Friday, May 30, 2014

LRA SIF rewards claims free track records

For 16 years, safety dividends and safety awards have been distributed to Louisiana Restaurant Association Self Insurer’s Fund for workers' compensation (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 receive a dividend. 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.

Seventy-two percent of LRA SIF members met the challenge and received a safety award this year. It is evident that the majority of LRA SIF members promote and provide a safe working environment for their staff.

The Second Injury Board Knowledge Questionnaire continues to be a useful tool in recovering claims costs for pre-existing injuries. As part of your new hire orientation, having all employees complete this questionnaire 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.

Another way to reduce your workers’ comp exposure is having a post-accident drug and alcohol policy. An employee that is under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol is a danger to themselves and their co-workers. If they are injured on the job, having a post-accident drug and alcohol policy in place could protect the employer from the entire claims cost if the employee tests positive in excess of the limits.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

7 common I-9 errors and how to avoid them

I-9 forms are a routine part of the hiring process, but shouldn’t be looked at as just another piece of paperwork.

Restaurants and other employers can face hefty fines and possible criminal penalties from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services if they’re audited and found to have knowingly hired or continued to employ ineligible workers or made substantive or uncorrected errors in the forms, including not being able to produce an I9 form for each employee. The I-9 is used to verify an employee’s identity and eligibility to work in the United States.

For first-time offenses, penalties can run as high as $1,100 per incorrect I-9 form for failing to comply with I-9 requirements or committing document abuse, or $3,200 for knowingly hiring or continuing to hire unauthorized workers, fraud, or discrimination.

If your restaurant is audited for I9 compliance, auditors will treat any error or inconsistency as a red flag. Here are seven areas where employers tend to go wrong, according to Kathleen Campbell Walker, an attorney with Cox Smith in El Paso, Texas. Walker presented a session on I-9 compliance during the 2014 NRA Show:

·         Timing: Employees must complete, sign and date Section 1 of the I-9 form no later than their first day of work, but can’t be asked to fill it out before they’ve accepted a job offer. Employers must complete Section 2 of the form within three business days of the employee’s first day of work. This means that if an employee starts work on a Monday, employers have until Thursday to complete Section 2.

·         Incomplete forms: Errors like failing to provide an acceptable address, failing to sign, and failing to date the form are common, Walker said. The employer is responsible for checking to see that Section 1 of the form is accurate and complete.  Make sure the employee accurately signs and dates the form and that they give a legal street address. P.O. boxes cannot be used. 

·         Over-documentation: While it may seem like you’re being extra diligent by requesting additional documents to verify an employee is legally eligible to work in the United States, you can’t go beyond what the form requires: either one document from “List A” or a combination of one document each from “List B” and “List C.” The documents also have to be the employee’s choice. “You can’t demand certain documents,” Walker said. “You have to give them options. You can’t say they must provide a certain document.” Asking for specific or additional documents could be considered discrimination, Walker said.

·         Failing to examine original form or document:  Technology has helped restaurateurs in many ways, but it can’t be used to review I-9 forms or the documents the employee provides.  You must review the original forms and documents in person, and not via photo or video.
·         Form corrections: Any corrections or changes an employer makes to the forms must be initialed and dated by the employer. If corrections to Section 1 are needed, the employee must make them.

·         Language barrier: The Spanish-language version of the I-9 form can only be used by employers and employees in Puerto Rico. All other employers and employees must complete the English version. Walker recommends keeping a laminated form of the Spanish-language version (link to form) on hand so that Spanish-speaking employees can refer to it for guidance.

·         Wrong documents: Make sure you check that the documents the employee presents are on the USCIS list of acceptable documents. USCIS has a list of acceptable documents, along with photos, on its website.

Your key to VIP status during the #LRAEXPO14

Enjoy the good things in life by taking a trip on the National Restaurant Association Political Action Committee (Restaurant PAC) Bus, during the Louisiana Foodservice & Hospitality EXPO, August 2-4 at the New Orleans Morial Convention Center.

PAC the Bus, a hospitality suite with a twist, is a luxury tour bus courtesy of L’Auberge Casino Hotel in Baton Rouge located right on the EXPO show floor between the Louisiana Restaurant Association’s booth and the Great American Seafood Cook-Off. Complete with cuisine courtesy of Centerplate and libations, a trip on the Bus will include relaxing chair massages for those who make an NRA Restaurant PAC contribution.

