Ora in the News


Article by Jim Offner - The Packer

Ohio restaurant group shifts to consulting

As it approaches its 100th anniversary, the Columbus-based Ohio Restaurant Association has updated its approach to business, evolving from a traditional association to a “more contemporary consulting group,” said John Barker, president and CEO.

Barker, who joined the association in 2016, said he oversaw the changes.
“This initiative resulted in a new and modern brand in terms of voice, look and feel, digital presence and greater brand awareness among the industry and beyond,” he said.

The association also focused on “step-change” in a number of other critical areas, including its total value proposition for nearly 2,000 members, representing more than 6,000 locations across Ohio, Barker said. Members include restaurants, foodservice operators and a range of vendors that provide services and expertise.
Examples of step-change at the ORA over the past 18 months:
Fine-tuning of the association’s Mid-America Restaurant Expo, which is aimed at the Midwest region and achieved record attendance this year with 4,000 attendees, more than 300 exhibitors, 50 speakers and celebrity chef Michael Symon as keynote;
New Industry Awards Celebration for the best-in-class of the Ohio restaurant scene;
New “ORATech” initiative and website with articles and infographics that provide insights into technology issues facing the industry;
New Centers of Excellence, including the Legal Center — exclusive for members;
New vendor program — with levels for Premier, Featured and Core vendors;
New sponsorship program;
New Food for Thought Leadership Blog, to which Barker and guest writers contribute;
New local restaurant alliances in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus and Toledo; and
New Ohio ProStart golf tournament to raise awareness and funding for its program at 57 schools across the state.

“These initiatives will enable the organization to better serve members and help grow the number of restaurant and foodservice locations around the state from the current base of 22,000,” Barker said. “As the third-largest employer in the state, the industry employs approximately 580,000 people and generates $21 billion in sales.”

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