Thursday, January 30, 2014

A letter from 2014 LRA Chair Bruce Attinger

2014 LRA Chair
Bruce Attinger
I am honored to represent the state’s restaurant industry this year as Chairman of our association. During my decade of involvement with the Louisiana Restaurant Association (LRA), I have had the privilege to serve as president of the Baton Rouge Chapter, serve on the LRA Education Foundation Board of Directors and on the LRA State Board of Directors. Through these activities, I’ve learned more about the restaurant business, how to be a better operator and how important advocacy is to our industry. It’s by working together—both restaurateurs and suppliers—that enables us to grow and prosper into the great businessmen and women we all aspire to be.

The foundation of our association is its nine LRA Chapters located across the state. Each chapter hosts meetings designed to provide relevant industry knowledge, peer-to-peer insight and expand your understanding and participation in the work of the association—Advocacy and Education. Our industry is under siege in ways that we’ve never experienced before, and at every level: federal, state and local.

During the first quarter and prior to the 2014 Legislative Session (March 10), I invite you to attend your chapters’ “Meet your Legislator” event. Sharing your story—how you got in the business, how many people you employ and your operational pain points—are important points to make with your legislators. There is no better time to get active in advocacy. What we can do together, particular during these events, exceeds what we can do as individuals.

Also, I invite you to become more involved in your local chapter. Attend a meeting, volunteer on a committee or even, mentor at a local LRAEF ProStart school. Opportunity will avail itself to you through your participation. I’m living proof that the rewards of your involvement far outweigh your investment.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Sweeney: No stronger 'ladders of opportunity' than restaurants

Economic opportunity, along with immigration and patent reform—issues that figure prominently into the day-to-day operations of restaurants across the country—had a visible role in President Obama’s State of the Union address.

NRA President/CEO
Dawn Sweeney
Obama said he’d push policies to “speed up growth, strengthen the middle class, and build new ladders of opportunity.”

“There are no stronger ‘ladders of opportunity’ in today’s economy than in the restaurant industry,” said Dawn Sweeney, National Restaurant Association President/CEO. “Our essential industry continues to be an industry of opportunity. Restaurants are critical employers that literally train America’s workforce.”

Obama noted the economic benefits of immigration reform and called on Congress to pass reforms this year. The National Restaurant Association, a strong supporter of comprehensive immigration reform, is leading efforts to build support for measures that offer a clear path to legalization for the nation’s 11 million undocumented workers, national use of the E-Verify employment-eligibility verification system, and improved border security that doesn’t interfere with legal travel and tourism.

Obama again voiced his support for a nearly 40 percent increase in the $7.25 federal minimum wage, promising to issue an executive order in coming weeks to raise the minimum wage for federal contractors to $10.10 per hour. The president also supports legislation to raise the minimum wage to that amount for all employees, and challenged states and cities to raise their wages if Congress doesn’t act. The National Restaurant Association opposes mandatory wage increases and believes dramatic wage hikes limit opportunities, particularly for teens, entry-level and lower-skilled workers, who tend to have the highest unemployment rates. 

“Providing individuals with a path to upward mobility is a critical national issue with long-term economic implications,” Sweeney said. “However, dramatic increases in the minimum wage are not the silver bullet that national labor unions and others are portraying them to be. Strong majorities of Americans believe that education and job training are much more effective strategies to provide real opportunity to upward mobility.”

The president also touched on patent abuse, an issue that has landed many restaurants on the receiving end of frivolous lawsuits by so-called “patent trolls” in recent years. Obama, who last year signed a series of executive orders aimed at curbing patent abuse, asked Congress to “pass a patent reform bill that allows our businesses to stay focused on innovation, not costly, needless litigation.”

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

NRA: Make 40 hours full time under health care law

The National Restaurant Association (NRA) on Tuesday emphasized its support for bipartisan legislation to change the health care law’s definition of full-time from 30 hours to 40 hours.

The NRA reiterated its support Tuesday after the House Ways and Means Committee held a hearing examining the law’s impact on jobs and opportunities. Since the law—which will require employers who average 50 or more full-time-equivalent employees to provide health care coverage to full-time employees starting in 2015 or face penalties—was passed nearly four years ago, restaurateurs have been concerned that the requirements will come at the expense of scheduling flexibility and full-time opportunities.

The National Restaurant Association supports three current bills that would set a 40-hour full-time definition: The Forty Hours is Full Time Act (S. 1188, H.R. 2988), and the Save American Workers Act (H.R. 2575). Each has drawn support from members of both parties.

