National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation Awarded $600,000 Grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation
The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF) was awarded $600,000 from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation to implement and expand Restaurant Ready and hospitality apprenticeships in New Orleans and throughout the state of Louisiana.
Restaurant Ready is a national program dedicated to helping young adults acquire the basic
job and life skills necessary to pursue employment in the restaurant industry and jumpstart a pathway to independence.
Young adults currently enrolled in Restaurant Ready learn from restaurant leaders on how they can jumpstart their careers.
The funds will allow the NRAEF and its partners to provide young adults—ages 16-24 who are disconnected from employment and formal education—with basic jobs skills training at two sites in New Orleans throughout the state.
The restaurant and foodservice industry is a major economic driver in Louisiana, employing 1 in 10 people statewide. By 2029, Louisiana is projected to grow restaurant and foodservice jobs by 7 percent, resulting in 228,400 total restaurant and foodservice jobs across the state.
“We are thrilled to receive this grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. This initiative will help young people reach their full potential by way of direct connections to good jobs and a better future through opportunities in our industry,” said Rob Gifford, president of the NRAEF. “The Hilton Foundation is dedicated to improving the lives of disadvantaged individuals, and we are proud to support them on their path to success.”
To address challenges at the local level, the NRAEF will collaborate with a network of community-based organizations (CBOs) and the Louisiana Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. Participating CBOs include Café Reconcile, Liberty’s Kitchen and more – each will offer job-readiness training, entry-level employment and apprenticeship opportunities aligned with in-demand occupations.
“We are excited to partner with the NRAEF and Conrad N. Hilton Foundation to facilitate local connections with the NRAEF,” said Stan Harris, president and CEO of the Louisiana Restaurant Association and the NRAEF’s 2020 Board Chair. “With help from the Hilton Foundation, we will build a direct hiring pipeline from the community-based organizations conducting the trainings to the employers who can hire these young adults as soon as they’re ready.”
The funds will build on the NRAEF’s 2019 grant, where the Foundation began engaging with local partners and employers to implement Restaurant Ready.
Nearly 1 in 5 young people in Louisiana meet the definition of opportunity youth: young adults ages 16 to 24 are not currently engaged with school or work. Opportunity youth are statistically more likely to come from low-income families, racial and/or ethnic minority backgrounds and more likely to experience homelessness, substance abuse, teen pregnancy and long-term unemployment.
Visit ChooseRestaurants.org to get involved with the NRAEF and its work to build pathways to meaningful jobs and careers in restaurants and foodservice.
When it comes to restaurants, Melvin Rodrigue has a voracious appetite – whether he’s eating at one or running it. Plain and simple, he loves this business.
That may not have always been the case – Rodrigue started out as a pre-med student at Tulane University. But, after taking a job at Dickie Brennan’s famous Palace Café in New Orleans, he changed course quickly. At 19 he was a protégé. By 24, he was the CEO of a restaurant company.
Now, nearly 25 years later, Rodrigue, the proud father of four daughters and president and CEO of Louisiana’s renowned Galatoire’s Restaurant Group, will be using his smart, hospitable approach to not only growing his own business, but to advancing our industry as 2020 chair of the National Restaurant Association.
If there’s one thing to know about Melvin, says Wendy Waren, vice president of communications for the Louisiana Restaurant Association, it’s that he is always willing to serve. “He is extremely professional; he knows how to take care of people, and how to create great experiences.
To this day, he gets calls for reservations at Galatoire’s, and he takes care of them himself, even though he’s president and CEO. That is who he is, he doesn’t put on any airs. He just makes sure we achieve the desired outcome, taking care of our guests.”
Rodrigue admits he was born to pursue a career as an industry leader. For one thing, he enjoyed every aspect of the learning. He was hungry to know everything and become expert at it. He was so eager to learn, mentors who coached him along the way actively advanced him from one opportunity to the next.
“When people ask what my favorite part of the job is or why I love the restaurant industry, I tell them two things: I get a rush from knowing we’ve all worked hard to create a great experience for our customers, and I love being a mentor to others to help them achieve their own career goals,” he says.
Rodrigue, who just started his year-long tenure as Association chair in January, has worked hard to enhance the reputation of New Orleans and Galatoire’s. As chair, he hopes to help enhance and advance the entire restaurant industry.
