John is President & CEO of the Ohio Restaurant Association. His parents and family operated the Rustic Lounge restaurant and bar in the 1970s, He was an executive at Wendy’s for nearly 20 years and teaches at The Ohio State University. He writes about the foodservice industry, inspiring restaurateurs, important issues and thought leadership. If you have an idea or comment, contact him at 614. 246.0203 or at 

NEWS RELEASE: Ohio restaurant same-store sales trending upward; Online ordering expected to grow and UberEats a favorite for food delivery

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Oct. 2, 2018 – The Ohio Restaurant Association (ORA) and the Cleveland Research Co. recently completed a survey of restaurant operators and foodservice professionals across Ohio, representing 70 companies and more than 175 locations.
Same-store sales trends for the most recent quarter (May through July) grew an average of 2.7 percent with 2.2 percent driven by customer traffic. Sales were stronger than the previous quarter (January through March), which was up 1.5 percent.
Operators in Ohio are optimistic about trends improving and expect same-store sales to expand at a slightly stronger pace for the full year in 2018, up 3.5 percent, and up 3.6 percent in 2019.
“Restauranteurs in our survey represent an array of formats including casual dining, quick-service, fine dining, fast casual, family, pubs, bars and coffee shops, so their optimism reflects a robust economy, confident consumers and a strong foodservice industry in Ohio,” said John Barker, ORA President and CEO.
“Certain categories are performing better than others. For example, fine dining, with higher average check, is growing strongly and many brands in quick-service continue to produce sales growth. In all categories, consumers are gravitating to restaurant operators that offer strikingly superior hospitality, a relevant and evolving brand, and a distinct culinary and value proposition. There’s also a growing trend by consumers to prefer concepts with a smart digital footprint that includes social media, a loyalty program, online ordering and delivery.”
Restaurant online ordering and delivery expected to grow
According to the survey, online ordering is offered at 37 percent of restaurants, and 31 percent more expect to offer it within the next year.
Additionally, 35 percent of restaurants offer delivery. Of those who offer delivery, 59 percent manage their own delivery process. For those that use third-party delivery, UberEats is the most popular, followed by DoorDash, Amazon Restaurants, Grubhub and Postmates.
“Operators are focused on the impact of technology, including online ordering and delivery because of growth in the marketplace,” said Barker. “More than 40 percent of them expect digital ordering to make up a majority of their sales in three to five years, and many larger brands are rapidly developing and implementing online ordering, kiosks, table-top devices, loyalty programs and more. We inform our members about how to address these trends with our #ORATech section on our website.
About the Ohio Restaurant Association
For nearly 100 years, The Ohio Restaurant Association is the leading business trade association promoting, protecting and partnering with Ohio’s $20.9 billion restaurant and foodservice industry. The ORA represents the third-largest private sector employer in the state, including 22,023 locations and more than 583,900 employees, and helps members build customer loyalty, rewarding careers and financial success with a range of services and thought leadership. For more information, visit

ORA evolution continues with Website 1.0 and new Premier Vendor– MoPro

The next step in the ORA’s brand transformation is right before your eyes. Just log into our new website at and scroll through the resources and content designed for restaurant professionals.

The ORA site represents the future of our industry – it’s visually stunning, highlights culinary and food images, and is responsive and mobile-friendly. It showcases the diversity of the restaurant, foodservice and hospitality business. It features our logos and color palette of blueberry, watermelon and quinoa – for those of you who love design as much as our Managing Director of Marketing and Communications, Maureen O’Rourke.

Maureen is the orchestrator of our brand and led the transformation starting...

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 interes...

Innovation in Foodservice Keeps Coming, Are You Ready for Ghosts?

Innovation in Foodservice Keeps Coming, Are You Ready for Ghosts?
The pace of change is accelerating in most industries:

  • Have you been in an emergency room lately? – Technological breakthroughs are enabling doctors, physician assistants and nurses to better care for patients.