“A 30-hour full-time definition is not aligned with current workforce practice and does not reflect the desire of restaurant and foodservice employees for flexible work schedules and increased hours,” said National Restaurant Association CEO Dawn Sweeney. “We are encouraged by the growing bipartisan support from both House and Senate leaders addressing this challenge.”

The NRA is a leader of the Employers for Flexibility in Health Care coalition (E-FLEX), which re-emphasized its support for a 40-hour full-time definition in a letter to the House Ways and Means Committee.

“Increasing the ACA’s rigid 30-hour-per week definition of full-time status would make it easier for employers to provide more hours to all employees, thereby increasing their take-home pay. Help employers offer more generous health coverage to full-time employees without making employers share of premiums cost prohibitive, and help ensure that lower-income employees have access to more affordable coverage options,” the coalition wrote in its letter.  

Tuesday A.M. Winter Storm Leon Update

The Louisiana Restaurant Association is closed today, however, we are working remotely and monitoring the approaching Winter Storm Leon. We are in contact with New Orleans and surrounding parish officials as well as our tourism partner organizations. A recorded call from Entergy this morning assures customers that there are 2,100 employees on stand by ready to begin restoring power, which in the most heavily damaged areas could be three to five days. 

The LRA has been in contact with many members and whether or not they are closed on Tuesday is about 50/50. Restaurants in hotels are more likely to be open as they have the ability to house staff. We are working with Todd Price at to inform the public of restaurant openings and closings. You can find the list here. He encourages diners to call the restaurants as the situation may change given weather conditions. 

"We are being extremely flexible with our staff and thankfully, have staff that live close by," said Steve Woodruff, General Manager of Commander's Palace. "I stopped by SoBou and Cafe Adelaide already this morning and they have the staff they need to be open today."

As of now, the Louis Armstrong International Airport is still open, however, visitors are encouraged to call their airlines for any flight schedule changes.  

If you have to drive during the extreme weather conditions, please read this article from, How to Drive in Snow and Ice

For the National Weather Service update as of this morning, please visit this site

Monday, January 27, 2014

Winter Storm Warning in effect, 6 a.m. Tuesday through 6 a.m. Wednesday

By now, you've probably heard that schools, universities, businesses and some branches of government across Southeast Louisiana are calling for closure, some Tuesday and some Wednesday too.

"We are carefully monitoring the forecast and the impact of an arriving winter storm that is expected to reach our area on Tuesday and early Wednesday," said Stan Harris, President/CEO, Louisiana Restaurant Association

According to the National Weather Service, a Winter Storm Warning is in effect for the entire area from 6 a.m. Tuesday through 6 a.m. Wednesday. Warming shelters are being set up, police officers are expected to be in full force monitoring icy roads and joy riders. Entergy CEO Charles Rice said that the power could be out for possibly three to five days. Let’s hope not. As of now, flights have not been cancelled in and out of Louis International Airport, but the way things are going…

Here is a link if you want the full National Weather Service slide show as of 2 p.m. today.

If you have to drive tomorrow, please take a moment to review the tips for driving in ice and snow. We’d like to add, “Put your cell phone away, turn the music down and focus on driving safely.” 

Tune in to your local news for the latest updates. Stay safe and warm. 

Preparing for Winter Driving—How to Drive in Snow and Ice

When it comes to driving in ice and snow, South Louisiana residents are really at a loss for the most part. More than 200 accidents occurred last week when ice covered many bridges, which resulted in closures and long delays in getting to destinations.