Want to be a VIP? Here’s how
To Board the Bus—First Class, you are invited to make a $500 NRA PAC contribution. You and a guest will experience the amenities of the Bus for the entire three-day EXPO. At this level, you will be recognized as an NRA PAC the Bus Sponsor in all EXPO materials. Sponsorships are non-transferrable.

Five hundred bucks a little too rich for your blood? You’re in luck. Become a Prestigious Passenger and you will enjoy the exclusivity of the NRA PAC Bus for a $250 contribution during the three-day EXPO. At this level, you will partake in the amenities of the Bus to benefit the advocacy of our industry in the U.S. Congress.

Only in town for a day? Take a Day Trip on the NRA PAC Bus! For only $100 per person, you will delight in the camaraderie, cuisine, libations and amenities. Rest in luxury and know that your time is well spent and for an excellent cause.

Your hosts for this exciting adventure are Past NRA Chairman Ralph Brennan, NRA Emertis Board Member Greg Hamer, NRA Board Members Dickie Brennan and Tommy Cvitanovich and 2014 LRA Chairman Bruce Attinger.

Payments to the NRA Restaurant PAC must be in the form of a credit card or a check from individual and non-corporate business members of the National Restaurant Association or affiliated state restaurant associations. This can include, for example, businesses operating as sole proprietorships, businesses operating as partnerships, businesses operating as LLCs that are treated as partnerships under tax law.

To reserve your seat on the NRA PAC Bus, please call Wendy Waren at (504) 454-2277 or via e-mail at Please have your credit card ready or your check made out ready to mail!

Help us PAC the Bus! 

LRA Northshore Chapter presents 2nd Annual "Serve It Up for Education" beach volleyball tournament

The Louisiana Restaurant Association (LRA) Northshore Chapter’s second annual beach volleyball tournament, “Serve It Up for Education,” will be held Saturday, June 7, 2014 at Digs Volleyball Complex, 700 Winward Drive in Covington, beginning at 10 a.m.

Celebrating summertime with great food, drinks and beach volleyball, the public is invited to watch the action, or participate themselves.

Teams of four can be purchased for $400; each team must be co-ed, with at least one female participating. Individual tickets for spectators can be purchased at the gate the day of the event for $35 per person. There will be three divisions for the volleyball tournament: beginner, intermediate and open. The beginner and intermediate division winners will receive prizes; the open division winner will receive a $1,500 cash prize.

All registration and entry gate fees include food from Northshore restaurants such as Morton’s Seafood Restaurant, Acme Oyster House and Mellow Mushroom, just to name a few. Attendees will beat the heat with beverages from Community Coffee, PJ’s Coffee, Glazer’s of Louisiana, Republic National Distributing Company, Champagne Beverage, Evamor, Coca-Cola and Crescent Crown.

The proceeds from “Serve It Up” benefit the LRA Northshore Chapter’s annual LRA Education Foundation (LRAEF) goal. The LRAEF, in turn, will use monies raised to further promote the restaurant industry as a career choice through its ProStart® program, enhance the restaurant community through expanded educational and career opportunities and provide scholarships to individuals pursuing culinary arts and restaurant management degrees.

“This is a different kind of fundraiser,” said LRA Northshore Chapter President Alan Guilbeau. “What better way to help the LRAEF’s cause of educating the future of our industry than enjoying the great outdoors with the traditional summer pastime of beach volleyball? The delicious food is an added bonus.”

For more information, contact LRA Chapter Member Services Coordinator Jodi Williams,, (504) 454-2277.

Muriel's Jackson Square to host UNO HRT Fundraiser

You are cordially invited to celebrate and support the continued success of the University of New Orleans, Lester E. Kabacoff School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Administration, Muriel’s Jackson Square Restaurant, June 18, 2014, from 6-8 p.m.   

The Lester E. Kabacoff School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Administration has been providing the highest quality education to students since 1975 and offers a premiere undergraduate hospitality management education, with exceptional master’s degree program which is the only one in Louisiana. The size of our burgeoning industry allows graduates a wide variety of positions and career choices that includes hotels, restaurants, country clubs, convention centers, managed services, cruise lines, casinos and resorts.

“Along with a rigorous program of study, our location in New Orleans offers students access to numerous part-time positions and internships in a town that boasts the greatest concentration of famous chef’s in the nation,” said Dr. John Williams, Professor and HRT Director.

While there is no charge for the event, all donations to the School of HRT are most appreciated.  To help in the planning for the number of attendees, please RSVP to Maria Cervini at   

Tip Tip Hooray?

By Michelle Anderson, Attorney, Fisher & Phillips, LLP (New Orleans)

The following article generally discusses tipped employee rules that an employer may adopt for employees. The article is not intended as legal or tax advice, and any specific question regarding a particular policy or rule for your workplace should be addressed with legal counsel to ensure compliance with all applicable federal and state laws.

The simple act of tipping has become a hot bed of legal concern for the restaurant and hospitality industries.  As the Department of Labor’s enforcement efforts continue to grow and private wage and hour lawsuits increase, these industries are prime targets for tipped employee violations.  To further complicate matters, effective January 2014, the IRS implemented new guidelines for tips and service charges. While customer generosity should be encouraged, businesses in these industries need to ensure compliance with applicable laws.

The Ground Rules:
All non-exempt employees must be paid the minimum wage under federal and state law. Under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), tipped employees are those who regularly receive more than $30 per month in tips. The tip credit provisions of the FLSA permit an employer to pay tipped employees no less than $2.13 per hour in cash wages and take a “tip credit” equal to the difference between the cash wages paid and the federal minimum wage. The tip credit may not exceed the amount of tips actually received and, under the current minimum wage, may not exceed $5.12 per hour. For example, under federal law, an employer can pay a tipped employee $2.13 per hour and take a “tip credit” of $5.12 per hour, provided the tipped employee makes sufficient tips to cover the tip credit. If the employee does not earn sufficient tips for the tip credit, the employer must make up the difference to ensure the employee receives minimum wage for all hours worked. Employers must keep clear records to demonstrate proper application of the tip credit. 

The use of tip credit can also be complicated by state laws. Some states forbid the use of tip credit, while others impose significant record-keeping and/or notice requirements on the use of tip credit. Louisiana currently follows the federal law, which requires that employees be notified in advance if the employer will take a tip credit. Written notice is recommended.

Some employers might be tempted to not require employees to report tips under $30 per month, or  report tips beyond what brings them up to the amount of the tip credit taken.  Both of these practices are flawed and could create tax liability. 

The definition of a tipped employee for purposes of IRS reporting differs from the FLSA.  The IRS defines a tipped employee as one who earns $20 or more per month in tips.  Employees are required to report to their employer the total amount of tips they receive. Employees must provide the employer with written reports by the tenth of the following month. Employees who receive tips of less than $20 in a calendar month are not required to report their tips to their employer, but must report these amounts as income on their tax returns and pay necessary taxes.

Therefore, even if an employee is not deemed a “tipped employee” under the FLSA, per the IRS the individual may still be considered a “tipped employee” for purposes of reporting the income generated by tips.  Hence, the best practice is to simply require employees to report all tips.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

5 ways to encourage workers to stay

The National Restaurant Association Manage My Restaurant online resource has countless articles to help you become more profitable. 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.

It’s no secret that the restaurant industry has one of the highest employee-turnover rates. But rather than feeling doomed to routinely hiring and retraining, owners and managers can take action to hold on to current workers.

Consider these five retention-boosters:

Take a personal interest. Learning about your staff shows you care about them as individuals, not just as employees. That bond can influence their attachment to your establishment.

“Our restaurant is set in a 1920s converted bungalow that provides a sense of ‘home’ for our guests,” says Betty Fraser, owner, GRUB, Hollywood, Calif. “And home means ‘family,’ which is how we view and treat our employees.”

Fraser says she takes a vested interest in employees’ lives outside of the restaurant and encourages them to be as well-rounded and happy as possible.

