Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Front and back of the house not for you? Try corporate HQ

Cable cooking shows glamorized the culinary field and attracted a whole generation of celebrity chef hopefuls. Yet restaurant industry opportunities go beyond the kitchen and the dining room.

As our professional networking groups demonstrate, restaurants offer opportunities for internal auditors, quality assurance specialists, marketers, and more.

“The industry now has a need — and a demand — for a greater variety of talent,” says Kevin Bechtel, senior vice president of purchasing and menu development for Shari’s Café & Pies, a family dining concept in the western United States. “You have to look for it all: purchasing, legal, HR."

Even real estate. Laurie Burns joined the restaurant industry in the late 1980s after receiving an MBA in real estate and finance. Her first job: scouting new locations for Taco Bell. Today, she's chief development officer for Darden Restaurants, which operates more than 1,500 restaurants, employs more than 150,000 people and serves more than 320 million meals a year.

The influx of non-traditional roles isn’t only opening various career options for those already in the industry; it’s also pulls in people who might never have considered a restaurant career.

Large companies such as Darden Restaurants and McDonald's seek a new breed of talent: people who know precisely how to tap into the latest tech to improve customer experiences.

McDonald’s, for example, recently opened a new tech hub in San Francisco. “We’re looking for Silicon Valley’s best when it comes to digital and IT,” says Heidi Barker Sa Shekhem, vice president of global media relations and issues management, McDonald’s. “The nature of the global business environment and our customers’ 24/7 digital lifestyles are driving this initiative.”

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Want to blaze new sustainable trails in 2015? Here's how

Laura Abshire, the National Restaurant Association’s director of sustainability, recently attended the Last Food Mile conference at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. There, she discussed the Association’s Conserve program,   the issue of food waste, the Food Waste Reduction Alliance — of which she is co-chair — and making the business case for sustainability.

Why did the NRA start the Conserve program?
We started it to give operators the tools they needed to make their businesses more sustainable.  We believe in educating the industry on sustainable practices. Conserve is open to everyone, not just the association’s members. Before we began in 2009, there wasn’t really any place for restaurants to go to for information on this topic.

What is the biggest difference today in comparison to when Conserve began?
The program originally focused on energy and water conservation and some packaging issues. Food waste was just a part of it. But in the last few years we’ve been putting much more emphasis on that problem.

We also now have an advisory council – the Conserve Sustainability Advisory Council – which is made up of representatives from restaurant companies immersed in practicing sustainability at a high level, like Chipotle and Starbucks. They’ve really figured out how to apply some best practices at their stores so we’re taking our cues from them to figure out what more we can do moving forward.

You’ve become involved in the Food Waste Reduction Alliance. What is that?
The FWRA is an industrywide collaboration between the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the Food Marketing Institute and the NRA.  The partnership began in 2011 as part of an effort to see how the industry could work to reduce, reuse, and recycle food waste together.  Since then, we’ve worked to support those goals by sharing best practices and producing tools the industry can use in their daily operations.

What’s one of the biggest lessons learned from participating in the FWRA?
We’ve found there are several barriers to eliminating food waste and increasing food donation. Whether it’s perceived or real, a lot of manufacturers, retailers and restaurateurs think there are difficulties in reducing food waste and we want to overcome that. We need to train our staffs better, have the infrastructure built out and make it something restaurateurs really care about. To do that, we have to make the business case for them, show they can save money and that their customers will really enjoy the restaurant experience because of it. But beginning to track food waste – that’s the most important piece. Also, the FWRA recently released its newest assessment on food-waste reduction. We found barriers to donation and recycling differ based on the size of the restaurant.

What technologies are available to help restaurants track food waste?
Conserve just partnered with LeanPath, which specializes in reducing commercial food waste, to give our members access to a program that will help them track and reduce food waste at their restaurants.

What’s important for restaurateurs to know about food donation?
A lot of them don’t know if they donate food there’s a tax write off for doing so. Also, under the Good Samaritan Act, restaurateurs are protected against liability claims associated with donating food. We’re trying to let them know that participating in these programs not only benefits them financially, but helps their communities, too. It’s a win for everyone.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Talent crunch ahead. Are you ready?

Over the next decade, restaurant job opportunities are set to explode across the spectrum. The industry is expected to add more than 400,000 food-preparation and serving positions between now and 2024.