The National Weather Service issued a briefing this morning at 9 a.m. with a forecast through Thursday. offers three key elements to safe winter driving—stay alert; slow down; and stay in control. The Louisiana Restaurant Association would like to add “DO NOT TEXT WHILE DRIVING.”  
It is best to winterize your vehicle before winter strikes. Schedule a maintenance check-up for the vehicle’s tires and tire pressure, battery, belts and hoses, radiator, oil, lights, brakes, exhaust system, heater/defroster, wipers and ignition system. Keep your gas tank sufficiently full – at least half a tank is recommended. Depending upon where you drive, you may consider using winter tires or tire chains.
Winter driving conditions such as rain, snow, and ice dramatically affect the braking distance of a vehicle. The driver’s capability to complete a smooth and safe stop is severely limited due to reduced tire traction. In order to stop safely, the vehicle’s wheels must maintain traction by remaining on contact with the road surface while rolling, referred to as “rolling traction.” When handling slippery winter roads, the keys to safety are slower speeds, gentler stops and turns, and increased following distances. It is recommended that drivers reduce their speed to half the posted speed limit or less under snowy road conditions.
Don’t try to stretch more miles from your tires during the winter months. If your tread depth is getting low, it can have serious effects on dry pavement, but those effects are multiplied in wet and snowy conditions. When in doubt, get new tires.
Tire pressure usually lowers itself in winter and raises itself in summer. Under-inflated tires can cause a car to react more slowly to steering. Every time the outside temperature drops ten degrees, the air pressure inside your tires goes down about one or two PSI. Tires lose air normally through the process of permeation. Drivers should check their tire pressures frequently during cold weather, adding enough air to keep them at recommended levels of inflation at all times.
Sand and salt play a big role in keeping roads safe. The spreading of road salt prevents snow and ice from bonding to the road surface, which is why salt is usually spread early in a storm to prevent snow build-up and to aid in snow removal operations.
Unlike salt, sand does not melt and therefore helps by providing traction on slippery surfaces. Sand is often used when temperatures are too low for salt to be effective or at higher temperatures for Immediatee traction, particularly on hills, curves, bridges, intersections and on snow-packed roads.
Caution must be used when snowplows are on the roadways as snowplows and salt and sand trucks travel much slower than regular traffic. Passing a snowplow can be extremely dangerous as sight lines and visibility near a working snowplow are severely restricted by blowing snow.
Roads are typically cooler in shady areas and drivers may encounter another extremely dangerous element known as “black ice.” Always slow down your vehicle when you see shady areas under these types of conditions.
Here are some safe-driving tips that will help you when roads are slick with ice or snow:
o    Get the feel of the road by starting out slowly and testing your steering control and braking ability. Avoid spinning your tires when you start by gently pressing your gas pedal until the car starts to roll. Start slowing down at least three times sooner than you normally would when turning or stopping.
o    Equip your vehicle with chains or snow tires. Chains are by far the most effective, and they should be used where ice and snow remain on the roadway. Remember that snow tires will slide on ice or packed snow so keep your distance.
o    Reduce your speed to correspond with conditions. There is no such thing as a “safe” speed range at which you may drive on snow or ice. You must be extremely cautious until you are able to determine how much traction you can expect from your tires.
o    When stopping, avoid sudden movements of the steering wheel and pump the brake gently. Avoid locking of brakes on glazed ice as it will cause a loss of steering and control. Every city block and every mile of highway may be different, depending upon sun or shade and the surface of the roadway. (Check your vehicle owner’s manual, if the vehicle has anti-lock brakes, you may apply steady pressure to the brake pedal.)
o    Maintain a safe interval between you and the car ahead of you according to the conditions of the pavement. Many needless rear-end crashes occur on icy streets because drivers forget to leave stopping space. • Keep your vehicle in the best possible driving condition. The lights, tires, brakes, windshield wipers, defroster, and radiator are especially important for winter driving.
o    Keep your windows clear. Don’t start driving until the windows are defrosted and clean - even if you’re only going a short distance.
o    Watch for danger or slippery spots ahead. Ice may remain on bridges even though the rest of the road is clear. Snow and ice also stick longer in shaded areas.

Correctly operating windshield wipers and defrosters are essential to safety while driving in snow and ice conditions. Properly maintained windshield wipers are a must; there are also special blades available that are better equipped to assist in the removal of snow from the windshield. Defroster effectiveness is essential in the initial clearing of snow and ice from the windshield – and in some instances the rear window when a vehicle is so equipped – and should be checked well in advance of need. In certain cases, a change of the vehicle thermostat will restore appropriate heat to the defroster system.

National Weather Service issues Winter Storm Watch

A Winter Storm Watch is now in effect for the entire area on Tuesday and Tuesday night, according to the National Weather Service Briefing, Jan. 27, 9 a.m. A Winter Storm Warning will likely be issued this afternoon for Tuesday.

All forms of winter precipitation will be possible Tuesday and Tuesday night beginning as a wintry mix, including ice accumulations and then transitioning to snow overnight in some locations. Snow accumulations are likely mainly SW Mississippi and Florida Parishes (East Baton Rouge, East Feliciana, Livingston, St. Helena, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, Washington and Feliciana) by Wednesday morning.  

Freezing rain and sleet are expected to start early Tuesday morning and persist most of the day, particularly over the Greater New Orleans area and the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Estimated duration is as follows:

Baton Rouge: below freezing around 2 a.m. Tuesday; onset of winter precipitation around 6 a.m. Tuesday ending around daybreak Wednesday; above freezing around noon Thursday.

New Orleans: below freezing around 3 p.m. Tuesday; onset of sleet around 7 a.m. Tuesday, sleet/freezing rain after 3 p.m. ending around 9 a.m. Wednesday; above freezing around 10 a.m. Thursday.

Northshore: below freezing before dawn Tuesday; onset of winter precipitation around 6 a.m. Tuesday ending around 7 a.m. Wednesday; above freezing around noon Thursday.

A hard freeze duration of below freezing temperatures can be 48 to 60 hours from midnight Monday through noon Thursday. Moderate freeze expected Tuesday night/Wednesday morning with mid 20s to lower 30s. Hard freeze expected Wednesday night/Thursday morning with teens over much of the area and 20-25 south of tidal lakes.

These potential impacts are HIGHLY dependent on the strength of the upper disturbance and the amount of moisture and precipitation over any given location. This is a very fluid situation and all interests in the forecast area will need to monitor this situation very closely.

For more information, visit

LRA Education Foundation Announces 2014 Leadership

Board of Directors to guide Foundation’s mission in the new year

The Louisiana Restaurant Association Education Foundation (LRAEF) is pleased to announce its 2014 Board of Directors, which will oversee the goals and mission of the LRAEF.

The LRAEF, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, is the philanthropic arm of the Louisiana Restaurant Association and exists to enhance our community through expanded educational and career opportunities, the formation of strategic partnerships and the elevation of the restaurant industry’s professional standards and practices.

The Board of Directors is also responsible for distributing the LRAEF’s scholarship funds that it gifts annually to students pursuing a culinary education. Since 2010, the LRAEF Scholarship Fund has awarded $140,000 to 54 students.

The 2014 LRAEF Board of Directors’ new member is Chauncey Davis, with Ben E. Keith in Sulphur.

He is joining current members:
  • Helen LeBourgeois, Chair- TLC Linen Services, New Orleans
  • Lenny Raymond, Vice Chair- Ben E. Keith
  • Donna Stephenson, Secretary/Treasurer- ATMOS Energy, Monroe
  • Fabian Castillo, Immediate Past Chair- La Casa Del Sol in Houma & Thibodaux
  • John Eastman, Industry Representative- Auto-Chlor Services, Jefferson
  • Bruce Attinger, LRA Chair- Outback Steakhouse, Baton Rouge
  • Dwight Barnes- Crescent Crown Distributing, New Orleans
  • Lucien Gunter- Acme Oyster House, Metairie
  • Octavio Mantilla- Besh Restaurant Group, New Orleans
  • Peter Sclafani- Ruffino’s Restaurant & Ruffino’s on the River, Baton Rouge & Lafayette

“The LRAEF is excited to begin another great year with our dedicated board members,” said LRAEF Executive Director Alice Glenn. “Our directors volunteer countless hours throughout their tenure to the advancement of the Foundation and we are so very grateful.”

The LRAEF would like to thank its Partners, whose financial assistance makes its programs a reality: 5 Diamond- Auto-Chlor Services, Louisiana Hospitality Foundation, Acme Oyster House and Louisiana Seafood; 4 Diamond- Performance Foodservice Caro; 3 Diamond- Louisiana Culinary Institute, ATMOS Energy, New Orleans Wine & Food Experience and Drago’s Seafood Restaurant; 2 Diamond- Louisiana Gas Association, Chef Paul Prudhomme’s “Sea of Hope,” and Whole Foods; 1 Diamond- Entergy. Also, the LRAEF extends special recognition to all LRA chapters that support the LRAEF through its various philanthropic activities throughout the year.

Friday, January 24, 2014

LRA GNO Chapter announces annual award recipients

Mike Maenza named LRA GNO Chapter Restaurateur of the Year

During a ceremony January 15, 2014 at the Hilton St. Charles, 2013 Louisiana Restaurant Association (LRA) Greater New Orleans Chapter President Paul Rotner, COO of Acme Oyster House, presented the following awards—Restaurateur of the Year, Distinguished Service Award, Active Member of the Year, Associate Member of the Year, Presidential Award, Restaurateur of the Year, Hall of Fame and the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Mike Maenza receives
LRA GNO Chapter
Restaurateur of the Year
Award, Jan. 15, 2014.
Mike Maenza, owner of Mr. Mudbug, King Creole and Base Logistics, was selected as the LRA GNO Chapter’s Restaurateur of the Year. Given to a member who contributes unselfishly to the advancement of the hospitality industry, Maenza has continually dedicated himself to the LRA and has been a LRA GNO Chapter Board Member since 2006, serves on the Louisiana Crawfish Promotion and Research Board, and numerous other charitable boards. He is currently the LRA GNO Chapter’s President.