“If they are, that energy is then transferred to our guests,” she says. “A great way of encouraging that sense of family is to have a meal together at the end of each shift. The group time together talking about things other than work builds relationships and camaraderie.”
Provide tools to do the job. From proper equipment to a comp allowance for making guests happy, employees experience less stress when you set them up to do their jobs well. In line with this philosophy, Nancy Batista-Caswell, managing director, Caswell Restaurant Group, Newburyport, Mass., makes sure her team consistently is kept in the loop.

“Our entire server shift tastes dishes that will be on the menu and wines or other beverages that we are recommending for pairings or are new to our bar line-up,” she says. “Our staff becomes empowered and knowledgeable. They understand what ingredients will likely switch to accommodate special diets or allergies. We encourage their questions and those of our diners. There is nothing worse than servers who have never tried the food they are asked about by a guest.”

Offer recognition. Employees want to know their hard work matters. Take a second during a team meeting to mention a server who recently received a customer compliment or a line crew that performed particularly well on a busy night.

Consider further promoting thats atmosphere by getting everyone involved. Marcus Guilian, owner, Aroma Thyme Bistro, Ellenville, N.Y., says his staff loves the “OH SNAP (Service Never As Perfect)” program. When management or another staff member sees someone doing something good, the person receives a SNAP nomination. Once a week, one person receives a small prize and recognition in front of the whole team.

Encourage communication. Feedback is a learning tool that encourages growth. By regularly communicating, employer and employee can better understand one another and quickly resolve issues. As Batista-Caswell notes, employees should know where they stand with ownership/management. She suggests providing them with real-time, thoughtfully presented feedback (as progressive discipline and validating praise) to show they are valued.

Guilian sits one-to-one with staff members at least once a month to talk about their happiness and skills. He often discovers employees have additional talents and seeks to use those abilities, such as writing content for the restaurant’s website or helping with computer tech issues.

Promote stability. Foster an atmosphere of dedication, as workers take cues from those around them. On the job application, Batista-Caswell states that the business is rigorous and the “meek” need not apply. Then, with a staff that shares her passion, she stewards professional growth.

Especially important to her is promoting from within, which she says ensures there is an understanding about who is being recognized and why within the organization.

Do those tactics work? Batista-Caswell thinks so. She recently received a card from her staff thanking her for “Risking more than others think is safe to, caring more than others think is wise, dreaming more than others think is practical, and expecting more than others think is possible.”

This content was provided by National Restaurant Association partner CareerBuilder.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

LRA GNO Chapter to host 5th Annual Eat & Bowl

Back for its 5th consecutive year, the Louisiana Restaurant Association Greater New Orleans Chapter will host its fundraiser “Eat and Bowl,” Sunday, June 22 at Fulton Alley. The event features a maximum of 24 teams of four competing in a bowling tournament, cuisine from notable New Orleans restaurants, libations and a silent auction, with proceeds benefiting the LRA Education Foundation, the ProStart program and LRA GNO Special Projects.

The cost for teams of four to compete is $400 and spectators can enjoy the tournament, food and drinks for just $30.  To purchase tickets, click here. For more information, contact Jodi Williams at or (504) 454-2277, ext. 515. 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

ProStart gives students head start in culinary professions

Each year, the Louisiana Restaurant Association Education Foundation (LRAEF) hosts teams across the state in its annual ProStart Student Invitational. This year, 27 teams took part in either the Culinary Competition or the Management Competition.  For some schools, this was the first time they made the trip to New Orleans for the two-day events. This was the second of a multi-year relationship with the Louisiana Seafood Promotion & Marketing Board, the competition’s title sponsor, and was represented by Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne, who addressed the students, teachers and parents during the awards ceremony. Teams in both competitions had to incorporate Louisiana seafood into their menus.

For Fontainebleau’s ProStart instructor Stacy Russell, this is the first time she prepared students for competition. She came to Fontainebleau after 15 years in the restaurant industry, having worked for the Taste Buds restaurant group, whose concepts include Zea Rotisserie & Grill, Semolina Restaurant and Mizado Cocina.

“Teaching the ProStart students in the classroom takes the same management techniques as those I used every day in a restaurant,” Russell said. “The great thing about coming into this position is I can give them a real world account of restaurant operations.”

