Fast start to year for the ORA, restaurants and the Mid-America


Happy New Year as we all welcome 2017. It’s been a busy December and early January at the ORA.

GROWTH – A flurry of restaurants recently joined the ORA, many of whom are taking advantage of our workers’ compensation program offered through CareWorksComp. If you are a restaurateur, this program alone can offset the cost of your membership. Many of our new members are also taking advantage of our ServSafe discount and programs such as credit card and payroll processing through Heartland. I encourage you to carefully review our member programs and strategic partners, and choose the ones that are most helpful. Congrats to our Shellie O’Toole, who leads our Member Services department, for bringing in and welcoming our new members!

MINIMUM WAGE – Great news out of Cleveland as we confirmed yesterday the $15 minimum wage battle in the city is over. The SEIU announced that it is dropping its proposal to ask city residents to vote on a $15 wage amendment on May 2, 2017. We appreciate all of the support from our restaurant members and businesses, as well as the leadership from Council President Kevin Kelley during our aggressive campaign to protect Cleveland from activists who don’t even reside in the city. The ORA is committed to protecting our industry from government and activist over-reach. Joe Rosato, our Director of Government Affairs, is doing outstanding work on behalf of our industry and was instrumental working with council and our Cleveland coalition. The ORA continues to promote restaurants as a great place to start careers, earn skills and develop a lifelong profession… and we strongly encourage members to offer competitive compensation and a performance management process for their employees. It’s the right thing to do.

MID-AMERICA RESTAURANT EXPO – Restaurateurs just put the finishing touches on the holiday season when they begin gearing up to attract customers in January – a time when snow and cold temperatures tend to keep people home. The solution? Learn from the many thought leaders speaking at our Expo on Jan. 29-30 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. Members get free tickets by clicking here. Our thought leadership will focus on innovation, technology and trends, as well as inspirational stories from industry leaders.

CHALLENGING MARKETPLACE – The ORA will provide ongoing updates about the marketplace in 2017. Our initial research shows that tough customer traffic conditions will continue this year. Fitch Ratings announced it believes restaurant sales will slow this year, growing 4%, versus 5% last year… including new restaurant openings. This means that traffic will likely be flat, with a 2% decline for “dine-in” restaurants and a 1% increase at “quick-service” concepts, according to NPD Group. Wall Street analyst Andrew Charles of Cowen & Co. sees headwinds: commodity deflation that will enable grocers to keep their prices low; consumer spending pressures (gasoline, health insurance, rising interest rates) and an oversaturation of restaurants. The oversupply of restaurants appears to be a serious and growing issue – it is pressuring same-store sales and making it more difficult for restaurateurs to recruit and retain staff.