Throughout 2016, the LRA will take a look back at issues that restaurateurs have faced and embraced over the past 70 years, as they coincide with this year’s a la carte editorial topics. Each January, we celebrate the incoming leaders of the association, with LRA Chair Katy Casbarian holding the gavel in 2016 (learn more about her on page 10). Who were some notable LRA leaders in the 1940s, 50s, 60s, and beyond?
The LRA’s first president was Clifton L. Ganus, a successful New Orleans businessman who established A&G Cafeteria, Mrs. Drake Sandwiches and the Clifton L. Ganus School. He led the association in 1946-1947 and was instrumental in establishing the LRA.
In the late 1940s and early 1950s, the LRA was enteringthe golden, post-World War II era of prosperity and—televisions! So novel was the emergence of the TV that A la carte dedicated an entire issue to its new popularity in
December 1948. From the article, “What Television Means to the Restaurant Operator, “ a la carte staff reported that “The operator who does not install television may be faced with serious competition from a competitor down the street who can offer TV to his customers.” It was also advised that restaurant owners not fret the “free loading” customer: “Most of your customers will not take advantage of you by sitting through a free show without ordering. The few deadheads can be adequately dealt with as you would deal with any non-paying customer.”
Ever wonder when the LRA began sending employees out in the field to recruit members? This magazine reported on the LRA Board’s decision to add a “fieldman” to the staff in 1968. LRA President Jack Tullos, Jr. of Chateau Charles Motor Hotel in Lake Charles, who was president from 1967-1968, explained the decision:
“Now, for the first time since I can remember, we have a real opportunity to go on the offensive…” and further noted that this new employee will have “…a company car and an expense account. He will travel. He will know his business, and be ready to help individual operators while he is working with the various chapters on membership projects, industry relations, and in many other areas.” The LRA now boasts seven regional directors that criss-cross the state on a daily basis. These women are the modern equivalent to the LRA’s first “fieldman.”
The LRA’s leadership has long enjoyed close ties with national business groups and in 1975, that was no exception. It was reported in a la carte that Joe Fein, Jr., owner of The Court of Two Sisters in New Orleans, was appointed as a member of the National Advisory Council of the Small Business Association. Fein was the LRA president from 1966-1967. The Fein family still owns and operates The Court of Two Sisters.
In the 1980s, the computer was becoming a major technological advancement, with many restaurants considering the cost and benefits of purchasing one. In the April 1985 issue of a la carte, much like the Television Issue almost 40 years earlier, a new technology and how it would impact restaurants was examined. LRA President Herb Roller, who was general manager of the Brent House Hotel, led the association in 1985 and introduced the topic in his opening letter. In the article, “Computers Can Help in the Restaurant Business,” Don Gerald, general manager of Ralph & Kacoo’s, shared his restaurant’s experience with owning a computer. “We use our computer to enhance our business and we try not to become a slave to the machine.” He also found that their computer shortened man hours, assisted payroll and generated reports with sales information. In 2016, to live and work without a computer would be almost impossible, especially since 64 percent of Americans own a smartphone—a handheld computer with us day and night.
In 1997, the LRA President was Louis Dupuy, owner of Julien’s Famous Cajun Style Po-Boys in Lafayette. His year of tenure included an important win for culinary education in Louisiana—the Louisiana Board of Regents unanimously approved the establishment of a Bachelor of Science degree program in Culinary Arts at Nicholls State University. It was the first such degree offering at a public university in the United States. This was the beginning of the baccalaureate program at the Chef John Folse Culinary Institute (CJFCI). In the ensuing years, the CJFCI has become a nationally-respected culinary school, with a brand new, 33,000 square foot facility, the Lanny D. Ledet Culinary Arts Building, opening its doors to students in August 2015. Many ProStart students go on to the CJFCI to continue their culinary education.
The very last year of fifth decade of the LRA’s existence coincided with the costliest and one of the most deadly natural disasters to ever make U.S. landfall—Hurricane Katrina. In late August of 2005, the LRA had just hosted its successful annual EXPO and was gearing up for a busy fall season. On August 29, 2005, Katrina made landfall in Buras, Louisiana and caused widespread and catastrophic flooding from Florida to Texas, with the worst being in the greater New Orleans area. More than 50 levee breaches in New Orleans caused the inundation of more than 80 percent of the city and was responsible for more than 1,400 deaths. Restaurants in the state rallied like never before to re-open and provide jobs for employees who desperately needed work and food relief for first responders and those in their communities. Under the leadership of LRA Chair Les Guerin of Piccadilly Restaurants in Baton Rouge and LRA President & CEO Jim Funk, the LRA was committed to helping members get back on their feet, working long hours to make sure members had answers to all their questions about re-opening their businesses and surviving the storm after “the storm.” The association also quickly established the LRA Restaurant Employee Relief Fund to help defray the costs of bringing displaced employees back home. It’s been a little more than 10 years since Hurricane Katrina and the restaurant industry in Louisiana is more robust than ever before.
In 2011, the LRA’s current President & CEO, Stan Harris, took the helm of the association and the LRA’s growth continues, while the association flourishes. What’s in store for the next 70 years? The LRA will keep advocating on behalf of its members and make sure it’s all written down in the pages of a la carte.
Stay tuned! The Spring issue of a la carte will continue to celebrate the LRA’s 70th anniversary, with legislative issues over the years.