Preparing for the culinary competition takes mentoring and practice. Matt Jones, a graduate from American Institute, and currently with the Besh Restaurant Group, consulted with the Fontainebleau team on their menu. Some items didn’t make the cut with the students.
“Early on the students were considering seared redfish and smoked tuna,” Russell added. “The team finally settled on pepper seared tuna steak, a pan seared duck breast and panna cotta for their three courses.”

“We practiced twice a week for three hours over the course of six weeks to perfect our organization, communications and time management,” said Brianna Alongi, Fontainebleau ProStart II student. “This process really forces us to work as a team and that is such a valuable experience.”

During the Culinary competition, judges monitor and score the team’s organization and teamwork, time management and safety and sanitation. Barry Blue, a retired registered sanitarian with 30 years of experience, carefully reviews all aspects of the team’s dishes and has participated as a judge for several years.

“Personal hygiene, cross contamination and sanitation are the three main areas I’m looking at when judging,” Blue said. “These teams are highly trained in these areas as ServSafe methods and techniques are used in their coursework and preparation.”

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Sweeney: Industry's future depends on embrace of change, technology

Dawn Sweeney, NRA
Restaurants are standing at the brink of truly defining the 21st century for foodservice, National Restaurant Association president and CEO Dawn Sweeney said during a special presentation during NRA Show 2014.

In a session titled “The Future of the American Dream,” Sweeney talked with Bernie Marcus, the legendary co-founder of Home Depot; Eric Lefkofsky, CEO of online couponing site Groupon; and Jennifer Wesley, head of industry for restaurants at Google, about the future of restaurants.

Comparing the restaurant industry in 2014 to 1919, when the National Restaurant Association got its start, Sweeney noted that there were about 43,000 restaurants in America 95 years ago, or about one eating location for every 243 Americans. 

Today, she said, there are 980,000 restaurants, roughly one eating place for every 32 people. The 2,000 percent increase in the number of restaurants, compared to a 200 percent increase in the U.S. population, makes it a different world for restaurateurs, Sweeney said. Today’s norm is not only a wide range of choices, but a world where consumers are actively educating themselves about their choices.

“In today’s world, our customers have dozens of favorite restaurants−not just one stand-by−and they are actively looking to try places they haven’t even heard of,” Sweeney noted.  “It’s a world where the flow of information from consumer to consumer is so fast we are scrambling to keep up. Word of mouth is a lot faster than it used to be.”

Restaurants are dealing with a barrage of instant information – and sometimes instant misinformation. Legislative and regulatory red tape are increasingly common. “The government keeps its hand in − often more than it should,” she said. “We are drowning in regulations and new legislation.”

Marcus agreed that the regulatory landscape for businesses is a battlefield. “Between the SEC, the FDA, the NLRB, you name it…they’re just not helpful.” He urged increased political activism to get the word out about what it takes to create jobs. 

Groupon’s Lefkofsky said restaurants need to embrace change. The mobile revolution “dwarfs anything that’s come before … You can’t avoid it because too many consumers are going to be making pivotal decisions in real time on the fly. They’ll either come into your restaurant or go to the restaurant next door based on what they see and how they interact with the information they get on that phone.”

“Consumer expectations are completely different. They want instant gratification, infinite choice, customization and personalization,” said Google’s Wesley. ““There’s almost a tipping point happening. We need to think differently. Today I challenge you to take a ‘moon shot’ − to know what your next big challenge is … because things are changing. “

McCormick chef shares secrets of healthful kids’ meals

According to Gary Patterson, executive chef/culinary for McCormick & Company, developing tasty, healthful kids’ meals takes as much work and creativity as preparing fine-dining dishes. “They've got to be appealing and have flavor,” he says.

Patterson recently oversaw the food preparation for the National Restaurant Association’s second annual Kids LiveWell Recipe Challenge, of which McCormick is a founding partner. He said he was impressed with not only the sophistication of this year’s recipes, but also the more mature palates of the young children judging the contest. He talked about the importance of the competition and the future of kids’ meals at restaurants.

Why is it important for restaurateurs to offer more healthful meals for kids? Consumer demand for more healthful meals is a trend that’s maturing. We've all known for some time that we've needed to eat healthfully, and right now more people than ever before are aware of what they’re putting into their bodies and the way they eat.

