In 1983, Ema Haq embarked on a remarkable journey from his homeland of Bangladesh to the heart of Cajun Country in Lafayette, Louisiana. The differences between these two worlds couldn't be more striking – from the sounds of accordions and the presence of alligators to the unique culture of Louisiana. For Haq, this move marked the beginning of an incredible life journey that eventually led him to become a restaurateur with a heart of gold.
Haq's family, despite their good fortune, always remained deeply aware of the pervasive poverty surrounding them in Bangladesh. They were committed to using their abundance to provide nourishment and encouragement to those in need. Haq remembers, "If you talked to my father for more than five minutes, the conversation would turn to helping others. If you gave him five dollars or a million dollars, he'd take what he needed, and I guarantee he’d give the rest away to charity."
His mother shared the same spirit of generosity, even dedicating her life to charity work until her passing. The Haq family's philosophy was not just about feeding the hungry but also teaching people how to improve their lives and escape poverty. "Teaching people to fish, not only helping them eat, was my father's lifelong goal," Haq explains. "He constantly encouraged everyone, not just his children, to strive for higher education, especially in helping underprivileged people rise from poverty."
The Haq family's strong emphasis on education led them to send their youngest child to an American high school in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, where they resided. However, when it was time for college, Haq felt drawn to the United States, following his instinct and choosing to pursue his education there. His determination brought him to Lafayette, Louisiana, almost exactly 180 degrees around the globe from Dhaka.
At the University of Louisiana at Lafayette (then USL), Haq found himself dancing between two careers – mechanical engineering and foodservice. He recalls his humble beginnings in the restaurant industry, saying, "I couldn't even cook rice when I came from Bangladesh. To pay for school, my first job was washing dishes in the cafeteria. Then I worked as a busboy, a cook, and a waiter. Later, I managed the restaurant Shangri-La. After graduation, I worked in the oil fields as a full-time mechanical engineer. I opened Bailey's in 1993."
One of the most heartwarming stories about Ema Haq centers around his first Thanksgiving in the United States. Alone and facing a foodless weekend, a friend's mother, Barbara Jardell, extended an invitation for him to join her family's Thanksgiving celebration. This act of kindness left an indelible mark on Haq. He recalls the moment vividly, saying, "I didn't know what the holiday really was, and I was just a college student happy to have a few days off when my friend Jeff Jardell called with the invitation from his mother Barbara. Jeff picked me up, and I still remember walking into that house with everyone seated around the table, smiling at me, waiting for me. So, I ate! It was wonderful."
Barbara Jardell's generosity, which included transportation to her home, serves as the model for Haq's annual Thanksgiving feasts for those without access to a traditional holiday meal. For the past 31 years, Ema Haq, along with Barbara, and a team of dedicated volunteers have been serving 300 guests in the dining room of his restaurant, Bailey's, on real China and silverware, providing a special experience for the most underserved in Lafayette.
In addition to the in-restaurant meals, an additional 1,500 Thanksgiving meals are delivered to elderly and veteran residents of Lafayette who may receive meals on wheels, but often face disruptions during the holiday season. Ema Haq fills this gap, ensuring that no one goes hungry on Thanksgiving.
Now, Haq's circle includes that of his three grown children, all of which return to Lafayette to join friends and staff to support this heartwarming tradition. This labor of love reflects on the spirit of giving back instilled in him by his parents.
Ema Haq's journey from Bangladesh to Lafayette is a testament to the power of education and the incredible impact of generosity and kindness. His annual Thanksgiving feast is a living embodiment of the values instilled in him by his family and the love and support he has found in his community.
As we gather around our own Thanksgiving tables, we can all draw inspiration from Ema Haq's story and the warmth of his Thanksgiving tradition.
Louisiana, renowned for its rich culinary heritage blending diverse ethnicities, stands as a testament to the vibrant tapestry of flavors woven from bountiful seafood, exquisite produce, and exceptional meats like cattle and pork.
On National Philanthropy Day, November 15, the LRA Education Foundation (LRAEF) takes a momentous opportunity to acknowledge and extend gratitude to its annual partners. These partners stand as pillars, enabling the Foundation to serve the restaurant industry and nurture the culinary passion of aspiring talents.
The LRAEF has propelled initiatives that have significantly impacted high school culinary and restaurant management education across 58 schools. The ProStart program, engaging over 2,200 students, is a cornerstone endeavor, fostering skills, and expertise within the industry's future leaders.
"These activities are only possible with the support of the industry we serve," said Jonathan Baynham, LRAEF Executive Director. “This steadfast commitment has fostered the ProStart School Support Fund, empowering instructors to access grants twice a year. These grants cater to essential needs such as small wares, cooking lab ingredients, competition readiness, and invaluable field trips.”
Moreover, the LRAEF Scholars Program, fueled by the generosity of industry contributions, has made higher education in culinary and hospitality accessible to aspiring individuals. Since its inception in 2009, the Foundation has dispersed an awe-inspiring $750,000 to support individuals pursuing or continuing their college education in these fields.
In 2023, the LRAEF is honored to recognize the unwavering support of partners: In 2023, those partners are: Raising Cane's Chicken Fingers; Baton Rouge Epicurean Society, Auto-Chlor System, Acme Oyster House, Emeril Lagasse Foundation, Ecolab, BRG Hospitality, Louisiana Restaurant Association, Tabasco, NRA Educational Foundation, Atmos Energy, Louisiana Seafood, Louisiana Hospitality Foundation, Coca-Cola Bottling - UNITED, Zea Rotisserie & Bar, PJ's Coffee, Fore! Kids Foundation, B&G Foods (Taco Bell), Sysco, Brechtel Hospitality, Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group, University of New Orleans - School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism, Natco Food Service, Republic National Distributing Company, QED Hospitality, MMI Culinary, Octavio Mantilla Family Trust and Entergy Louisiana.
The LRA Education Foundation proudly stands as the industry's charity, an institution fervently dedicated to preparing and empowering the next generation of culinary maestros and managerial prodigies. With the support and benevolence of these partners, the Foundation forges ahead, ensuring the legacy of Louisiana's culinary excellence endures through the hands and hearts of future generations.
Interested in the LRAEF Annual Partner program and how you can support the future of our industry, contant Jonathan Baynham at email@example.com.
Time, Temperature and Cleanliness are Top Priorities for Safely Enjoying Thanksgiving Dinner and Leftovers
The Louisiana Restaurant Association Shares its Top Five Food Safety Tips for the Holiday
What is the key ingredient that’s often missing on Thanksgiving? An understanding of food safety principles that can prevent foodborne illness tops the list. To combat these common mistakes, ServSafe®, the National Restaurant Association and Louisiana Restaurant Association are sharing their top five food safety tips.
“Thanksgiving is a holiday centered around food and spending quality time together. The last thing we want to do is mar that with a foodborne illness because we left food sitting on the counter for too long,” said Patrick Guzzle, vice president, Food Science at the National Restaurant Association. “Our research shows that, while consumers are confident that they know how to safely handle raw meat, only half know the proper internal temperature for cooked poultry, like chicken and turkey.”
The top five tips for a safe and healthy Thanksgiving include:
“The CDC estimates that 48 million people become sick from foodborne illness each year. Time, temperature and cleanliness should be your three top considerations for both preparing food and storing leftovers to keep your guests safe,” Guzzle added. “With these considerations and proper planning around allergens, everyone can better enjoy their holiday and leftover turkey sandwiches, cranberry sauce and apple pie.”
The National Restaurant Association surveyed 2,204 adults in the United States from August 29 – September 1, 2023.
It is with heavy hearts that we announce the passing of a beloved figure in the Greater Baton Rouge area restaurant scene, Abigail "Abby" Hamilton. Abby was the Executive Director for the Baton Rouge Epicurean Society, and her impact on the local culinary community was immeasurable.
Abby dedicated her life to promoting and celebrating the rich culinary heritage of Baton Rouge. Her unwavering passion for food and her boundless energy made her an indispensable force in the local restaurant industry. She was a driving force behind countless events, fundraisers, and initiatives that brought the community together to celebrate the art of fine dining.
One of Abby's most significant contributions was her role in the Baton Rouge Epicurean Society, where she served as the Executive Director. Under her leadership, the society became a beacon of culinary excellence, hosting events that showcased the talents of local chefs and provided opportunities for up-and-coming culinary stars to shine.
The Greater Baton Rouge area owes much of its thriving food scene to Abby's dedication and tireless efforts. She had an incredible ability to bring people together through their shared love of food and culture. Abby's enthusiasm was contagious, and her legacy will continue to inspire and uplift the local restaurant community.
In honor of Abby's memory, Stephen Hightower, President of the Greater Baton Rouge Chapter of the Louisiana Restaurant Association and also serving as President of the Baton Rouge Epicurean Society, shared these heartfelt words: "Abby was not just a colleague but a dear friend to many of us in the Greater Baton Rouge area restaurant industry. Her passion for food, her commitment to supporting local culinary talent, and her warm spirit made her an irreplaceable presence in our lives. We will forever be grateful for her contributions, and her memory will continue to inspire us to push the boundaries of culinary excellence."