Our research also anticipates growth in the following positions: 
  • Server: 238,000.
  • Cooks: 209,000 cook positions.
  • First-line supervisors and managers of food preparation and serving workers: 107,000.
Yet the better it gets for employees, the tougher it gets for restaurants to find the right people.

In many parts of the country, employees have the advantage over employers. Last year, more than 120 restaurants opened in Washington, D.C., which has led to a talent crunch.

“Treat your staff well because they do have options,” says Josh Hahn, operating partner of EatWell DC restaurant group. “These days, anyone worth their salt will be measuring you up as much as you’re measuring them up. They will have multiple job offers, so you have to deliver as an employer.”

To retain quality staff, Hahn and his partners created a program to rewards longer-term servers with pay raises, deeper discounts on in-restaurant dining and group outings. For the back of the house, EatWell DC looks to retain staff through pay raises.

“We have dishwashers and cooks who have been there for up to eight years, which is great for us because they are consistent and you know they’ll show up,” says Hahn. “It does put a strain on our labor costs, because you’re paying someone $16 or $17 an hour when you could hire a young gun for $12 an hour. But it pays off when you look at the big picture.”

For employees, sticking with the restaurant industry offers a rich career that can span their entire professional lives. About seven of 10 restaurant employees say they’ll likely continue working in the industry until they retire.

“In years past, there was a perception that restaurant work wasn’t a lifetime career, but that’s changing,” says Hubert Van Hoof, Penn State University School of Hospitality Management. “Now it’s seen as a long-term profession where you can make a good living and find true success.”

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Congress gives restaurants temporary tax relief

Congress’ passage of a bill to renew four tax provisions that stand to have a direct impact on restaurant operations was a welcome relief after a year of uncertainty.

But unfortunately, the move only provides a temporary fix. While President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law soon, the tax provisions—commonly known as “tax extenders”—were renewed only for 2014 and will expire again when the year ends.

“While we are relieved by the Senate’s action and Congress’ decision to retroactively renew these key tax extenders and appreciate the members of Congress who secured this outcome, a return to the uncertainty surrounding taxes that has persisted over the past year is unfortunately only weeks away," said Scott DeFife, National Restaurant Association executive vice president of policy and government affairs. "This uncertainty is causing restaurateurs across the country to postpone decisions that would help them expand their business and create jobs."

Included in the bill were four of the NRA’s tax priorities:
  • 15-year depreciation schedule: This allows restaurant operators to depreciate the cost of certain renovations, improvementsand new construction over 15 years. Had the bill not passed, any projects launched in 2014 would have been depreciated over 39.5 years.   
  • Work Opportunity Tax Credit: Businesses will be able to claim tax credits of $2,400 to $5,600 for hiring employees from demographic groups who historically have a hard time finding employment.
  • Enhanced charitable food donation: All restaurants can utilize this deduction to help offset some of the costs of storing and transporting food they’re donating to charity. 
  • Section 179 expensing: Restaurants and other businesses can qualify for up to $500,000 in new deductions if they financed less than $2 million worth of new or used business equipment, software and qualified real property in 2014. Without the renewal, the deduction would have been capped at $25,000.
Legislation to permanently extend of these four provisions is one of the NRA’s top advocacy priorities for 2015.

Congress has historically renewed tax extenders with little fanfare, but dysfunction and gridlock over the past two years put renewal on the back burner until the final days of business for both houses of Congress.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Technology on the front burner, culinary survey says

Professional chefs see tablets and smartphones as the hottest tech trends for next year, the National Restaurant Association’s 2015 What’s Hot culinary forecast has found.

The food trends survey, conducted with approximately 1,300 professional chef-members from the American Culinary Federation, mirrors what restaurant operators and consumers say about restaurant technology – it can facilitate customer service, enhance order speed and accuracy, and promote back-of-the-house efficiencies. When asked about the hottest technology trends for 2015, here’s what chefs said: 
  • 29 percent of respondents said tablet computers, such as iPads, would be used to showcase menus, wine lists and facilitate ordering
  • 26 percent indicated that smartphone and tablet apps for consumers, especially those featuring menus, daily deals and facilitate menu ordering
  • 22 percent agreed that smartphone and tablet apps for chef/restaurateur use would be helpful in tracking recipes, table management and POS data, and
  • 21 percent said mobile and/or wireless payment options would factor in as a key trend.