What should restaurateurs understand about child nutrition and creating healthful kids’ meals? It’s more than just creating a recipe that looks nutritiously sound. The food has to be appealing. The children or young adults need to feel that the food has flavor, that it’s not just something that’s ‘good for them.’

How do you do that? You have to work as hard as any chef working on an international recipe. When you focus on children, you have to understand what it is that kids enjoy eating. Sometimes it’s about stealth health. For example, think about using spaghetti squash in a dish that may normally have pasta in it. Maybe you can add it in with the pasta and keep your traditional sauce. It’s really a little bit of everything; there’s no straight line to the target.

Do you think chefs and restaurants are succeeding? Absolutely. Ten or 15 years ago, if you had healthier items on the menu, it was a real challenge to keep them in the menu mix. Parents were so drilled into giving their kids what they wanted: fried chicken nuggets and French fries or a burger. And all of those are fine in moderation, but at the end of the day, you have to get parents eating healthfully and help them teach their children, too. It’s great that when they go out to eat now, there are all of these menu selections to point to, instead of having them go the easy route and get the meal that comes with some toy.

Do you think kids are more sophisticated now about what they want to eat? How do you appeal to that, and what makes a successful kids’ meal? That’s a double-edged question, because when you talk about children’s appetites and how what they will eat is changing, it really depends on the sophistication of the parents. I’m not a psychologist, but if parents are willing to try and eat new things and are always open, the children are going to do the same thing. I think it’s about every restaurant at every level having opportunities to present healthful options for children. That way, it’s not just the high end, fine-dining restaurants; it’s quickservice, counter service — those kinds of restaurants, too. All of them need to reach and strive for the same thing.

Is the Kids LiveWell Recipe Challenge a good idea? Is it making strides? I think it is. I don’t know the exact number of entries we had last year, but I understand we had more this year. And these are top-of-the-line, large restaurant companies joining in — especially on the contract foodservice side. Those companies are really focused on this wholeheartedly and have really embraced it. They know that healthful eating is just going to become a part of the maturing of children’s and young adults’ appetites.

At the end of the day, what should chefs and restaurateurs seek to achieve? If we’re talking in general about offering healthier options, we should be thinking about moderation, understanding that flavor doesn't just come from fat and cream and salt. There are a lot of places it does come from: cooking techniques, caramelization, slow cooking and roasting. It also comes from cooking with herbs and spices. Looking in different places for all of those flavors, whether it’s from an acid or vinegar or lemon or lime juice, or just using herbs and spices, whether they’re fresh or dry, they’re all going to work in some way in a soup or salad or pasta dish.

The Kids LiveWell Recipe Challenge, held this year April 4-5 in Baltimore, showcases creative, healthful kids’ menu items at restaurants and foodservice operations. All of the recipes must meet the criteria of the NRA’s Kids LiveWell program as well as the USDA’s MyPlate nutrition guidelines.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Top reasons to attend the EXPO—August will be here before you know it!

Celebrating its 61st year, the Louisiana Foodservice & Hospitality EXPO is a one-stop shop for all your restaurant needs—whether they are products, services or education. While the benefits are many, it’s always helpful to be reminded of why it’s an excellent idea to make the short trip to New Orleans this summer. Here are some of great things that you have to look forward to…

The EXPO is a must for restaurant owners, managers, buyers, hotel food and beverage directors and chefs. It’s the only place in Louisiana to gain valuable industry knowledge and shop hundreds of companies under one roof. 

Since its inception in 2012, the IDEA ZONE has become a fast growing draw for attendees. Expert, express presentations are held all three-days during the EXPO and cover emerging trends, best business practices and professional development. Be sure to look for the complete line-up in the summer issue of a la carte magazine and on our website.

