Top 5 Reasons to Join Your State Restaurant Association
Whether you’ve owned a restaurant for a few months or several years, you will have to deal with the ever-present challenges of the foodservice industry, from training new staff on food safety practices to figuring out health care laws. Luckily, your state's restaurant association is there to help you navigate this fast-paced field. This article will discuss the benefits offered by state restaurant associations, and why all restaurant owners should take advantage of the service their association offers.
What is a State Restaurant Association?
State restaurant associations serve as advocates for foodservice and hospitality businesses. Aside from the fact that they work with local governments to block legislation that could be harmful to restaurants in the area, they also provide training resources, access to trade shows, and networking opportunities. This is different from the National Restaurant Association (NRA), which works on a larger scale, and doesn't deal as much with local and state laws and regulations.
What Does a State Restaurant Association Do?
Every state's restaurant association offers slighly different benefits, but their main purpose is the same. Check out the most common perks of membership below:
1. They Lobby on Your Behalf
State restaurant organizations speak on your behalf when it comes to legislative matters that impact the foodservice industry. This aspect of membership is important because it gives you representation on issues that directly affect your business. Specific benefits include:
- Working with government affairs team to instate the most fair policies affecting your business
- Lobbying against unfair taxes affecting the foodservice industry
- Representing you at the state level on relevant issues, including immigration reform, employee benefits and wage regulations, and nutrition disclosure laws
Example: The Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association supported legislation that would allow restaurants to purchase a spirits-expanded permit, similar to the wine-expanded permit that was recently introduced. This effectively allowed foodservice establishments in Pennsylvania to sell bottled liquor and wine, when state law previously only allowed those sales in state-run stores.
2. They Provide Group Buying Power
State restaurant organizations can negotiate discounts for members to reduce business costs that you would normally have to pay for. This benefit alone pays for your membership dues. Specific benefits include:
- Discounts on worker's compensation insurance, employee background checks, and group health care
- Discounts on property and liability insurance
- Lower payroll service rates
- Lower credit card processing fees
Example: The Colorado Restaurant Association partners with their state’s restaurant insurance agency to provide discounts to their members.
3. They Offer Training and Development
State restaurant associations also offer various training programs at free or discounted prices. These resources will help you keep your establishment safe and compliant with health and safety codes. Specific benefits include:
- Trainings for food safety (ServSafe), alcohol safety, workplace safety regulations (OSHA)
- Labor law posters to display in your establishment
- Access to valuable tradeshows and networking opportunities
- Resources that seek to answer your questions regarding foodservice laws and regulations
Example: Aside from the numerous webinars and other training resources, a New York Restaurant Association membership includes one free ticket to the International Restaurant & Foodservice Show of NY.
4. They Keep You Updated on Industry News and Alerts
Restaurant associations have the resources to conduct industry research that’s relevant to your business. This can help you stay current on the latest news and trends, so you can implement them in your establishment. This could mean anything from adding a gluten free option to your menu to changing the structure of your business to suit new healthcare laws. Specific benefits include:
- Keeping you up to date on the latest news, economic reports, and laws affecting your restaurant
- Helping you discover foodservice industry trends before they emerge
- Providing magazines, quarterly reports, and newsletters
Example: California Restaurant Association provides members with a weekly newsletter that includes information on relevant industry news and legislative updates.
5. They Offer Dual Membership in the National Restaurant Association (NRA)
Most state restaurant associations also offer a complimentary membership to the National Restaurant Association. The NRA provides foodservice and hospitality professionals with quality resources, including an annual industry forecast, marketing tools, and training materials. They also advocate for national industry-friendly legislation. Benefits of NRA membership include:
- Advocacy and representation at the national level
- Free admission to the annual National Restaurant Association trade show
- Free webinars and restaurant industry forecasts
Example: The Illinois Restaurant Association (IRA) partners with the NRA every year to host the annual NRA-IRA Political Reception in support of the hospitality industry. This event allows the state level restaurateurs to connect with changemakers who have influence at the national level.
Who Can Join?
Virtually all foodservice professionals can join the restaurant association in their state. This includes restaurant owners, suppliers, distributors, consultants, hospitality students, and educators, as well as professionals who run non-profit foodservice facilities, state prisons, and military operations. The benefits provided by your state restaurant association are enough pay for the membership fees and more, so if you’re in foodservice, it can only help to take advantage of these organizations.
How Can I Join?
You can find information for all of the state restaurant associations below. Check out your state association to see the specific benefits you can recieve with your membership: