Shifting the ORA to “step-change” ideas and solutions for members

You might think as we approach our 100th anniversary in less than two years, the ORA would look back in time. While we stand on the shoulders of many great leaders and honor our past, the best way to operate is to look forward.

The opportunity to support the foodservice and hospitality industry is immense with the rapid growth of restaurants in our state – more than 22,000 locations in Ohio and growing. When you add in the rapid change we see with trends and consumer expectations, you can’t help but be excited about promoting and protecting this industry. As partners with our members, we are constantly studying and working on workforce development, technology issues, healthcare, food safety and challenges from special interest groups.

Our staff and board of directors are more committed than ever to helping ORA members succeed. That’s why we updated our approach to business over the past two years. We're evolving from a traditional association to a more contemporary consulting group. The ORA’s Annual Operating Plan is our guide and a new, long-term strategic plan called Vision 2022 addresses tomorrow.

This is important, because the dream is to move this association from good to great.

At the foundation of this movement is our brand transformation. Today you see an ORA that’s more modern with a contemporary voice, look and attitude. We are proud of our logos, colors, marketing materials and everything that touches our members. Our digital and social media presence is exploding and soon you will experience an improved website. As we all know, progress is a never-ending drumbeat.

Beyond the brand, we are driving “step-change” in critical areas, including our total value proposition for nearly 2,000 members representing more than 6,500 locations across Ohio. Our members include restaurants, foodservice operators, craft brewers, bars, food trucks, nutritionists, teachers, students and vendors that provide services and expertise.

Examples of ORA step-change:

Engaging more of our members than ever with our #OhioWorksHere tour around the state. Our goal is to see every ORA member in person by 2020 and we’ve visited with hundreds of members around Ohio in the past several months. Engage with our tour on ORA social media – Twitter, Instagram and Facebook and Linkedin.
Reimaging our Mid-America Restaurant Expo, which achieved record attendance in 2018 with 4,000 attendees, more than 300 exhibitors, 50 speakers and celebrity chef Michael Symon. Hold January 13-14, 2019 in Columbus for our next #MAREXPO.
Hosting a new ORA Industry Awards Celebration for best-in-class restaurant professionals in Ohio. Stay tuned for updates about a new Chairman’s Council in early 2019.
Growing our #ORATech initiative on our website with rich content, articles and infographics that provide insights into technology issues facing the industry. The #ORATech committee is currently examining topics that are burning platforms for many restaurateurs – online ordering and delivery.
Launching a Legal Center with expertise, white papers, videos and legal resources. Our three partners – the firms of Isaac Wiles, Roetzel & Andress and Dickinson Wright – will be providing elite speakers at upcoming ORA events.
Introducing a Vendor Program with levels for Premier, Featured and Core vendors. Our goal is to provide expert partners who can provide A+ services for members.
Continually updating a host of services on our website and providing content such as Business Development resources, articles such as “Are You Ready to Own a Restaurant” and links to valuable resources such as County Departments of Health and Ohio departments of Taxation, Health, Liquor Control and more.
Introducing a sponsorship program called Tastemaker to provide vendors an opportunity to support the industry and engage with ORA members at many events.
Producing a “Food for Thought Leadership" blog like this one and a sharper a la carte Magazine. Our weekly NewsBites e-newsletter is packed with information for our members.
Organizing Local Restaurant Alliances in Cincinnati, Cleveland and Toledo, while continuing the great work under way in Columbus.
Aggressively protecting our industry with smart government affairs programs, a strong presence at the statehouse, relationships with political leaders statewide and endorsements of candidates who support business – for example Mike DeWine and Jon Husted for the governor’s office and Troy Balderson for the 12th District for Congress. Stay tuned for more.
Adding an Ohio ProStart® golf tournament to raise awareness and funding for our program at 60 schools across the state, and hosting fun, new Burger Battles for ProStart students.

As always, our entire team is available for ORA members and foodservice professionals. We look forward to sharing more innovation with you in the future.