The Great American Seafood Cook-Off will co-locate within the EXPO for the 11th year in a row. Get a front row seat to see chefs from across the country battle it out to be crowned the King or Queen of American Seafood on Saturday, August 2, 2014. The competition takes place in the Seafood Pavilion, where attendees can find seafood offerings from Gulf Coast exhibitors and across the country. Who will represent Louisiana in the cook-off? That will be decided during the Louisiana Seafood Cook-Off, which is held at the New Orleans Wine & Food Experience, May 24 in New Orleans. The Great American Seafood Cook-Off is produced by the Louisiana Seafood Promotionand Marketing Board and sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The EXPO is held annually in New Orleans, and we want you to take full advantage. After you hit the show floor, make sure you take time to the Big Easy streets. The city, known world-wide for its ambience and culture has so much to offer. The EXPO shares the weekend with the Whitney White Linen Night and the Satchmo Summerfest, both free. And what’s a trip to New Orleans without indulging in one or two (or three) of its famous restaurants? The EXPO partners with the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau to bring attendees a useful travel website with all the fun things to do and see in the city, recently ranked the 5th in the Top 25 U.S. Destinations by TripAdvisor, the world’s largest travel site. Plan your nighttime in New Orleans here.

In its second year of sponsorship, the Farm to Table International Symposium (F2Ti) will be held in conjunction with the EXPO. F2Ti features the brightest thought leaders and leading practitioners in the burgeoning farm-to-table movement. This year’s theme, “The Process,” examines the agricultural-culinary cycle at all levels and features its own organic urban farm research project, in partnership with the LSU Ag Center and the SoFAB Institute. The event will take place August 2-4 at the New Orleans Morial Convention Center.

To see the full EXPO line up, visit our website here. Register to attend the EXPO today here

Thank you to this year’s Platinum Sponsors!
Heartland Payment Systems, Louisiana Cookin’, CapitalOne, Republic National Distributing Company, Louisiana Restaurant Association Self Insurer’s Fund, UnitedHealthcare and the LRA Education Foundation.

Gold Sponsor—Midlands; and Silver Sponsors—Fisher & Phillips, LLP and Johnson, Johnson, Barrios & Yacoubian.

Applications now being accepted for Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Fall 2014 program

Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses is now accepting applications for the Fall 2014 program, a $500 million investment to help entrepreneurs create jobs and economic opportunity by providing them with greater access to education, financial capital and business support services. The program currently operates in 15 markets in the U.S., including New Orleans, through a network of more than 90 academic and community partners. Over 1,200 small business owners have participated and the program continues to expand on a city-by-city basis.

Designed by Babson College, the nation’s top-ranked entrepreneurship school, the curriculum focuses on practical business skills that can immediately be applied by business owners, including negotiation, marketing and employee management.

LRA Member Phil de Gruy of
Phil's Grill in Metairie & New Orleans.
“Being able to identify areas I needed to work on and take steps to get my business on track for growth was an invaluable product of my participation in the program,” said Louisiana Restaurant Association Member Phil de Gruy of Phil’s Grill. “I learned the difference between running a restaurant and running a business.”

The curriculum is organized into nine modules, each of which includes classroom discussion, peer learning exercises, skill building and experiential applications. Classroom activities are complemented by an integrated portfolio of business services, including: one-on-one business advice, legal and financial clinics and networking opportunities.

Criteria to participate in the 10,000 Small Business program are: owner or co-owner of a business; business in operation for at least two years; business revenues between $150,000 and $4 million in the most recent fiscal year; and business with a minimum of four employees.

To get the most out of the program, business owners are asked to invest their time to engage in the following: attend a program orientation; complete 11 convenient learning sessions; participate in out-of-class activities, including completing assignments, attending networking events and business support clinics (approx. 6-8 hours a week); and create a growth plan over the course of the program.

Applications are due by June 16, 2014. For application details, click here

National Restaurant Assoc urges Senate to pass tax extenders bill

The National Restaurant Association (NRA) today urged the Senate to move forward on tax extender legislation and reiterated support for an amendment filed by Senator Collins (R-ME) which would temporarily restore the definition of full-time under the current health care law from 30 to 40 hours per week.

“It is critical that the Senate move forward on tax extender legislation to provide certainty for main street business and allow restaurants to continue to create jobs and promote economic growth,” said Scott DeFife, Executive Vice President of Policy and Government Affairs for the National Restaurant Association. “We are pleased that the Senate is working across the aisle on this issue, and urge Senators to continue their efforts on finding a path forward.”

The NRA also issued support for SA 3196, an amendment filed by Senator Collins that would temporarily raise the definition of full-time under ACA through 2016.