Abby's passing leaves a void that cannot be filled, but her legacy will live on in the heart of Baton Rouge's restaurant scene. As we remember and celebrate her life, let us also honor her by continuing to support and uplift the local culinary community she loved so dearly. Abby's dedication and love for food will forever be a part of Baton Rouge's vibrant food culture.
Our thoughts and condolences go out to Abby's family, friends, and all those whose lives were touched by her infectious enthusiasm and unwavering commitment to the culinary arts. She will be deeply missed, but her spirit will remain a guiding light in the Greater Baton Rouge area restaurant community.
The National Restaurant Association (NRA) is collecting information about current business conditions in the restaurant industry. Should take less than 15 minutes to complete. Deadline is Nov. 12. Take the survey here.
Quick Take: The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has released its final joint employer rule, broadening the conditions under which two businesses might be considered jointly liable for legal issues or organizing campaigns. The National Restaurant Association strongly opposes the NLRB’s final rule.
This rule will come into effect on December 26, 2023.
History Revisited: Previously, joint employer status was largely contingent on an entity's “direct and immediate control” over the key terms of another organization's employees. The 2020 Final Rule provided clear boundaries, granting certainty to industry participants.
What’s New: The NLRB's latest update expands the joint employer standard. Now, entities can be jointly classified by "sharing or co-determining" essential aspects of employment terms. This change encompasses both indirect influences and reserved controls. Entities identified as joint employers are obligated to participate in collective bargaining with the union representing their shared employees. Furthermore, they're potentially liable for each other's unfair labor practices and become vulnerable to union pressures in the event of labor disputes.
Expanding the Scope:
The implications of the rule aren't confined to explicit, direct relationships. Circumstances where an entity impacts another’s employees through intermediaries or merely possesses (but does not exercise) control over employment conditions can now indicate a joint employer dynamic.
Who’s Affected: The franchise business model is squarely in the crosshairs. While the 2020 Final Rule, under the "direct and immediate" standard, provided a conducive environment for the industry to flourish, the current iteration neglects the industry's concerns. In the Association and Restaurant Law Center’s (RLC) comments to the proposed rule, we emphasized that, at the very least, the rule should clarify that it does not encompass franchise agreements or other clauses tied to legitimate business reasons, such as brand maintenance and product quality. Regrettably, our suggestions weren't heeded.
Bigger Picture: This is not just a minor regulatory adjustment; it's a foundational change. The rule's lack of clarity could spur extensive legal challenges and increased liability risks. Amid these unprecedented challenges, the Association and RLC are exploring all avenues, including potential legislative and legal actions, to restore a practical standard.
For More Information:
The following interview was published in LaPolitics on Thursday, October 12, 2023
In a brief Q&A with LaPolitics Weekly's Jeremy Alford, Stan Harris, President and CEO of the Louisiana Restaurant Association, discusses key industry issues. Covering topics from the proposed U.S. Department of Labor overtime pay threshold to members' concerns about insurance costs and state income tax legislation, Harris provides succinct insights. The conversation also touches on the 2024 session and the association's efforts to educate the new Legislature. Harris, drawing on his 30-year leadership in the restaurant industry, briefly reflects on personal connections. This interview offers a concise snapshot of policy, industry concerns, and Harris's professional journey.
JA: The U.S. Department of Labor is proposing a new threshold for overtime pay, so there are a lot of folks in the restaurant or hospitality industries trying to figure out how this fits into current operational structures. What are you hearing from your members?
SH: Stan Harris, president and CEO of the Louisiana Restaurant Association: Obviously this proposed new rule would impact a significant number of restaurants, bars and others in our industry. At present, we are encouraging them to submit their comments or questions during the comment period. Doubtful it will have much impact, but feedback is always important.
JA: What were some of the issues your members were hoping to hear about from candidates this cycle?
SH: Statewide, the cost and availability of commercial insurance, especially property and also flood, are top of mind. The same goes for crime and public safety. And the last is how do we create legislation that would eliminate the state income tax. As most small businesses, like LRA members, are pass-thru enterprises, this could provide a great benefit to them.
JA: What’s at the top of your membership’s to-do list for the 2024 regular session?
SH: Working with the new Legislature to educate them on the challenges of operating a restaurant, bar or catering business as well as how important our industry is to providing first jobs and second chances. We also need an update to our workers comp system’s medical fee schedule, which is a hidden cost. We missed that opportunity the last term.
JA: When it comes to association management, what are your expectations for next term? There will be plenty of new elected personalities to meet and work with in the coming months…
SH: Relationships in politics are valuable. Our goal is to provide clarity and accuracy in our information on issues we engage on. Being truthful is the best currency.
JA: Most folks reading this probably know you from your public policy work, but you actually spent 30 years in leadership roles in the restaurant industry, including with TJM Restaurant Management. You’re still working in the same arena, so to speak, but what do you miss most about that direct connection to the hospitality industry?
