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The Illinois Restaurant Association in conjunction with Gordon Food Service and Relish, an independent think tank funded by Gordon Food Service, invite you to participate in a panel discussion on the state of the talent pool, attracting and retaining qualified staff and how technology can help.

The changing landscape of people, jobs, and the labor shortage in the restaurant industry.

Please note:  This event is open to restaurant, hospitality and bar owner/operators only.

 To register for the event click here.


 Meet our Panelists:



Erin Phillips

Operations and Education Director

Boka Restaurant Group

Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, Erin graduated from Baldwin Wallace University with a bachelor’s degree in education. Upon graduation, Erin found herself back in the restaurant industry where she was able to apply her passions for teaching and developing others to find their true potential in the environment she knew and loved.As the Director of Operations, Erin manages multiple teams and is able to extend her hospitality in numerous dining rooms. While embracing the unexpected and handling problems with ease, Erin creates welcoming atmospheres for both guests and team members alike. With an emphasis on kindness and respect, Erin’s management style is the perfect fit at Boka Restaurant Group, where hospitality is of utmost importance.When she’s not overseeing some of Chicago’s hottest restaurants, Erin enjoys gardening, cooking, home brewing, reading and collecting records.





Patrick Wartan

Industry Chair/ Attorney

Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP

Patrick is chair of Taft’s Food and Beverage team.ptsac He has extensive experience counseling multi-unit restaurant/bar operators on matters relating to financing arrangements, liquor licensing, mergers and acquisitions, real estate and general corporate governance in jurisdictions from coast to coast. With a background in the foodservice industry, he works with his clients to foster their growth by strategically overseeing all aspects of their operations to ensure that they are on a path to success. His business acumen and operational knowledge allow him to be a partner to his clients rather than just a legal advisor. Patrick is an adjunct professor at Kendall College and teaches a course on Hospitality Law. He serves on the advisory council of the Illinois Restaurant Association. General Corporate and Securities Patrick serves as outside general counsel to businesses of all sizes. He advises and represents a wide variety of businesses in a full range of legal matters, including business formation, funding, acquisitions, business transactions, employment concerns, contract disputes, commercial litigation and negotiations. Entrenched in the business community, Patrick makes it a priority to introduce his clients to centers of influence within their respective industry. He is a frequent speaker on topics such as start-up growth and operations, foodservice issues and other current regulations impacting his clients’ businesses. Patrick is an adjunct professor of law at Chicago-Kent College of Law and teaches a legal writing course. Patrick was selected for inclusion in Illinois Super Lawyers Rising Stars in 2016-2018. He is a member of the Chicago Bar Association, State Bar of California and American Bar Association


Mandy Tahvonen

Managing Director at Relish Works, Inc.

Biography coming soon


Maureen Burns

CEO and Co-Founder of poolside

Biography coming soon



Alpana Singh, MS

Check Please! / Terra Vine

Born and raised in Monterey, California, Alpana Singh’s strong work ethic and ease with people of all ages stemmed from a youth spent working in her family’s ethnic grocery store. Later, while waiting tables in college, Singh fell in love with wine and discovered that it united her varied interests in traveling, history and food.

At 19, she pursued a path in the business with a job as a wine sales clerk at Nielsen Bros. Market in Carmel, California. By 23, she had landed the sommelier position at the world-renowned Everest Restaurant in Chicago. Just three years later, Singh went on to become the youngest female to pass the final level of the Master Sommelier exam.

This distinguished accomplishment, along with her effervescence, experience and energy, was magnetic, and it wasn’t long before Singh found herself in the local spotlight. For ten seasons, she served as the host of the Emmy Award-winning restaurant review television show, Check, Please!, on Chicago’s PBS station.

In December 2012, Singh opened The Boarding House, a wine-driven concept in the River North neighborhood. In February of 2015, Singh opened her second restaurant, Seven Lions, on Chicago's iconic Michigan Avenue. In 2016, Alpana announced her third restaurant venture, Terra & Vine, in Evanston, Illinois.

Singh is member of the Choose Chicago Board of Directors and played a significant role in bringing the James Beard Foundation Awards to the city of Chicago in 2015.




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