“It would be an understatement to say that Mike is busy,” said Rotner. “We appreciate the time and talents he gives to our chapter and his commitment to leading the chapter in 2014 as its President.”

Mark Romig receives
the LRA GNO Chapter
Distinguished Service
Award, Jan. 15, 2014
Mark Romig, President & CEO of the New Orleans Tourism and Marketing Corporation, received the LRA GNO Chapter Distinguished Service Award. The award is presented to an individual outside of the association in recognition for innovations and significant contributions to the advancement of the hospitality industry.

“Mark is a driving force to promote tourism for New Orleans and is such an excellent ambassador for our great city,” said Rotner. “Not only is he the New Orleans Saints Public Address Announcer, like his father before him, he also works tirelessly for the hospitality industry.”

Ryan Haro, owner of Coffee HQ, was named the LRA GNO Chapter Active Member of the Year. The award is given to an individual in the food service industry who is involved in chapter affairs, events and meetings, and encourages his peers to join the association and become active.

“For the past three years, Ryan has shown time and time again his commitment and willingness to serve the LRA by volunteering his time and energy to the improvement of the industry,” Rotner said.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses accepting applications for Summer 2014 class

Program offers practical business training at no cost to participants

The Louisiana Restaurant Association (LRA) encourages eligible members to apply for the free Summer 2014 Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses at Delgado Community College. This practical business management education program is aimed at helping existing companies grow revenues and create jobs and is funded through a grant to Delgado through the Goldman Sachs Foundation.

LRA member Phil de Gruy, owner of Phil’s Grill, graduated from the program and has used the knowledge he gain to aid him in his expansion from one location to now three, the latest on Camp Street in the New Orleans Central Business District.

“It’s a really intense business program that teaches you, first and foremost, how to work 'on' your business, not work 'in' your business,” de Gruy said. “I learned how to maximize my restaurant’s position in the market, manage my finances for greater profitability and develop a more accountable and customer-focused staff.”

The best-in-class curriculum was developed in conjunction with Babson College, recognized internationally for its leadership in entrepreneurial business education and focused on offering small business owners a results-oriented program providing the education, skills and means to grow their businesses. If selected, business owners also receive access to a suite of business support services that will help them to develop and implement a business growth plan. Loans are available to qualifying small businesses that lack access to affordable capital or may not quality for traditional sources of credit.

“The Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program is one that LRA members should seriously consider to help them develop a comprehensive growth plan,” said Stan Harris, LRA President/CEO. “The only cost for the program is the investment of time to attend classes and complete projects. The financial rewards of participating can be substantial.”

Small business owners who demonstrate a commitment to growing their businesses and have been in operation for at least two years, generate revenues in excess of $150,000, and employ at least four individuals (including the owner) are encouraged to apply.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

DeFelice Family of Pascal’s Manale honored with Lifetime Achievement Award

The Louisiana Restaurant Association (LRA) is pleased to announce that the DeFelice Family, owners of the famed Pascal’s Manale, received the LRA Greater New Orleans Chapter Lifetime Achievement Award, in a ceremony January 15 at the Hilton St. Charles. The family, father Savare DeFelice, and siblings Sandy, Bob, Mark and Ginny, are currently the fourth generation of owners.
The DeFelice Family of Pascal's Manale Restaurant receives
the LRA GNO Chapter Lifetime Achievement Award,
Jan. 15 at the Hilton St. Charles.

“It is such a great honor for our family and we were all pleasantly surprised,” said Mark DeFelice. “My mother, Virginia, was the matriarch of the Manale’s family and we really wish she could have lived to share in that incredible moment in the history of our family.”  

In 2013, the family celebrated the restaurant’s 100-year anniversary and banners commemorating the milestone lined Napoleon Avenue in the quiet New Orleans Uptown neighborhood where it resides. The famed New Orleans signature BBQ Shrimp dish was born in the kitchens of Pascal’s Manale, which in 1913 was a corner grocery store.  The raw oyster bar has been a mainstay since the day Frank Manale bought the corner grocery and opened it as Manale’s Restaurant.

“We are honored to recognize the DeFelice family with a Lifetime Achievement Award,” said Paul Rotner, 2013 LRA GNO Chapter Chair and COO of Acme Oyster House. “It’s because of their passion for honoring their family’s traditions, pride in their heritage, and their world renowned BBQ Shrimp dish, they have made Pascal’s Manale a beloved New Orleans legacy.”

The family has also committed an extraordinary amount of volunteer service to the community, charitable organizations and the LRA. Mark DeFelice serves on the LRA State Board of Directors as an active Past Chairman (2003), and continues to provide valuable operator insight necessary to improve the business climate for all Louisiana restaurants.