“We appreciate Senator Collins and Senators Donnelly, Scott, Isakson, Murkowski, Ayotte, Graham, Blunt, Crapo and Boozman for recognizing that the current definition of full-time under ACA places undue burden on businesses across the country,” said DeFife. “Aligning the law’s definition of full-time employee status with more traditional levels used by restaurant and foodservice operators would provide significant relief to employers.”

The ACA’s full-time employee definition has been a critical issue for the restaurant industry. The Association is continuing to work with members of both chambers to address this challenging part of the law for restaurant operators’ compliance.  

New research shows restaurant technology plays part in dining decisions

New research from the National Restaurant Association underscores that technology is playing a larger role in the restaurant dining experience. Options like online reservations, smartphone ordering and in-store kiosks are becoming more commonplace, and consumers are recognizing the benefits.

“Technology is increasingly becoming part of our everyday lives, including interaction with restaurants both remotely and onsite,” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of research for the National Restaurant Association.

“The operator community still faces challenges to offering more customer-facing technology options, most notably cost of implementation and per-usage cost. However, there seems to be little doubt in the minds of both operators and consumers that these options will become more prevalent in the future,” Riehle said.

According to the NRA’s research, 36 percent of consumers say they are more likely to use technology options in restaurants now than they were two years ago, and 65 percent have noticed that restaurants offer more of these options in that same timeframe.

Further, eight in 10 consumers agree that restaurant-related technology enhances convenience, and seven in 10 say it speeds up service and increases order accuracy. Forty-five percent say that technology makes their restaurant interactions more fun. Operators will want to choose carefully which technology options to offer, however, as 37 percent of consumers also say technology makes ordering more complicated.

Integrating consumer-facing technology can pay off for restaurant operators, though, as about one-third of consumers say tech options make them choose one restaurant over another, as well as dine out or order takeout/delivery more often. 

The NRA commissioned ORC International to survey 1,006 American adults on May 1-4, 2014, for their attitudes toward restaurant-related technology options.

Previous NRA research shows that nearly half of restaurant operators across segments plan to devote more resources to customer-facing technology this year.

Monday, May 19, 2014

'Magic" and majesty: NBA legend on point with business-savvy advice

A winning mindset and attitude are the keys to success, entrepreneur and pro-basketball legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson told a packed house during his keynote speech at the NRA Show.

Appearing May 18 before a standing-room-only crowd, Johnson said his life ethos and work ethic made him the success he is today. “You have got to have a winning mindset and attitude if you are going to win in the restaurant world,” he said. “I had to have an attitude that any game we played we could win.”

Johnson, a long-time owner-operator of Starbucks, T.G.I. Friday’s and Fatburger restaurants in urban locations, as well as Sodexo Magic, which caters to American Airlines, Disneyland and Disney World, and Allstate Insurance, said one of the most important lessons he’s learned is to continually reinvest in his businesses and never take money out of the business.

“All of you out there who are business owners, you’ve got to reinvest in your businesses,” he said. “The key to my success in building my 125 [Starbucks stores] was I didn’t take any money out. I let the first one build the second one, the second build the third, the third one build the fourth and so on. I reinvested back into the business and took very little out until it was time."

Here is some of his other advice to restaurateurs:

Always know your customer. “That is very important. You also have to speak to that customer each and every day because now they have too many choices. And it’s important you drive great customer service and make sure your food is hot, fresh, and that whatever you’re selling is delivered on a consistent basis.”

Stay current with technology. “Make sure you’ve got the latest and greatest technology. Everything that comes out, I’m always grabbing it if it’s going to make me quicker, faster or able to deliver great customer service or whatever I’m dealing with.”

Don’t grow too big too fast, and measure how much to handle. “Look, we all want growth and sustainability, right? Don’t grow too fast and don’t take on contracts that you can’t deliver. If you ever take on too much and you can’t handle it, you’re going to be in trouble because the word is going to get around. Grow at a slow, disciplined rate and don’t forget that with those new contracts, you’ve got to add more people.”

Give staff the ingredients for success. “Make sure your people are quality experts at what they do.”

Don’t hire family members unless they’re experts at what they’re doing. “If you don’t have the right people running your business, you will fail. I’ll say it one more time: no family members.”