“With technology becoming a daily part of our lives, consumers are increasingly building their tech expectations into the dining experience,” said Annika Stensson, the NRA’s senior manager of research communications. “iPad menus and smartphone apps have been around for several years now, but as consumer acceptance and understanding of those tools grow, so is the chef’s attention to them as service enhancers.”

Respondents were generally upbeat about consumers’ increased use of social media, especially regarding the posting of restaurant food photographs. The survey found:
  • 57 percent of chefs said social-media postings of food photographs is free advertising and should be encouraged
  • 32 percent said it’s fine as long as guests are discreet as they post photos, and
  • 9 percent said the practice is disruptive and should be discouraged.

“We’ve all seen them – fellow diners who snap pictures of their food and drink and upload them to Instagram, Twitter or Facebook,” Stensson said. “Chefs have noticed this too. It turns out chefs generally think it’s a good thing that guests share their food experiences in the social-media universe. Only about one in 10 said it doesn’t belong in their dining rooms.”

For more information on the What’s Hot culinary trends forecast, go here.

Monday, December 15, 2014

30% off ServSafe Alcohol Online & Food Handler courses through Dec. 31, 2014

Now through December 31, 2014, use the promotional code CelebrateServSafe to receive 30% off the cost of ServSafe Alcohol Online, the two-hour, ATC state-approved Responsible Vendor course. This is a savings of $9 off the regular price of $30—just $21!

As an added bonus, you and your staff can take ServSafe Food Handler for the low price of just $10.50. Food Handler is a two-hour food safety and sanitation course for all restaurant and foodservice personnel and is offered year around for $15.

Visit for more information about ServSafe Alcohol Online and Food Handler! 

Want to test your alcohol knowledge right now? Visit ServSafe on Facebook and play the holiday themed game "Serving it up with ServSafe" here

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Over 600 women promote menu of opportunity provide by restaurant industry in open letter to policymakers

Today, National Restaurant Association President and CEO Dawn Sweeney unveiled an open letter to policymakers signed by more than 600 women stakeholders hailing the value of restaurant jobs and careers.

Restaurants, like no other industry, offer essential opportunities to women such as flexible hours, valuable skills and a career path without limitations. The letter, signed by women from around the country at all levels within the industry, and those who got their start in the industry, also tells the story of how women contribute to the economic recovery and growth of economies small and large.

“When the 114th Congress convenes in January, it will include, at a minimum, a record 101 women in its ranks,” Sweeney said. “That’s good news, but even more impressive numbers can be found in the restaurant and foodservice industry, where the real-life success stories show there is no limit to personal dreams and hard work. Restaurant jobs provide opportunities for women of all backgrounds and experience levels, helping them gain the experience they need to jumpstart careers or the ability to advance toward management or executive positions more quickly than most other industries.”

The restaurant industry encourages diversity and is a place where women advance to management and leadership roles in large numbers. In their letter to policymakers, individuals across the industry and beyond highlight the important ways restaurants are working for women. Letter highlights include the following: 

·         61% of women have worked in the restaurant industry.
·         37% of women say the first job they ever held was in a restaurant, providing a first start and career advancement for millions of people.
·         45% of restaurant managers are women compared to an average of 38% in other industries.
·         More than half of U.S. restaurants are owned or co-owned by women. 
·         Women-owned businesses are growing at a faster rate than the overall restaurant industry.
·         92% of women who have worked in a restaurant say the industry is a good place to get a first job and learn valuable skills

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Better kids' meals top trends list

If you think pizza, hot dogs and hamburgers are the only choices offered on children’s menus today, think again. Now you might find dishes adapted from adult menu items with more adventurous flavor profiles than traditional kids’ fare, and more healthful, too, new National Restaurant Association research finds.

Some of the restaurant industry’s hottest trends involve children’s items, according to the NRA’s 2015 What’s Hot culinary forecast. Topping the list: Increasingly sophisticated foods and flavors in kids meals, along with more healthful ingredients, such as whole grains, vegetables, oven-baked items and entrée salads. The survey was conducted with approximately 1,300 professional chef-members from the American Culinary Federation.

Joy Dubost, the NRA’s senior director of nutrition and healthy living, said the restaurant industry is making big strides in providing children with balanced choices. She cited the success of the NRA’s Kids LiveWell nutrition program, which now includes more than 150 brands at approximately 42,000 locations.

“The industry is committed to offering an array of nutritious and delicious options for children,” Dubost said. “That’s a top priority among many chefs and restaurant operators.”