“The story of the DeFelice family is one that exemplifies the true entrepreneurial spirit that exists in the restaurant industry,” said Stan Harris, LRA President/CEO. “The rich history and traditions found at Pascal’s Manale Restaurant have contributed to the authenticity and notoriety of New Orleans and our great state.”

Mark DeFelice’s daughter Rachel recently enrolled in the John Folse Culinary Institute at Nicholls State University to pursue her culinary degree. She has aspirations of dedicating her career to the family business. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

LRA Board of Directors elects 10 new members

2014 Chair Bruce Attinger begins tenure
The Louisiana Restaurant Association (LRA) Board of Directors recently elected 10 new members, with their terms beginning in 2014. The new board members helm from all across the state and represent all facets of LRA membership, from restaurant to service provider. They are:
  • Randy Barrios- Director of Restaurant Operations, Fremin’s Restaurant and Flanagan’s Creative Food & Drink in Thibodaux
  • Jim Besselman- President/Owner, Ernst CafĂ© and The Chicory in New Orleans
  • Keith Bond- President/Owner, Mel’s Diner Part II and Vice President, Mel’s Diner in Lafayette
  • Octavio Mantilla- Co-owner/Operator, Besh Restaurant Group in New Orleans
  • David Merchant- President/Owner, BJ’s Pizza in Alexandria
  • Emily Murrell-Gates- General Manager, Monjunis in Shreveport
  • Tommy Nicholas- Owner, Nicholas Catering and Swamp Shack in Thibodaux
  • John O’Meara- General Manager, Petroleum Club in Lafayette
  • Peter Sclafani- Chef/Owner, Ruffino’s Restaurant in Baton Rouge and Ruffino’s on the River in Lafayette
  • Tammy Smitherman- Division Manager, Heartland Payment Systems in Baton Rouge
“The LRA is fortunate to be able to welcome so many esteemed members of the restaurant and supplier communities to the LRA’s Board of Directors,” said LRA President & CEO Stan Harris. “Their expertise and commitment to the industry will be a prized asset in our governance.”

Also taking on a new role at the start of the year is 2014 LRA Chair Bruce Attinger. Attinger is a Joint Venture Partner in Outback Steakhouse; he oversees eight locations in Louisiana and Arkansas, with more than 600 employees. Attinger has served as President of the LRA Greater Baton Rouge Chapter, serves on the LRA Education Foundation and received the LRA’s most prestigious honor—Restaurateur of the Year—in 2006.

In his capacity as LRA Chair, Attinger will serve as the ambassador of Louisiana’s world-renowned restaurant industry. He will also travel the state meeting with all nine chapters throughout the year and foster the success of one of the state’s largest business trade associations.

“Bruce’s experience in managing multiple locations and hundreds of employees will be a valuable skill set to share with LRA members during his year-long tenure,” said Harris. “It will no doubt be a great service to our association as he travels the state.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Louisiana restaurant sales up in 2014, according to NRA Forecast

The National Restaurant Association released its 2014 Restaurant Industry Forecast late last week with some exciting data relative to Louisiana. Louisiana’s 2014 Restaurant Sales are projected at slightly more than $7 billion, up 3.6 percent over 2013’s projected $6.8 billion.

“After reviewing annual data, it’s amazing to see that Louisiana’s restaurant sales have increased 38 percent in the last decade,” said Wendy Waren, VP of Communications, Louisiana Restaurant Association. “In 2004, Louisiana’s restaurant sales were $4.2 billion.

In an interview with Fox 8 New Orleans, Waren was asked what the contributing factors are to the Louisiana’s restaurant sales growth in the last 10 years. She explained, “Sales growth in Louisiana’s restaurant industry can be attributed to several factors. More Americans are relying on restaurants for their meals, the influx of people moving to the Southeast Region and the state’s focus on tourism promotion.”

The national restaurant industry enters its fifth straight year of real sales growth and operators are feeding consumer appetites with new technology, customer loyalty efforts, and evolving menu options. The NRA expects eating-and-drinking places to add jobs at a solid 2.8 percent in 2014, a full percentage point above the projected 1.8 percent gain in the total U.S. workforce.

Total Louisiana restaurant employment will be up by 1.7 percent in 2014, according to the NRA Forecast. Louisiana’s restaurant industry is the state’s largest employer with nearly 200,000 relying on the industry for their jobs or careers. By 2024, Louisiana’s restaurants will add an additional 13,200 new positions bringing the total to 210,000.