“We offer so much opportunity – more than most people might imagine,” he says. “No other businesses allow their people to grow as quickly as ours do. It doesn’t matter if they have high-school educations or master’s degrees. Our industry embraces the entrepreneurial spirit and embodies the American dream. If you have passion, commitment, and a good work ethic, you can go very far.”
It all started at Ralph & Kacoo’s with a temptingly tasty seafood platter served at the end of young Stan Harris’ first shift as a dishwasher.
“Every day since has been an adventure,” says Harris, now president and CEO of the Louisiana Restaurant Association. “I have zero regrets serving all these years in the restaurant business.”
Harris spent 27 years with TJM Restaurant Management, which was the largest franchisee of Ruth’s Chris Steak House, including stints as president and CEO of the firm. He’s also a past president of the Council of State Restaurant Associations and director on the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau board.
Last month, he began serving as the chair of the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation Board of Trustees, the philanthropic foundation of the National Restaurant Association. Founded in 1919, the National Restaurant Association is the leading business association for the restaurant industry, which is comprised of 1 million restaurant and foodservice outlets and boasts a workforce of 15.3 million employees.
Also this year, Melvin Rodrigue, president and CEO of Galatoire’s Restaurants, is serving as chair of the National Restaurant Association board of directors.
“I’m proud that Louisiana is so well represented,” says Harris. “Our state has 9,500 restaurants, with a restaurant in every parish. We are 1.4% of the nation’s population but we have a huge impact in this industry.”
During his time with Ruth’s Chris, Harris was in charge of 2,300 employees. He says in order to succeed, “You need to put together a team full of cheerful people who can work together, can handle the occasional pressure and who come back to do it again tomorrow.”
He says one of the best things the restaurant industry can offer employees is upward mobility. If someone comes to him saying they’re interested in starting a career in food service he likes to ask them questions geared toward their personality like, “Do you like to smile? Do you have a servant heart? Can you enjoy working when others play? Do you like to count?”
“We are always counting things in this industry — from napkins and cups to steaks and tips,” he says. “To be successful, the formula is relatively simple: you need the right people, a quality product and great execution.”
One of the educational programs in his industry for which Harris expresses pride is ProStart, a two-year program for high school students. From culinary techniques to management skills, the curriculum provides real-world educational opportunities and builds practical skills and a strong foundation.
“It’s a robust program in Louisiana: it’s at 60 high schools across the state,” says Harris. “It can truly jump start their careers in this industry.”
Yvette Green, interim director of UNO’s Lester E. Kabacoff School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Administration has high praise for Harris.
“Stan has been a restaurant operator, so he understands the challenges that owners and operators face,” she says. “He understands the restaurant business, and he is an effective advocate for our restaurants at the local, state and national levels. As an educator, I appreciate that Stan understands workforce development and education are important factors to the success of our restaurant industry.”
Harris says he loves that in his job no day is the same and that he is able, on a regular basis, to savor so many culinary delights.
“The other day I had boudin cakes topped with a poached egg and hollandaise over an English muffin at the Roosevelt,” he says. “It was for a national meeting. In New Orleans we live to eat, and I love sharing that with others.”
Rodrigue says he has had the privilege of sharing many great meals across the country with Harris.
“The most memorable, though, was at a seafood shack in Florida where we shared stone crabs at a picnic table,” he says. “We share an affinity for the delicacy, and he managed to find this location after a round of golf. They were giant and spectacular!”
One of the things that Harris hopes people realize is the breadth and scope of his industry’s philanthropic side.
“We are at every charitable event,” he says. “We donate food or offer “Dinner for Two” for auctions at churches, schools and other non-profit fundraising events. Our industry is full of generous people giving back.”
But the thing Harris loves most is the fact that restaurants are a part of their customers’ extended family.
“We celebrate their birthdays and holidays with them,” he says. “And here in Louisiana, we simply celebrate eating another meal.”
On Dec. 20, 2019, the President signed legislation amending the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, and raising the federal minimum age of sale of tobacco products from 18 to 21 years. It is now illegal for a retailer to sell any tobacco product—including cigarettes, cigars and e-cigarettes—to anyone under 21.
Effective immediately, retailers must not sell tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21. FDA recognizes that both the agency and some retailers will need to update current practices to implement this new law as FDA will need time to do outreach and education to retailers and update the Agency’s programmatic work to reflect this change in law. During this period of transition, the FDA expects retailers to follow the law and take measures to ensure an individual purchasing a tobacco product is 21 or older, including manually checking IDs when needed. However, during this ramp-up period, FDA will continue to only use minors under the age of 18 in its compliance check program.
FDA has free resources available to assist retailers in calculating the age of customers. Retailers who use FDA’s This is Our Watch digital age verification calendar may update the minimum purchase age on the calendar to 21 years. Instructions on how to update the age on the digital calendar are available on FDA’s website. Retailers who would like a This is Our Watch digital age verification calendar may order one free of charge from FDA's Center for Tobacco Products Exchange Lab. Additionally, retailers who use FDA’s Age Calculator app should update the age limit to 21 years through the app settings. Instructions are provided within the help feature of the app.
FDA’s enforcement of the federal minimum age of purchase for tobacco products is ongoing. To date, the agency has conducted more than 1 million compliance checks of tobacco retailers.
FDA will be updating our website and other materials, including our regulations, in the near future to reflect the change in law.
By: Stacy Hall, LDH Immunization Program Director & Frank J. Welch MD, MSPH – Medical Director OPH-BCP
Louisiana has had an intense flu season, with two strains of the flu, B/Victoria and A(H1N1) being responsible for most reported illnesses in the U.S. In early August, we first started seeing cases of the B/Victoria strain. It was this strain that caused Louisiana to have widespread flu activity for most of the flu season. Now, we are seeing less of that strain, but more of the A (H1N1) strain. This is the case in throughout the U.S. as well as in Louisiana. Therefore, we’re worried that Louisiana may experience another influenza peak.
This season’s vaccine contains these two major circulating strains, so getting vaccinated for the flu offers the best protection. Getting vaccinated reduces the severity of illness and complications. This means there’s less chance a person with flu would be hospitalized, or if hospitalized less chance a person would go to the ICU.
The vaccine also protects those around you, including young children and older adults, who are at higher risk of developing severe flu illness or even death.
Vaccines are recommended for everyone 6 months and older, except those with a medical reason not to be vaccinated. Pregnant women should be vaccinated to protect themselves and their babies. Family and friends should be vaccinated to protect newborn babies.
Vaccines are available at any parish health unit throughout flu season at no cost to the patient. Local pharmacies, clinics, doctors’ offices and federally qualified (community) health centers also will offer flu shots throughout the season. Check FighttheFlu for a flu shot provider near you.
This season's flu vaccine offers protection against 2 A and 2 B strains of influenza virus. Early data suggests the vaccine has been a very good match with the current A (H1N1). However, it has not been as effective against the B/Victoria strain. Even if the B strain is not well matched this year, it still offers some protection, especially from more serious illness.
The Louisiana Department of Health offers these reminders to help keep people from spreading the flu:
Flu shot facts
A flu vaccine is the first and best way to reduce your chances of getting the flu and spreading it to others. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Louisiana Department of Health recommend a yearly flu shot for everyone over 6 months of age who does not have a complicating condition, such as a prior allergic reaction to the flu shot.
As the 2020 Mardi Gras season kicks into full swing later this month, expect increased enforcement measures to be taken by the Fire Marshal to ensure premise capacities are being adhered to and by the ATC to curtail alcohol and tobacco products being sold to individuals under the age of 21. To avoid citations and possible license revocation, please review these friendly reminders for establishments, particularly along parade routes, that are licensed to serve alcoholic beverages.
Here are some tips from LRA members who've experienced restaurant ownership during Mardi Gras for decades:
If there's a tip we've overlooked that you'd like to share, please email us here.
Have a safe and happy Mardi Gras season!
The Louisiana Restaurant Association is pleased to announce its 2020 chapter presidents who will lead its membership in the upcoming year. The LRA is comprised of nine chapters across the state, each designed to support advocacy and membership activities. Every year, each chapters’ Board of Directors elects an individual in the industry to serve as President. This year’s leaders, who volunteer their time and efforts at the highest level, are charged with localizing the overall LRA member experience and cultivating opportunities for growth within the association.
The 2020 LRA Chapter Presidents are:
Our 2020 leadership boasts of an exciting mix of LRA veterans along with some new and enthusiastic industry professionals,” said LRA President and CEO Stan Harris. “This balance will usher us into the new decade with new ideas and perspectives while having the experience necessary to carry them successfully to fruition.”
The Louisiana Restaurant Association Education Foundation is pleased to announce the application period for its annual scholarship program is now open. The scholarships are awarded to individuals interested in pursuing a career in the culinary and/or hospitality industry.
Since the fund’s inception in 2009, the LRAEF has awarded over $500,000 in scholarships to 233 Louisiana individuals to further their post-secondary education. While these individuals have experience in a variety of roles, in different parts of the state, they all share an enthusiasm and optimism for the future of the restaurant industry.
“Each year we recognize a remarkable group with incredible potential,” Julie Talbot, LRAEF Executive Director Julie Talbot. “As the demand for highly skilled applicants continues to be a challenge for independent restaurant operators, our LRAEF scholars will be well-positioned for a successful career in the industry.”
“I am so grateful to the LRA for their support,” said 2019 scholar Dustin Rockwell. “It’s a relief to have these scholarship dollars so I can focus on my education and not how I’m going to pay my bills from month to month. I’m looking forward to completing my education and getting back out into the workforce to serve my community to the best of my abilities.”
Another 2019 scholar, Brock Nichols, was even chosen to prepare and serve food at the Masters Tournament in Augusta, Georgia.
The 2020 scholarships include the Jim Funk Scholarship, LRAEF ProStart Scholarship, LRA Board Fund Scholarship, LRA CENLA Chapter Scholarship and the Louisiana Seafood Scholarship. The deadline to apply is 11:59 p.m., January 31, 2020, and scholars will be announced in early spring. Applicants only need to submit one application for consideration. For eligibility criteria and to apply, click here.
For more information, contact the LRAEF office at 504-454-2277 or LRAEF@lra.org.
The Louisiana Restaurant Association Education Foundation is pleased to announce the election of a new Chair and Board Member to its Board of Directors, who oversee the mission and goals of the LRAEF. They assumed their new roles January 1, 2020, each for a two-year term.
Matt Massey of Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers will serve as the new Chair of the Foundation. Massey is the company’s Regional Vice President and responsible for nearly 100 restaurants throughout Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas and Texas. He has worked with the company for more than 12 years.
“As the Chair of the LRAEF, it is an honor to promote the restaurant industry and make a meaningful difference in the lives of others,” said Massey. “Our education and training programs support and inspire students to discover a passion for foodservice – and it is through this investment in tomorrow’s leaders that we can ensure a robust and vibrant industry for generations to come.”
Craig Dennison of Fair Grounds Race Course and Slots in New Orleans will serve as the Foundation’s new Secretary/Treasurer. Dennison has been at the Fair Grounds since 1990 and oversees its food and beverage program.
The LRAEF, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, was founded in 1995 and is governed by a Board of Directors made up of restaurants, industry experts and educators in the hospitality industry.
The Board of Directors is responsible for overseeing the LRAEF programs, including ProStart and the LRAEF Scholarship Fund. ProStart is a nationwide, two-year program for high school students that develops the best and brightest talent into tomorrow’s industry leaders. The Board of Directors also awards LRAEF scholarships annually to students pursuing a culinary education. Since 2010, the LRAEF has awarded nearly $500,000.
The LRAEF is appreciative of the support of the nine LRA chapters who support its mission throughout the year and its annual partners: Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers, Acme Oyster House, Auto-Chlor System, National Restaurant Association, Louisiana Hospitality Foundation, Baton Rouge Epicurean Society, Performance Foodservice, Emeril Lagasse Foundation, Fore!Kids Foundation, McIlhenny Company, PJ’s Coffee, B&G Food Enterprises, Atmos Energy, Sysco and Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.
The Louisiana Restaurant Association is pleased to announce its 2020 volunteer leadership with Peter Scalfani as its Chair. Scalfani is the owner of Down South Hospitality and a partner in Phil’s Oyster Bar & Seafood Restaurant in Baton Rouge. He is Past Chair of the LRA Education Foundation, served as Chapter President of the Greater Baton Rouge Chapter and has chaired several LRA board committees. He represented the LRA on the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board. In 2014, he was awarded one of LRA’s highest honors and named Restaurateur of the Year.
“The LRA is fortunate to be led by individuals actively involved in the restaurant industry,” explained Stan Harris, LRA President and CEO. “Those who serve as officers or directors not only successfully run their own businesses but have volunteered countless hours in leadership to our organization. The core of what we do is to advocate for reasonable and predictable regulations that could impact our industry. Our board, whose members are statewide, provides a solid grass roots base.”
Listed as follows are the 2020 officers of the LRA:
The following members were elected to serve as an LRA Director for a one-year term in 2020:
Greater Baton Rouge Chapter:
Greater New Orleans Chapter: