“Industry trade associations play a vital role in our economy and in the industries that they represent and serve. They serve as a nexus of information flow, education, communication and human interaction in their industries. Said another way, they get important things done in their industries that would not get done without their existence. A great example of this is the Kentucky Restaurant Association (www.kyra.org), which began small and is now a critical player in one of the most important industries in Kentucky. The organization was formed in the 1960s by the Louisville Restaurant Association (formed in 1933) and the Bluegrass Restaurant Association (formed in 1960). Among those involved in the early days of the organization was Col. Harland Sanders, who founded Kentucky Fried Chicken. The Bluegrass region has provided its share of leadership in the Kentucky Restaurant Association (KRA), with past presidents including Doug Long, Bruce Cotton and, more recently, Karl Crase of Hall’s On The River. These individuals still serve the organization as members of the Past Presidents Council.
Today, the organization has grown to over 1,000 members and offers an impressive array of member benefits and services that impact us all in direct and indirect ways. They also have regional chapters, including the Bluegrass Chapter, which each year organizes the “Taste of the Bluegrass” event held at Keeneland. This year’s event will be held June 1 and will feature over 50 member restaurants and beverage distributors. The event attracts over 1,000 people from the Bluegrass, and the proceeds go to God’s Pantry.
At the state level, the KRA is very busy with many initiatives, programs and resources to enhance every aspect of foodservices operations. One important area is its educational seminars offered in many areas of Kentucky. These include the nationally accredited ServSafe™ training and certification designed for restaurant personnel. This sanitation course helps the restaurant operator train employees in order to protect the public from food-borne illness. Another important course is their ServSafe Alcohol™ program, which outlines effective and responsible alcohol services practices. The KRA offers other education programs throughout the year that benefit its members and the restaurant consumer.
Additionally, given that the foodservice industry is the largest employer in the United States and the largest single industry employer in Kentucky, the KRA recognizes the need for a continuous supply of quality foodservice professionals. To that end, it created the Kentucky Restaurant Association Education Foundation (KRAEF) scholarship program. This is designed to encourage those already in the foodservice industry to further their studies in accredited foodservice studies.
Due to its importance to the state and local economies, it’s important that the restaurant industry be appropriately represented in any dialogue regarding legislative and regulatory initiatives on a local, regional, state and national level. The KRA performs a valuable governmental relations role by educating its members and lawmakers on issues including current legislation and emerging issues.
Sometimes, well-intended legislation can have unintended negative consequences for the small and medium-sized restaurant owner. The KRA is often their voice for objectivity and fairness through education. Examples of issues could include amendments to Kentucky’s Model Food Code, “tourism taxes,” legislation that increases record keeping requirements, small business tax issues and niche issues that impact businesses like bed and breakfast operations and farmers’ markets. A good example of legislation in the recent 2007 Kentucky General Assembly that has specific local relevance was the final version of HB 138, which clarifies the law regarding Sunday sales of alcoholic beverages in Lexington/Fayette County. The bill authorizes the Urban County Council to set the hours in which Sunday sales can be made and to permit Sunday sales at all by-the-drink licensees, including bars, if it votes to do so.
The benefits of the Kentucky Restaurant Association to its members extend further. They have numerous programs that allow members to benefit from discounted rates for a myriad of services, including advertising, credit card and payroll processing, certain insurance products, etc. These savings are important to the owners of small and medium-sized businesses in that they help them forestall menu price increases. Other benefits include regional expos, a toll-free information hotline, the bi-monthly Kentucky Restaurant Journal and numerous events to help promote members and partner with charities around the state.
In summary, the Kentucky Restaurant Association is an important support organization for the restaurateur in many ways. This, in turn, helps the restaurateur provide outstanding service and value to customers.
Mark Sievers, a former restaurant executive with Yorkshire Global Restaurants and YUM! Brands, owns the business brokerage and consulting company The Sievers Company LLC. He can be reached at email@example.com.