Another indicator that the economy is bouncing back is that Louisiana’s personal disposable income is projected to increase by 2.8 percent this year.

To view the entire 50 page report, please click here to download. 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Restaurant industry enters 5th consecutive year of sales growth, will continue strong job creation despite challenges

National Restaurant Association’s 2014 Restaurant Industry Forecast Reveals Economic, Workforce and Consumer Food and Technology Trends

2014 will mark the fifth consecutive year of restaurant industry sales growth despite a continued challenging economic landscape, according to the National Restaurant Association’s 2014 Restaurant Industry Forecast released today. Industry sales are projected to exceed $683 billion in 2014, up 3.6 percent from 2013’s sales volume of $659.3 billion.
For the complete NRA 2014 Restaurant Industry Forecast, including graphics and video, visit

2014 also will mark the 15th straight year in which restaurant industry employment growth will outpace overall employment growth. The industry will continue to be the nation’s second-largest private employer with 990,000 restaurants employing 13.5 million individuals, or about 10 percent of the total U.S. workforce.

“As our nation continues its road to recovery, the restaurant industry will remain a key driver of economic growth and a leading jobs creator,” said Dawn Sweeney, president and CEO of the National Restaurant Association. “Restaurants touch every community across the U.S., and 2014 will be a year of growth and innovation as the industry focuses on inspired new ways to meet consumer demand while providing valuable careers to millions of Americans.” 

“Despite facing a range of challenges, America’s restaurants are showing continued resiliency and innovation,” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president, Research & Knowledge for the National Restaurant Association. “As the industry enters its fifth straight year of real sales growth, operators are feeding consumer appetites with new technology, customer loyalty efforts, and evolving menu options. Consumers currently have a historically high pent-up demand for restaurant services, which is likely to translate into a business boost as the economy continues to improve – and our nation’s foodservice operators are rising to the challenge.”

Workforce Outlook
The NRA expects eating-and-drinking places to add jobs at a solid 2.8 percent rate in 2014, a full percentage point above the projected 1.8 percent gain in total U.S. employment.
The restaurant workforce grew at a robust rate in 2013, keeping the industry among the economy’s leaders in job creation. Eating and drinking places added jobs at a strong 3.3 percent rate in 2013 outpacing total US employment which grew at 1.6 percent.

While every state is expected to see their restaurant industry workforce expand during the next decade, states in the southern and western regions of the United States will continue to lead the way in 2014. Arizona and Texas are projected to set the pace with restaurant-and-foodservice job growth above 15 percent between 2013 and 2023. Florida (15.0 percent), Nevada (14.7 percent) and Georgia (14.4 percent) are also expected see their restaurant employment base expand at rates well above the national average during the next 10 years. 

Challenges and Opportunities
While the restaurant industry is expected to grow in 2014, operators will continue to face a range of challenges. The top challenges cited by restaurateurs include food costs, labor costs, and the economy.

After increasing steadily in the last four years, wholesale food costs will continue to be elevated through 2014, putting significant pressure on restaurants’ bottom lines as about one-third of sales in a restaurant goes to food and beverage purchases.

Virtually all operators across the industry (limited-service and tableservice restaurants) saw labor costs as a primary challenge in 2013, and that will continue in 2014. Challenges with ACA implementation and minimum wage increases across the country have made a significant impact on restaurant bottom lines, as typically one-third of restaurant sales is spent on labor.  

One of the primary reasons that restaurant-industry sales growth hasn’t fully taken off during the economic recovery is that consumers for the most part haven’t broken out of their recession rut. When asked in December 2013 to rate the current state of their own personal finances, nearly six out of 10 adults described their finances as either fair or poor and among those adults, nearly one-half said they are very concerned about the economy and have cut back significantly on spending. 

Despite spending cutbacks, consumers have substantial pent-up demand for restaurant services with two out of five consumers saying they are not using restaurant as often as they would like; with improving economic conditions, that demand is likely to turn into sales.

Consumer Trends
Technology innovation continues to play a vital role within the industry. Nearly one-fifth of consumers say technology options are an important feature that factors into their decision when choosing a fullservice restaurant; 24 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds say they consider a restaurant’s technology options when selecting where to go, compared to 11 percent of individuals age 65 and over.

Similarly, more than one-fifth of consumers say technology options factor into their decisions when choosing a limited-service restaurant; 33 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds, compared to 7 percent of those 65-plus.

To keep up with the evolution of consumer palates, restaurant operators across segments added new food and beverage menu options throughout 2013 and will continue to do so in 2014.