Healthful kids’ meals ranked fourth among the survey’s top 20 food trends. Whole grains in kids’ meals came in 14th and fruits and vegetables as kids’ side items ranked 19th. Three-quarters of respondents rated healthful kids’ meals a hot trend. Among the other items ranked as “hot” for 2015: whole grains in kids’ menu items (cited as a hot trend by 68 percent of respondents), fruits and vegetables as kids’ meal side items (cited by 65 percent), and entrée salads as kids’ meals (cited by 61 percent).

“Though pizza, hamburgers and other kids’ menu staples aren’t going anywhere, we are seeing increasingly sophisticated dishes being offered to our youngest diners,” said Annika Stensson, the NRA's senior manager of research communications. “Children are more ‘food-experienced’ than ever before because they see parents satisfying their own more adventurous palates. At every age, we’re seeing an increased willingness to try new things.

“The restaurant industry is starting to commit itself to serving kid customers in the same way they do their adult patrons: by appealing to their taste buds while providing more nutritious options.”

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

LRA Acadiana Chapter names 2014 chapter award winners

The Louisiana Restaurant Association’s (LRA) Acadiana Chapter is pleased to announce its 2014 Chapter Awards recipients. The presentation was made during the Acadiana Chapter’s annual awards banquet at City Club in River Ranch in Lafayette, December 2, 2014.

The awards are as follows:

  • Sanjay Maharaj and Kevin Robin of The Little Big Cup in Arnaudville, Restaurateurs of the Year
  • Kevin Moody and B.I. Moody of Coyote Blues and Burgersmith in Lafayette, Hall of Fame Inductees
  • Keith Bond of Mel’s Diner in Lafayette and Broussard, Active Member of the Year
  • Richard Hernandez of Community Coffee in Lafayette, Associate Member of the Year
  • Frankie Bertrand, President & CEO of Opelousas-St. Landry Parish Chamber of Commerce, Distinguished Service Award

Monday, December 8, 2014

Sustainability tops trends on 2015 What's Hot survey

Environmental sustainability, sustainable seafood and food-waste reduction are among the top trends at restaurants in 2015, according to the National Restaurant Association’s (NRA) annual What’s Hot culinary forecast.

The NRA, as it does every year, surveyed approximately 1,300 professional chefs – all members of the American Culinary Federation – to determine the industry’s hottest trends, and in 2015 sustainability is going to be center of the plate, the respondents said.

“We’ve been seeing strong trends toward sustainability in the food space for several years now and that’s going to continue to grow,” said Annika Stensson, the NRA's senior manager of research communications. “Chefs and restaurateurs are realizing the benefits and cost savings that conservation and food-waste reduction bring, in addition to doing what’s good for the environment.”

Among the survey’s top 20 trends, environmental sustainability came in third, sustainable seafood eighth and food waste reduction/management ninth. Food waste reduction and management also ranks as a new top trend for 2015, while environmental sustainability and sustainable seafood retained their status as steady, top food trends for the sixth consecutive year.

“Managing food waste is gaining momentum right now as wholesale food costs are, again, on the rise and a top challenge cited by operators,” Stensson said. “This year alone, food prices have risen more than 5 percent, so minimizing waste and maximizing ingredient yield is top of mind for the industry.”

Further, chefs and restaurateurs recognize more customers are incorporating sustainability practices into their daily lives and want to extend that into the food space as well ‑ particularly when dining out.

“Diners want to learn as much as possible about what they’re eating,” said Jeff Clark, director of the NRA’s Conserve sustainability program. “They want to know why something tastes a certain way, how a farmer planted it and how far it traveled to get to a restaurant. Chefs and operators know this and are embracing it. They understand their guests are seeking foods that are good for them, flavorful, and minimally impact the environment.”

Stensson added that NRA research found 55 percent of consumers are more likely to choose restaurants that serve food grown or raised in an environmentally friendly way. She said that number is expected to grow.

The survey also found 42 percent of respondents thought environmental sustainability would be the hottest menu trend 10 years from now.

Visit Conserve for more information on sustainable practices for the restaurant industry. For information on the What’s Hot culinary trends forecast, go here.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Infographic: The launchpad to career growth

Restaurants: The launchpad to career growth. New research from the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation illustrates how advancement often happens when employees move from one restaurant to another, picking up skills and experience along the way.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

What's Hot in 2015? Discover new menu trends

Local sourcing, environmental sustainability and healthful kids' meals keep gaining steam as the top trends on restaurant menus in 2015, according to the National Restaurant Association's annual What’s Hot culinary forecast

The NRA surveyed nearly 1,300 professional chefs – members of the American Culinary Federation (ACF) – to find which foods, cuisines, beverages and culinary themes will be hot trends on restaurant menus in 2015.

“As consumers today increasingly incorporate restaurants into their daily lives, they want to be able to follow their personal preferences and philosophies no matter where or how they choose to dine,” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of research for the National Restaurant Association. “So, it’s only natural that culinary themes like local sourcing, sustainability and nutrition top our list of menu trends for 2015. Those concepts are wider lifestyle choices for many Americans in other aspects of their lives that also translate into the food space.”   

“Chefs are committed to supporting their communities and helping make responsible food choices,” said Thomas Macrina, CEC, CCA, AAC, national president of the American Culinary Federation. “I am pleased that members of the American Culinary Federation continue to support local sourcing and sustainable food practices as an annual trend and are paving the way for these values to become part of everyday American cooking.”

In addition, the What’s Hot in 2015 survey found that the top five alcohol and cocktail trends will be micro-distilled/artisan spirits, locally produced beer/wine/spirits, onsite barrel-aged drinks, regional signature cocktails, and culinary cocktails.

Items that gained most in trendiness since last year in the annual survey included underutilized fish, doughnuts, ethnic condiments, grass-fed beef, brown/wild rice, and grilled vegetables. Items with the largest drop in “hot trend” rating included bruschetta, kale salads, nose-to-tail cooking, hybrid dessertss, and house-made soft drinks. 

When asked which current food trend will be the hottest menu trends 10 years from now, environmental sustainability topped the list, followed by local sourcing, nutrition and ethnic cuisines and flavors.

The chefs were also asked how they feel about customers taking photos of their food and posting on social media during their meals. Nearly three in five chefs said it's free advertising and should be encouraged, and about a third said it's fine as long as they're discrete. Only one in 10 chefs said it's disruptive and should be discouraged.

Get the full results at

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Tell Congress to pass urgent tax credits & deductions before 2015

Now that Congress is back in their lame duck session, restaurant operators need four important tax provisions extended or made permanent before the end of the year or face negative consequences to their 2015 operations:  
  1. Section 179 expensing at a $500,000 level with inclusion of qualified real property (i.e. restaurants) as property eligible for such treatment.
  2. The 15-year depreciation schedule on restaurant-building improvements and new construction, retail improvements, and leasehold improvements. 
  3. The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC), which offers businesses tax credits of $2,400 to $5,600 for hiring employees from demographic groups who historically have a hard time finding employment. 
  4. The enhanced tax deduction for businesses and individuals that donate food inventory to charity.

Like other high-customer volume businesses, restaurants must constantly make improvements to keep up with structural and cosmetic wear and tear caused by customers and employees. As an example, the restaurant industry alone has more than 130 million customers patronize restaurants each day. Unfortunately, the 15-year depreciation schedule for these properties expired at the end of 2013, and a 39-year schedule is now used. Even when it was in effect, the 15-year depreciation schedule was only temporary and had to be frequently renewed, a process that creates economic uncertainty for businesses and needs to be addressed. 

Likewise, the Section 179 immediate deduction of up to $500,000 for business equipment, software, and qualified real property expired at the end of 2013 and reverted back to a deduction of only $25,000 and excludes qualified real property from such treatment. This expensing provision will encourage restaurants to undertake capital expenditures, and these will have a multiplier effect, spurring economic activity and job growth in communities throughout the country.

Restaurants, as an industry, are the nation's second-largest private-sector employer. Our industry is known for giving opportunities to low-skilled and unskilled workers to gain valuable experience, earn a living, and improve their situation. The Work Opportunity Tax Credit is one tool that allows us to make those opportunities possible for disabled veterans, individuals receiving certain types of public assistance, people with disabilities, and other groups that are historically difficult to employ. With its tax credits of $2,400 to $5,600 per worker, the WOTC helps open doors for those who might otherwise have no option but to collect public assistance. This means the WOTC, in addition to opportunities, helps create savings for both business owners and federal, state and local governments.

As a cornerstone to each community they serve and in an effort to be a good citizen of their community, restaurants often donate their surplus goods to local charities that provide for those in need. The enhanced charitable deduction for food donation helps offset the cost of storing and transporting extra food that restaurants donate to charity. Without the deduction, taxpayers would receive no more of a deduction for donating food than they would for throwing it away.

Across the country, the restaurant industry is creating jobs for millions of Americans, whether it's their first job or life-long career. Renewal of these critical tax provisions will help restaurateurs nationwide continue to provide opportunity and pathways to success for individuals of all backgrounds and skill levels looking to enter the foodservice industry.

Click here to send your personal customizable letter telling Congress to pass these important tax provisions immediately. 

LRA SIF Trustees declare $2.2 million dividend & rate reduction for members in 2015

In their final meeting of 2014, the Louisiana Restaurant Association Self Insurer’s Fund for Workers’ Compensation (LRA SIF) Board of Trustees declared a dividend of $2.2 million to eligible plan participants.  The LRA SIF is a homogeneous fund providing workers’ compensation to Louisiana’s hospitality industry and related businesses.

Since 1988, and inclusive of this dividend, the LRA SIF will have returned nearly $104 million in surplus and safety dividends to eligible members. This marks the 27th consecutive year the LRA SIF has declared a surplus in unused premium and interest income that will be returned to members. This surplus will include eligible participants from the fund years 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 to be paid in April 2015.

“In these challenging economic times, we are sensitive to our members’ needs regarding cost management, so we focus on providing competitive rates for their workers’ comp coverage,” said Stan Harris, President and CEO of the Louisiana Restaurant Association. “We are pleased to announce this surplus dividend for the 27th consecutive year.”

The premium rate reductions are on full service and fast food restaurant classes. This is made possible by LRA SIF members’ commitment to improving workplace safety, which results in lower claims expense and reduced loss time accidents.

The LRA Self Insurer’s Fund was created in 1982 to address the workers’ compensation needs of Louisiana’s hospitality industry and is one of the most respected providers of workers’ compensation in the state. To be eligible for a dividend, the member must be in good standing with the LRA and the LRA SIF, and have a loss ratio that is equal to or less than 70 percent of premium for the years declared as of March 2, 2015.

“Our members’ commitment to workplace safety paired with management’s consistent focus on efficient and timely claims handling has resulted in this year’s dividend declaration,” added Harris.

To learn more about how the LRA SIF can help you reduce your workers’ compensation costs and to obtain a quote, contact Babs Schultz at (504) 454-2277, or your independent insurance agent today. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

How will the menu-labeling regulations affect your restaurant?

Now that the FDA’s final regulations on menu labeling have been released, it’s time to start planning to make sure your restaurant meets the requirements.

The menu-labeling regulations, which are part of the 2010 health care law, will require restaurants with 20 or more locations operating under the same name to include calorie counts on menus, menu boards and drive-thru displays and provide other nutrition information to customers on request. The regulations are voluntary for smaller restaurants.

Legal and restaurant industry experts will walk you through the steps you need to take to comply with the regulations during the National Restaurant Association’s members-only webinar, “How will the new federal menu-labeling rules affect your restaurant?” The webinar will be held Dec. 9 at 3 p.m.  EST. Scheduled speakers include:
  • Steven Steinborn, a partner at the law firm Hogan Lovells and a national expert in food and drug law.
  • Joan McGlockton, an attorney and the National Restaurant Association’s vice president, industry affairs and food policy.
  • Dan Roehl, National Restaurant Association vice president of government affairs.

The NRA has launched as a go-to resource for the latest news and information on the regulations.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Benefits of electronic payments for your alcohol purchases

The National Restaurant Association's Manage My Restaurant has articles in categories such as Marketing and Sales, Workforce Engagement, Food and Nutrition and Operations. Visit Manage My Restaurant here for this and other helpful tips.

Alcohol trends in restaurants closely follow today’s food trends: local sourcing, food-cocktail pairings and fresh ingredients.

While alcohol is an instrumental part of many restaurants’ success, the rules and regulations of the alcohol industry are as complex as ever, varying both by state and by product. Whether you operate in more than one state or own a casual or fine-dining establishment, the alcohol purchasing and payment process is always complex and cumbersome.

Electronic payment and data systems can streamline alcohol payment-processing, compliance and reconciliation. They also can help you operate more efficiently, spend more time with your customers and worry less about deliveries. Here are some other benefits:

•   Eliminates the need to pay cash on delivery or write checks and money orders
•   Replaces prepaid and escrow accounts
•   Speeds deliveries by an average of 15 minutes
•   Guarantees invoices are paid on time and according to state regulations
•   Allows you to track purchases with electronic reporting and customized data files
•   Heightens security and loss and fraud prevention

This article was contributed by NRA partner Fintech, a secure, convenient method of electronic payment and data for alcohol purchases. 

Friday, November 28, 2014

'Follow Your Joy' to New Orleans for the Holidays

New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation (NOTMC) launches its 30th Annual Christmas New Orleans Style campaign to national, regional and internet audience

New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation, (NOTMC) and French Quarter Festivals, Inc. (FQFI) announce four new additions to its seasonal Christmas New Orleans Style celebration.  

“New Orleans always has something magical about it, but especially at Christmas," said Mayor Mitch Landrieu. “Music, unique Reveillon dinners, and holiday traditions give families an opportunity over six full weeks to learn and experience the season while enjoying moderate temperatures." 

The 2014 Christmas New Orleans Style experience features four new additions this holiday season. Luna Fete, which runs through the first week in December, will see iconic Gallier Hall become the canvas for a brilliant display of art and light. Reveillon on the rocks will debut over 45 specialty holiday cocktails, and NOLA Christmas Fest will take families inside the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center to experience a holiday adventure. NOTMC is also launching 'New Orleans City Store', an e-commerce portal that will sell officially branded New Orleans merchandise, just in time for gift-giving.

“Plan your trip ahead by using,” said Marci Schramm, Executive Director of French Quarter Festivals, Inc. “While in town, be sure to pick up a free ‘Christmas New Orleans Style’ guidebook from a concierge or Visitors Center. The guidebook is the only place to find everything there is to experience, eat, drink – and have fun – during the holidays in New Orleans!”

A fifteen-second 'Follow your Joy' TV spot features the voice of actor and New Orleanian John Goodman, along with a soundtrack by the New Birth Brass Band. Iconic New Orleans scenes include historic architecture, attractions throughout the city, holiday food, and seasonal events.'

The spot is airing in 13 regional television markets that include Baton Rouge, Shreveport, Lafayette, Lake Charles, and the Monroe LA/El Dorado, AR market; Houston, and Dallas, TX; Memphis, TN; Montgomery, and the Mobile, AL/Pensacola, FL market, Jackson, Columbus/Tupelo, and Gulfport/Biloxi, MS. 

Programming highlights include prime time shows such as 'The Voice,' morning news and late night TV, as well as high-profile sporting events such as Thanksgiving Day NFL football, the 41st Bayou Classic, and holiday specials 'Shrek the Halls' and 'How the Grinch Stole Christmas'.

"New Orleans will welcome visitors and locals all over the city this season,” said Mark Romig, President and CEO of NOTMC. “From NOLA Christmas Fest, to Celebration in the Oaks at City Park, to historic French Quarter caroling and old-fashioned Christmas performances with the Victory Belles at the National WWII Museum, the city will burst at the seams with beautiful lights, the songs of the season, and satisfying holiday food and drink.”

The spot is viewable online at GoNOLA TV found on YouTube. The website,, showcases 'Christmas New Orleans Style' events listing concerts, Christmas shopping, Reveillon dinners, and Papa Noel hotel rates. Additionally, visitors and locals are invited to share personal holiday scenes on Instagram by tagging photos with #FollowYourJoy.

To learn more about Christmas New Orleans Style, and to view the 2014 CNOS guide book listing all scheduled events, visit or Hotel reservations, including special citywide rates, can be booked via direct links to hotels on

For a schedule of events or more information on Christmas New Orleans Style, call (504) 522-5730 or visit

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Holiday Greetings from Stan Harris, LRA President/CEO

It's hard to believe we are approaching the end of another year, with the holiday season approaching quickly. This time of year brings many end-of-the-year business deadlines and also provides the time for giving thanks for our families, friends, employees and customers. As a business owner, what's on your holiday to-do list? You may be shopping for competitive workers' compensation, health care options for you and your employees, or just feel like you could be doing more to support positive changes in our industry.