  • Been on the floor of an auto manufacturing plant? – Filled with robotics.

  • Taken a ride in a driver-less vehicle? – Soon you will be able to in central Ohio thanks to the Smart Columbus initiative.

  • The computer/network server in our office at the ORA fits in a small closet. A decade ago servers filled entire floors in climate-controlled offices.

In foodservice, innovation is racing forward. Have you eaten a fresh, antioxidant-packed açaí bowl topped with granola and fruit? Do you like Poke? How about dinner, wine and dancing at Whole Foods?

How about these innovations – automated hamburger-cooking kitchens, kiosks at thousands of fast-food restaurants, cashless restaurants and mobile ordering through an emoji?

How about the reinvention of the food court we used to enjoy at shopping malls? Today this looks like the West Side Market in Cleveland, Findlay Market in Cincinnati and the North Market in Columbus. It also looks like the Short North Foo...

ORA/NRA Golf Classic Tees Up to be Great Success

The 21st annual ORA/NRA Golf Classic was held at the New Albany Country Club on June 26. In addition to a beautiful course and amazing food, approximately 100 industry leaders gathered to celebrate a worthy cause with net proceeds from the event benefiting the ORA’s political advocacy efforts and the National Restaurant Association (NRA) Restaurant Advocacy Fund (RAF).

During the luncheon, John Barker, ORA President & CEO, thanked all those in attendance. He reminded them of the great efforts the ORA and the NRA undertake on a daily basis to protect Ohio’s foodservice industry and small businesses from threats against them bot at the Statehouse and Washington D.C.

Thank You to the 2018 Event Sponsors:

Platinum Sponsor: White Ca...

News Release: Restaurants Win Big at Smart 50 Awards

DUBLIN, Ohio (June 15, 2018) – Last night, hundreds of business professionals and industry leaders gathered to celebrate the Smart 50 Awards Columbus Class of 2018 at Cameron Mitchell's The Exchange at Bridge Park in Dublin.

The Ohio Restaurant Association (ORA) President & CEO John Barker was one of the honorees of the evening. He was highlighted in a video interview regarding his role in leading the organization through a major brand transformation, as well as an increased focus on innovation and technology.

"This is a great opportunity to highlight the accomplishments and brand transformation the ORA staff has achieved over the last couple of years on behalf of our members and restaurants across Ohio. It's an honor to be a part of...

2017: Year in Review

Workers' Compensation Managed Care

2017: Year in Review

In 2017, the Columbus Local Restaurant Alliance met several times for dynamic meetings discussing various topics impacting the industry and community.

​Read a few highlights below:

  • Columbus City Councilman Shannon Hardin discussed small and minority business development, public service and transportation matters.

  • Mayor Andrew Ginther discussed neighborhood development.

  • Local Restaurant Alliance members attended a Smart City update at the Idea Foundry in Franklintown.

2017: Year in Review

In 2017, the Columbus Local Restaurant Alliance met several times for dynamic meetings discussing various topics impacting the industry and community.

​Read a few highlights below:

  • Columbus City Councilman Shannon Hardin discussed small and minority business development, public service and transportation matters.

News Release: Ohio Restaurant Association inducts Sam Lindsley as Chairman of the Board

COLUMBUS, Ohio (June 12, 2018) – Restaurant and foodservice industry leaders and representatives gathered last week in Columbus to celebrate the installation of Sam Lindsley of Michael Symon Restaurants as the 90th Chairman of the Ohio Restaurant Association (ORA).

"I'm incredibly humbled and thrilled for this opportunity to be the at the helm of Ohio's restaurant and foodservice industry. This is going to be an exciting chapter for all of us as we move forward together, " Lindsley said, who for 10 years was chief operating officer of Michael Symon Restaurants — a Cleveland-based restaurant company with seven concepts, 18 restaurants and annual sales of $35 million.

Lindsley continues today as Director of Consult with Michael S...