Local sourcing and nutritious options (such as healthful kids’ meals, gluten-free) continue to be the top trends throughout the industry.

Eight out of 10 of consumers say restaurants offer more healthy menu options now compared to two years ago, and seven out of 10 say they are more likely to visit a restaurant that offers healthy options.

Environmental sustainability is a long-term trend among operators and consumers.  Nearly three out of five consumers say they are likely to make a restaurant choice based on its eco-friendly practices.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Registration for the 2014 NRA Public Affairs Conference is open

The Louisiana Restaurant Association (LRA) consistently delivers one of the top state delegations to the annual National Restaurant Association (NRA) Public Affairs Conference in Washington, D.C. Last year, nearly 50 LRA members made the trip to meet with Louisiana’s Congressional Delegation. This year, the NRA Public Affairs Conference is April 29-30 at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center.

Stan Harris, LRA President and CEO
“Every year, the NRA holds the conference to provide restaurateurs with their state’s Congressional Delegation,” said Stan Harris, LRA President and CEO. “During the LRA Hill Climb, our members meet with all nine of Louisiana’s delegation to discuss priority issues for the restaurant industry.”

The restaurant industry is facing unprecedented challenges on a variety of legislative fronts from health care and taxes to minimum wage and immigration reform. This year will be a critical mid-term election year for restaurateurs large and small. Congress needs to know how all of these issues affect your and your employees. Join hundreds of industry peers and colleagues for two days in Washington, DC.

“Advocacy plays such an important role in our business,” said Melvin Rodrigue, COO of Galatoire’s Restaurant. “We’re all concentrating on what’s happening within our four walls, but we have to be aware of what’s outside, such as regulations on the city, state and federal level.”

The NRA Public Affairs Conference is open! Early bird registration is $165; $185 after March 28; and Spouse or non-business guest is $90. Click here to register online and to see the list of hotels nearby. View the agenda here.

Learn about the issues, talk with colleagues and share your story with Congress. They need to know that America Works Here. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

A message from LRA President/CEO Stan Harris

As the New Year gets underway, we have much to be grateful for in Louisiana. Our industry employs nearly 200,000 people and that number is projected to grow by nearly 25,000 by 2022. With the increase of visitors to our state and the support of our residents, the Louisiana restaurant industry is projected to achieve 2014 sales in excess of $7 billion for the first time. This is astonishing given that in 2004, our industry’s annual economic impact was just $4.2 billion. That’s a 40 percent increase in just nine years.   

The National Restaurant Association recently released its 2014 What’s Hot Culinary Forecast with locally sourced meats and seafood topping the list. The Louisiana Restaurant Association's work with fisheries issues and the Share the Gulf Coalition align closely with these initiatives. Other trends include locally grown produce, environmental sustainability, healthful kids’ meals and gluten-free cuisine.

To assist you in these areas, the NRA has three programs that you might consider—ServSafe AllergensKids LiveWell and Conserve. ServSafe Allergens is a 90-minute online training course to provide your management or chefs in how to serve the 15 million guests with food allergies safely. Kids LiveWell is a program focused on offering healthy options for kids when dining in your restaurant. It meets specific caloric, portion and fat contents. If you agree to participate in Kids LiveWell, your restaurant can be listed on the Kids LiveWell website that provides a resource to consumers seeking healthier options. Conserve is a free online resource to initiate and inspire actions that improve a company’s bottom line, but also are good for people and the planet. Be sure to visit the NRA’s Manage My Restaurant portal for more insightful tips to effective and efficient restaurant operations.

In addition, the LRA offers ServSafe Manager (the DHH mandated eight-hour training course in food safety and sanitation) and ServSafe Alcohol Online (the ATC mandatory two hour training course is available online for the first time in Louisiana). Visit the LRA website here to learn more about ServSafe.

The LRA Self Insurer’s Fund for Workers’ Compensation is pleased to return more than $2 million in surplus dividends in April 2014. They will be distributed to eligible members during the April LRA Chapter events. If you aren’t participating in the LRA SIF for your workers’ compensation needs, please allow us to quote your business. We can quote your workers’ comp directly through one of our LRA regional sales representatives or through your agent.

Finally, we know that as you operate your restaurant that employee issues create unique challenges. The LRA retains the firm of Fisher & Phillips to provide guidance and assist with any questions, concerns or problems you may be facing. Please call the LRA office and we will connect you with an attorney who can guide you through any employee questions. Utilizing this resource in advance usually produces good dividends in the form of a happy, engaged workforce.

We are here to help you become more successful and profitable in 2014 and beyond.

Happy New Year,

Stan Harris