Yesterday, the Illinois Restaurant Association (IRA) held its 2022 annual meeting at the Union League Club in Chicago. The afternoon included the installation of the new members of the Association’s Board of Directors and Advisory Council, a keynote address by Mayor Lori Lightfoot, as well as the presentation of the organization’s annual awards. At a time of critical importance to restaurants, the remarks focused on the Association’s ongoing mission to protect, promote, educate and advance the industry statewide. Joined by President and CEO Sam Toia, Sam Sanchez, CEO of Third Coast Hospitality, who is entering his second year as Chairman of the Board, chaired the event.
“During this time of unprecedented change, Sam Sanchez has been a dedicated and passionate champion of our industry,” Toia said. “We look forward to his continued leadership in a year when we need him most.”
“It is an honor to represent my colleagues for a second year as Chairman of the Board,” said Sanchez. “There is a lot of work to do, but we will never tire of making sure our members’ voices are heard at all levels of government, providing hundreds of grants to food service workers in need and to remind job seekers how our industry is one of endless opportunities.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot gave the opening address. She spoke to participants about the need for resilience and continued hope despite recent setbacks with the Omicron variant. She also praised the restaurant industry for taking steps to keep her diners and team members safe, and noted possible changes on the horizon regarding vaccination requirements for indoor dining. in Chicago.
“I am confident in the future of our restaurant industry,” Lightfoot said. “It’s because I believe in the vision of the IRA and clearly see the tenacity of its members. We’ve faced countless challenges, but I couldn’t ask for a better partner than the IRA to help ensure a strong recovery for the world’s largest restaurant city.
“As long as we continue to make progress with a downward trend in the city’s overall COVID-19 metrics, we will be able to lift the indoor dining vaccination requirement within weeks,” Lightfoot said. .
Among many others, the IRA today identified ongoing efforts that include providing more than $277,000 in grants from the IRA Educational Foundation’s Restaurant Employees Relief Fund to 550 workers at restaurants in need, advocating for the replenishment of the Restaurant Recovery Fund (RRF), urging state and local authorities to use federal dollars to support restaurants and their employees, offering cost-effective training and certification courses reduced, providing pro bono legal support to operators and making more than 10,000 calls for technical advice through the Cook County Small Business Assistance Program.
The IRA also announced its annual winners:
The Restaurateur of the Year was awarded to Steven Hartenstein, COO of Phil Stefani Signature Restaurants and owner of Lucca Osteria. Steven has excelled as a leading restaurateur for decades. More recently, he resisted the pandemic to open Lucca Osteria to great fanfare in Oak Brook, Illinois. He is tireless in his defense of the industry and in his support of his fellow restaurateur.
Seller of the Year was awarded to Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits. Terry Brick, Executive Vice President and General Manager, and Mike Evans, Director, Merchant Relations and Government Affairs, accepted the award for the company’s longstanding support of the IRA, including their Chicago sponsorship Gourmet for more than a decade, recent lobbying efforts in Springfield alongside the IRA to ease liquor regulations, and donations to the IRA Educational Foundation Relief Fund and the IRAEF scholarship program.
Sara Rowe ProStart® Company of the Year was awarded to EMPLOYERS for going above and beyond in supporting the IRA Educational Foundation’s ProStart program and its students. Wayne Hilston, Vice President of Sales – Salary Programs and Alliances, accepted the award. EMPLOYERS is a founding donor of the IRA Employee Relief Fund. The company also made substantial contributions to the IRAEF scholarship program, which supported six students in their hotel management training.
The Pineapple Hospitality Award was awarded to Julia Momosé, Partner and creative director of Kumiko and founder of Cocktails for Hope, for his work in helping to legalize “to-go cocktails” throughout Illinois. At a time when indoor service had been severely restricted, Julia overcame significant hurdles to change state liquor laws to allow take-out and delivery cocktails, increasing revenue for restaurants and bars when they were needed most.
Featured Image Credit: Illinois Restaurant Association