Institute
recently attended the Gulf of Mexico Fishery
Management Council in San Antonio. Jim Gossen,
Chairman of Sysco Louisiana Seafoods in Houston, TX;
David Krebs, president and owner of Ariel Seafoods in Destin, FL;
Harlon Pearce, owner of Harlon’s LA Fish in New Orleans;
Johnny Greene, a Gulf Shore, AL sport-fishing captain;
 and Pat Riley, general manager of Western Seafood in Freeport, TX.
“With so much on the line after the Deepwater Horizon disaster, stakeholders in the Gulf of Mexico should be working together to build bridges and solve problems,” said Elizabeth Fetherston, deputy director of the Ocean Conservancy’s Fish Conservation Program.  “There are many voices currently speaking for various aspects of the Gulf, the leadership of the GSI has the experience to bring these voices together for the benefit of all.”
Uniting the seafood communities of five Gulf States, the institute’s mission will be to protect the Gulf’s unique culture and environment while elevating the Gulf Seafood brand with consumers, customers and policy leaders through advocacy, education and science.
“A number of Gulf States don’t have a strong presence advocating the management and use of Gulf’s sustainable resources,” said Jim Gossen, chairman of Texas-based Sysco, Louisiana Seafood and a GSI board member. “It is important, now more than ever, for stakeholders from every state having an interest in the Gulf to come together as one unified voice to ensure the continuance of the unique Gulf Coast and its fishing culture.”
Stan Harris, President/CEO, Louisiana Restaurant Association
and Gulf Seafood Institute board member.
With an influential board of directors from across the Gulf, the organization is positioning itself to be a leading advocate on behalf of the Gulf seafood community with federal and state policymakers on key issues impacting our industry.
“There is currently a large void in advocacy from existing Gulf seafood interests; this gap has paved the way for the creation of the Gulf Seafood Institute,” said GSI board member Stan Harris, President/CEO of the Louisiana Restaurant Association. “The institute will leverage the strength of grassroots stakeholders with our relationships with Congress and the Administration to ensure focus on the key issues.”

The board has identified five immediate issues of concern across the region:
  • Gulf seafood safety: Recent consumer research indicates there is a continued need for the federal government to communicate with consumers about the safety and wholesomeness of Gulf seafood products.
  • H-2B visas: Recent federal actions threaten the viability of the H-2B visa program. We must preserve the H-2B visa program for seafood businesses that utilize temporary foreign workers to fill the most labor-intensive positions in the industry.
  • Stock assessments: NOAA must place more emphasis on conducting more frequent and robust, peer-reviewed fisheries stock assessments in the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Disaster mitigation and recovery: Maintain close relationships with key decision makers at the federal level so that a comprehensive relief response is immediate following any future fisheries disasters.
  • Crop insurance: Coverage for Gulf seafood commodities may stabilize the industry and protect family incomes from disasters both natural and manmade.
Increasing fisheries science and research throughout the Gulf region that will contribute to the preservation of the resource and the longevity of the industry will be a priority of the organization.

What you don't know may make your guests ill

By Wendy Waren, VP of Communications, Louisiana Restaurant Association

Just this week, a friend of mine with a gluten allergy shared with me that she prepared a rice mix product for dinner that she thought was safe. Later that night she was so sick she thought she’d have to go to the emergency room. She found the package and while the ingredients list didn’t indicate a problem, a quick Google search revealed that the foreign rice mix may indeed contain wheat.

One of the most important things to do to prevent allergic reactions is to read the labels. The FDA requires that it be clearly identified on the label if a food item includes one or more of the Big 8 Allergens. For restaurants, reading labels is a vital step in the process of serving guests safely.

The labeling is acceptable if the common or usual name of an ingredient appears in the ingredients list. So if the ingredient is “buttermilk,” then it’s clear it contains the major food allergen “milk.” But sometimes it’s not so clear, and then the allergen’s food-source name has to be shown at least once on the food label. There are a couple of ways to do this: First, the label might list the common name of the allergen in parenthesis after its less common name and second, is a list of all allergens contained in the product in a single statement or a “contains” statement.
Allergens may also be hiding in labels under unfamiliar names. For example, milk may also be referred to as casein, lactoferrin or whey and eggs may be referred to as albumin, lysozyme or surimi.
With several friends and colleagues being diagnosed with a gluten allergy or sensitivity, I’ve really gotten a crash course in dining out with these types of challenges. Until I took the new ServSafe Allergens online course, I thought I had a solid handle on things, but I was wrong.
September is National Food Safety Month and this year’s theme is “Avoid a Reaction by Taking Action.” Food allergies go far beyond gluten or peanuts, and 90 percent of all Americans with them are allergic to one or more of what’s referred to as the Big 8, covered here.
National Food Safety Month-Week 2
This reading labels activity contains a list of the Big 8 and the unfamiliar names you may encounter. The activity sheet is really helpful particularly in the receiving area of a restaurant and for use in determining which food items containing allergens need to be separated from non-allergen foods.

A tragic story made national news this summer regarding the severity of peanut allergies in some children. A 13-year-old girl at a camp in California died because she ate a Rice Krispie treat she had no idea contained peanuts. Her last words to her mother were, “Mom, I’m sorry.” With 15 million Americans with food allergies and stories like this, now is the time to educate yourself and your staff.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Get your Alcohol Server Permit online for the first time in Louisiana

For years, if you needed a Responsible Vendor Permit, or a bar card, you had to go to a class and take it in person. The process went something like this: find a class, register, clear your schedule, drive there, pay, take the course, take the test and get your permit mailed a few weeks later.

Now, thanks to the efforts of the National and Louisiana Restaurant Associations, ServSafe Alcohol, online server training has arrived, for the first time, in the Bayou State! It’s convenient, interactive, state-approved, available 24/7 and costs just $30.

Restaurant servers, bartenders, and convenience and grocery store cashiers must have an alcohol server permit according to Louisiana law. A permit is good for four years, before it expires and the server has to repeat the course.

Videos, case studies and quizzes help you retain the lessons during the 2-3 hour ServSafe Alcohol course, which can be taken anywhere you have internet access and a PC.

From the alcohol content of wine, beer and spirits, how alcohol is absorbed in the body and then leaves the body, to the factors that affect someone’s blood alcohol content (BAC), servers will gain the knowledge needed to serve alcohol safely and responsibly.

Communication is a big focus of the ServSafe Alcohol online training course and is the responsibility of all employees—managers, doorstaff, valets, security staff, servers and bartenders. It’s the central theme throughout the training and staff communications can reduce intoxication, altercations and accidents.

Permits are issued by the Louisiana Office of Alcohol Tobacco Control and once you’ve passed the course, your printable ServSafe Alcohol Certificate is acceptable until your permit is received. 

This is the online approved online course in Louisiana! Visit to learn more or take your course today.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Online allergens training to assist restaurants in serving guests safely

Just two weeks following the National Restaurant Association (NRA) launch of the online course ServSafe Allergens and one day after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced requirements restaurants and food manufacturers who market food and beverages as “gluten free” must adhere to, Beckee Moreland led a session at the Louisiana Foodservice & Hospitality EXPO in New Orleans about the same thing.

Moreland, the director of Gluten-Free Industry Initiatives for the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, was in New Orleans exhibiting and hosting the Idea Zone Session, Top 5 myths restaurant should know about gluten-free menus. The myths include: gluten-free is a fad; if it doesn’t say wheat it’s safe; gluten-free foods taste like paste; gluten can be burned off on the grill, and you just need a chef who knows gluten-free requirements.

ServSafe Allergens online training is now available to assist restaurateurs
serve customers with food allergies safely.
Also, at the EXPO, the NRA team promoted ServSafe Allergens online, an interactive course which is designed to help restaurants capitalize on the 15 million Americans with food allegories, gluten among them. The online course covers such topics as identifying allergens, communication with the guest, preventing cross-contact, food labels and more.
During EXPO weekend, gluten-sensitive Angela Schuster, Regional Manager for NRA Solutions had the perfect opportunity in a New Orleans restaurant to educate the staff on why ServSafe Allergens training could benefit the restaurant and importantly, its patrons.
“I couldn’t have planned what happened better if I wrote the script,” said Schuster. “Seated at the bar for dinner, the bartender couldn’t tell me if bourbon was gluten-free as I reviewed the cocktail menu and the entrée I ordered had the starch substituted but that was not explained. When I asked what my starch options were that didn’t contain gluten, I was told the French fries and the risotto.”
She opted for the risotto and a few moments later, French fries emerged and the chef said, “Sorry, there’s flour in the risotto, but I brought you some of our hand-cut fries and our special malt vinegar aioli. She paused, feeling the situation was now getting beyond belief and informed him that gluten does not just refer to wheat, but rye and barley too. Malt vinegar is made from barley.
“The staff was so apologetic and embarrassed, and it made me feel terrible having to go to such lengths to make sure I didn’t get sick as a result of dining there,” said Schuster. “I did use the opportunity, albeit awkward, to share why it’s important for the entire staff to be trained in ServSafe Allergens.”
Many Louisiana restaurants she’s dined in, particularly those that scratch make most of their dishes, have easily accommodated her in the past. However, this summer she ate a well-known seafood restaurant in the French Quarter that brought her soy sauce laden tuna tartare, which the server and manager assured her was gluten-free. As a result of trusting them, she ended up sick. While there is gluten-free soy sauces, this particular soy sauce contained wheat.
September is National Food Safety Month and this year’s theme is “Avoid a Reaction by Taking Action,” centered around the need for more food allergy training in the restaurant industry and based on the ServSafe Allergens curriculum. 
The FDA has now added, “gluten-free” to the list of FDA-regulated claims and the new, standardized definition is expected to help up to 3 million Americans who have celiac disease, an autoimmune digestive condition that can be effectively managed only by eating a “gluten free” diet.
Foods that contain gluten trigger production of antibodies that attack and damage the lining of the small intestine. That damage limits the ability of celiac disease patients to absorb nutrients and puts them at risk of other health problems, including nutritional deficiencies, osteoporosis, growth retardation, infertility, miscarriages, short stature and intestinal cancers.
“Restaurants will be well-served to ensure they comply with FDA-defined claims,” said Dr. Joy Dubost, the NRA’s director of nutrition. “Working closely with suppliers is an important first step in developing menu options that qualify for gluten-free claims. If you are making gluten-free claims about any menu items, ask your suppliers to ensure they are providing grains or food components that comply with the new rule.”
According to the FDA final rule:
·         Foods that inherently do not contain gluten, such as raw carrots or grapefruit juice, may use the “gluten-free” claim.
·         Foods with any whole, gluten-containing grains, like spelt wheat, as ingredients may not use the claim.
·         Foods with ingredients that are gluten-containing grains that are refined, but still contain gluten, such as wheat flour, may not use the claim, but
·         Foods with ingredients that are gluten-containing grains that have been refined in such a way to remove the gluten, like wheat starch, may use the claim, as long as the food contains less than 20 parts per million of gluten, or has less than 20 milligrams of gluten per kilogram.

For more information about ServSafe Allergens online training visit