If you are not taking advantage of the LRA Self Insurer's Fund for your workers' compensation needs, you are missing our competitive rates, in-house claims handling, complimentary safety services and potential safety dividends. The LRA SIF is governed by a Board of Trustees, your fellow LRA members, who along with our management team, are focused on efficiency and timely handling of claims.Members of the LRA SIF should be on the lookout for renewal packets and safety dividends for eligible members in the coming weeks. We thank you for allowing us to be your solution provider for your workers' compensation needs.

The Trustees have declared a dividend to be distributed in 2015 of $2.2 million, which is the 27th consecutive year our fund has returned this to its members. Since 1988, the LRA SIF has returned $103.9 million in unused premium and safety dividends to its eligible members. In addition to lowering our rates three times in past four years, your SIF fund continues to grow topline revenue while using best practices for efficiently processing member claims. 

We know that navigating the Affordable Care Act appears daunting and effective January 1, 2015, penalties for some large employers will take effect. The LRA, along with the National Restaurant Association, have partnered with United Healthcare to offer special pricing for association members. If you have questions about the Affordable Care Act, or its implementation, please give us a call.

As you make your resolutions for the New Year, I hope that you would consider staying connected with the LRA and your fellow members. If your schedule doesn't allow you to attend every Chapter meeting in your area, please consider joining us in the first quarter of 2015 for your LRA Chapter's Legislative Night. At the LRA. we are dedicated to protecting and enhancing this industry every day of the year. It's at the holiday time especially that we are grateful for the opportunity to serve our diverse membership across Louisiana. 

Our industry has been barraged with an attack on its reputation. Our message must be strong and consistent when countering these attacks. No industry offers opportunity to those with limited skills or experience like ours. And for those willing to put forth the effort, there are pathways to prosperity and financial opportunities that are immeasurable. The restaurant and foodservice industry is a job creator and it is critical that we remind customers, our elected officials and our team members of its value to the state and national economy. Don't be afraid to share why you chose this industry or career path. We should be proud of the entrepreneurial spirit that drives our industry's growth and success.

It is our privilege to serve you as a member of the Louisiana Restaurant Association. We hope that you have a wonderful holiday season. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

State of the American Consumer: Caution remains, but signs point toward improvement

A majority of American consumers remain uncertain about the economy and cautious in their spending habits, based on the results of a new NRA survey.  On the positive side, the survey suggests that this recession mindset is not a permanent state for consumers, and they will continue to come out of their shell as their personal finances improve, according to the NRA’s chief economist Bruce Grindy. His Economist’s Notebook commentary and analysis appears regularly on and Restaurant TrendMapper.

Although the official trough of the Great Recession was more than five years ago, many American consumers have yet to climb out of the rut, according to a new survey* commissioned by the National Restaurant Association.  When asked earlier this month to rate the current state of their own personal finances, a majority of adults described them as either fair (36 percent) or poor (18 percent). Less than one in 10 adults say their personal finances are in excellent condition.

Flash back to 2010 when the economy was just beginning to add back some of the nearly 9 million jobs that were lost during the recession, and the responses to the same question were almost identical. Nearly six in 10 adults said their personal finances were in fair (41 percent) or poor (18 percent) condition, while only seven percent described them as excellent. 
With the personal economies of many consumers trending sideways, it’s not surprising that this persistent recession mindset is negatively impacting spending. Consumer spending, which generally helps propel the economy out of a recession, has been lackluster during the current recovery. 

In the 21 quarters since the official end of the recession, total personal consumption expenditures rose just 11.8 percent in inflation-adjusted terms, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. During the same period following the previous three recessions, consumer spending increased by an average of 21.8 percent. 

Post-recession spending has been even more sluggish for the Services category, which includes many discretionary sectors like restaurants. Real spending on services rose just 8.5 percent during the last 21 quarters, or less than half of the average 19.6 percent gain that followed the previous three downturns. 

Even now, a solid majority of American consumers remain reticent to spend. When asked to describe their personal spending behavior right now, seven in 10 adults say they are holding back on spending in some fashion. 

Twenty-seven percent of adults say they “are very concerned about the economy and are holding back significantly on spending,” while 42 percent say they “are taking the wait and see approach and are holding back somewhat on spending until the economy improves.” Only three in 10 adults (29 percent) say they “are confident in their financial situation and are not holding back on spending.”

While it’s not surprising that lower income households are more likely to be curtailing spending right now, it is somewhat unexpected that a majority of higher income households are also cutting back. Among individuals in households with income of $100,000 more, one in five say they are holding back significantly on spending, while 35 percent are holding back somewhat.