SH: I miss a great deal of our team members. I hear from and see a lot of them across the country. Congressman Mike Johnson was one of our team members, as was Representative Laurie Schlegel. I made great friendships with many of our guests, and keeping those connections are important to me.
The LRA Acadiana Chapter celebrated a triumphant inaugural golf tournament on October 16 at The Wetlands Golf Course in Lafayette. A perfect backdrop of clear blue skies and crisp breezes set the stage for a day of golf, all in support of a worthy cause—the proceeds benefiting LRA programs, notably ProStart.
The team from Superior Grill clinched the first-place victory, and in a playful nod, Randy Daniel, Acadiana Chapter President, humorously attributed their win to abstaining from their tempting frozen margaritas they were expertly serving, giving them a distinct edge.
A heartfelt expression of gratitude goes out to our generous sponsors whose support made the LRA Acadiana Chapter's inaugural golf tournament a resounding success: Ben E. Keith, Shilling's (Mike's Hard Lemonade, Corona, & Bud Light), Lafayette CVB, Tony Chachere's, Louisiana Seafood, Mel's Diner, Republic National Distributing Company (Pernod Richard), Coca-Cola, Sysco, Performance Foodservice, LRA Workers' Comp, Loop Linen, Buffalo Wild Wings, Raising Cane's, and Cintas.
Special thanks are also extended to the participating restaurants and dedicated members who ensured our golfers were not only well-equipped but well-fed, including Fezzo's, Prejean's, Mel's Diner, Deano's, Buffalo Wild Wings, Superior Grill, Mercy Kitchen/La Pizzeria, Ruffino's on the River, Zea's, Tony Chachere's, Petroleum Club of Lafayette, Sysco, Capitol City Produce, and Ben E. Keith.
The success of this event not only showcased the skill and camaraderie of the participating teams but also demonstrated the community's commitment to supporting the LRA’s meaningful initiatives. Congratulations to all involved for a memorable day of golf for a good cause!
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is proposing significant changes to restaurant pricing, aiming to eliminate mandatory fees and provide recommendations on tipping and credit card charges. The National Restaurant Association (NRA) is closely monitoring, expressing concerns about perceived overreach. The NRA highlights potential impacts on restaurants, questions the FTC's authority, and emphasizes the need for industry education. Updates for LRA members will be provided as discussions progress.
Here's a brief summary of the proposed changes, NRA concerns, and ongoing efforts to inform the restaurant community.
Proposed Impact on Restaurants:
Concerns about FTC Overreach from the NRA:
"This proposed rule appears to be a scattershot plan that both attacks the restaurant business model and forces us to raise our prices. Small business restaurant owners create the economic engines of their local economies, which is why it is disappointing that this proposed rule appears to be a one-size-fits-all rule for businesses big and small. We’re still closely reviewing what the FTC has included about restaurants and analyzing the ways in which their proposal will fundamentally change the way restaurants do business so that we can provide appropriate comments on what we expect will be far-reaching impacts." --Sean Kennedy, Executive Vice President of Public Affairs, National Restaurant Association
Rough Timeline for the FTC Proposed Rule on “Unfair or Deceptive Fees”:
We appreciate your ongoing attention to this matter and will keep you updated as we delve deeper into the implications of the proposed rule.
Bite-sized Brilliance: LRA Northshore's Sip N Slider's Event Delights Palates and Ignites Culinary Passion!
The LRA Northshore Chapter recently hosted its annual Chow Down event, featuring mini burgers in its Sip N Slider's themed gathering. This unique event brought together local businesses and students from Salmen High School, Pearl River High School, Mandeville High School, and Lakeshore High School, who collaborated with participating LRA member restaurants, including Acme Oyster House, Mr. Mudbug Catering, Zea Rotisserie, and Tchefuncte's Restaurant.
The event took place on October 12 at The Anchor in Madisonville and served as a platform for the Northshore area ProStart Programs to showcase their culinary talents. The highlight of the occasion was the mentorship provided by the partnering restaurants, offering valuable insights to the students and elevating their slider-making skills.
A special thanks goes to the event sponsors, including Southern Glazer's Wine & Spirits, Ecolab, Acme Oyster House, PJ's Coffee, LRA Workers' Comp, Piggly Wiggly, and Sysco, whose support contributed significantly to the success of the event. Their involvement reflects a strong commitment to community engagement and the development of local talent.
Overall, the Chow Down event not only celebrated culinary creativity but also fostered collaboration between the community's businesses and educational institutions. The students had the opportunity to gain hands-on experience and learn from industry professionals, making it a memorable and enriching experience for all involved.