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The Official Publication of the Illinois Restaurant Association
April 2015

Time is running out to register for NRA Show 2015!


Get excited for your Show—NRA Show 2015. It’s less than a month away and in your own backyard, so there’s no reason to miss it. Come for the experience, leave with the knowledge to make your business bigger and better.

NEW TECHNOLOGY: The NRA has so much amazing foodservice technology this year, they had to add new specialty areas in the beautiful Lakeside Center to show it all off! Experience 3D printing up close and personal in the new 3D Printing Zone and get to know a slew of tech-savvy startups that are pioneering a new era of innovation in Startup Alley.

NEW INGENUITY: NRA Kitchen Innovations™ and FABI Award recipients give you a peek into the things that keep us excited about the future of foodservice. See how these incredible companies are pushing the boundaries in ways that will help your business thrive.

NEW CELEBRITY CHEFS: This year’s World Culinary Showcase is like your favorite chefs hosting the best cooking show ever—just for you. Rock stars of the kitchen like Geoffrey Zakarian, Rick Bayless, and Maneet Chauhan are coming to show you how it’s done.

NEW TOPICS: From arepas, pickling, and water infusion in this year’s hands-on Foodamental Studio to education sessions around minimum wage, Millennials, and Big Data—engage and learn from the experts in the industry.

There’s a little something for everyone. You can’t miss this.

This is your Show.

Flavor Profile

Q&A with Billy Lawless, Owner of The Gage and Acanto

  • Tell us a little about your history. How did you get where you are today?
    • I come from dairy farming stock on the outskirts of Galway city west of Ireland. I delivered milk, which was unpasteurized at the time, to most of the restaurants and hotels in the city. That's probably where I got my love for the hospitality business. I started in the pub/restaurant business in Galway in 1977.

      We were the first pub to start selling food and pub grub. Meals then were served only in restaurants and hotels. I had four premises, including a small hotel at different stages between 1977 and 1997 before I came to the U.S.

      I always had a wish to open restaurants in the United States. My youngest daughter Amy got a rowing scholarship to Boston University. That was the spur I needed. My four children are in the business with me. Billy & his wife Catherine, Clodagh, Amy, and John Paul. My wife Anne of 44 years of course has been through it all.
  • To what do you attribute your success? Do you have any advice for aspiring restaurateurs?
    • My family! Drive to succeed and hard work. You really have to like the business you are in to succeed. The restaurant business has to be the toughest and most competitive industry I know of. I believe service is number one and never say no. Always make the customer feel they as though they are the most important person on the premises.

      To the aspiring restaurateur, make sure you understand the business and restaurant industry. Go in with your eyes wide open.
  • What is your biggest challenge? What is your biggest reward working in the industry?
    • Staffing and training staff on your vision and culture. Don't be afraid to hire employees that may be better or have more experience than you in some aspects of your business. Be prepared to learn something new everyday both from your employees and from your customers. Consistency is key. Happy guests = happy employees = happy proprietors.
  • What are you excited for this year? Any big events or opportunities for growth?
    • Watching my 4 children excel in this business is very exciting. In the next year we anticipate that our family business will expand by at least 2 new restaurants. It is a very exciting time for us in the restaurant business in Chicago.
  • What is your favorite menu item and/or what would your last meal be?
    • The Suckling Pig dish at our restaurant Acanto. It is just simply divine! I hope my last meal will be celebrating comprehensive immigration reform.
  • How are you involved with the IRA?
    • I’m an IRA Executive Committee member, and I'm on the Board of Directors. I'm very active in our push for comprehensive immigration reform. Immigrants are the backbone of the restaurant industry, and they deserve every opportunity to work, raise their families, and reach the American Dream.
  • What do you see as being the most valuable resources/service that the IRA provides you?
    • The IRA advocates for the restaurant and hospitality industry on all levels. In the past month alone, we've taken delegations to meet with leaders in Springfield and Washington D.C. I'm proud to work with the Association and elected officials on all of the most crucial policy issues that affect our industry.



Don't Miss It - 6th Annual IRA-NRA Politcal Reception


With the 2015 Municipal Election season behind us, the Illinois Restaurant Association and National Restaurant Association are looking ahead to the 2016 Primaries and General Election season on the state and national levels.

Each year, the IRA and the NRA hosts our Annual Political Reception in conjunction with the NRA Show at McCormick Place. At a time when the restaurant world converges to Chicago to explore and learn about the latest trends and dynamics of the foodservice industry, the IRA PAC works to promote
and protect the interests of the restaurant and hospitality industry.

We support pragmatic candidates and elected officials on both sides of the aisle, pooling resources from restaurants and individuals throughout Illinois in order to support candidates for state and federal office who believe in and support pro-industry and pro-business issues.

The bottom line is, with such an enormous impact in our state and across the U.S., restaurants need to continue to have a strong voice in Springfield and in Washington. There is no better time to get involved, and we hope that you will join us on Monday, May 18 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at The Ivy Room. The event will feature a silent auction, special guests, and great food and drink.

Tickets are available for $250, and the host committee is currently in formation.

Click here or email for more information about attending and contributing to the event.

A La Carte

Option One Energy: Helping Clients Save Money, Time, and Effort


Option One Energy is a leading energy consulting company that utilizes our resources and experience in deregulated energy markets to help businesses small and large save money on their Gas and Electricity Spend. Our deep market expertise, management capabilities, systems and most importantly our passion set us apart.

An effective procurement strategy is a must for any business. Our advanced procurement methods are backed by the best people, processes, and technology. We create transparency and competition for our clients, ultimately affording them savings and peace of mind going forward.

OOE is a 100% fully integrated energy consulting/management company. We represent a stable of top-tier trading desks and generation companies. Our bid facilitation and proprietary pricing processes helps us put together a strategy that best fits your organization, helping you control your utility costs.

Our consulting services can also help your business become more efficient by demanding less of the energy you use each day. We can help with everything from your energy audit, to the rebate procurement, to the implementation of a lighting retrofit project. Our goal is to increase profit for our clients by reducing energy costs and to reduce energy consumption through green lighting retrofits. The objective revolves around the following:

  • Reduce energy costs 40-70%
  • Typical payback of 2 years or less
  • Improves quality of light across the facility
  • 30-70% in grant money to help pay for job
  • Up to .60 a sqft. In tax incentives

After contracts are signed, we continue to manage and monitor our client's accounts ensuring that bills are correct and coincide with the contract that is in place. We continually monitor the markets and keep our clients informed on market changes so that when an opportunity presents itself we can execute positive moves for our clients. This is a dynamic, ongoing, interactive process between our clients and Option One Energy that continues after an agreement has been reached.

To learn more, visit or email Brian Mavraganes at


Food For Thought: Grilling the Unexpected.


Food For Thought
7001 N Ridgeway
Lincolnwood, IL 60712

The thought of putting an avocado on the grill may seem crazy, but the truth is, after grilling, the avocado turns into a smoky butter, which happens to make the best guacamole ever. Throwing in fresh cut limes, lemons, oranges and grapefruit on the grill also results in better vinaigrettes, marinades, dish and cocktails. Speaking of cocktails, tequila pairs perfectly with charred jalapenos. Pizzas and flatbreads are enhanced with a little olive oil salt, salt, pepper and a grill. Firm, salty cheeses (like halloumi) also benefit from grilling as it creates a smoky mellow effect.

Grilling kale makes it crispy and pairing it with sweet fruit and a creamy cheese transforms it into a great salad. Bitter greens like radicchio taste great with a little char too. The most ridiculous thing on the grill is grapes; throw the whole bunch on with a little grape seed oil and let it blister for 5-10 minutes – delicious!

Grilled Kale and Grape Salad

Ingredients (Serves 4)

  • 1 head green kale, rinsed, left whole
  • 1 bunch red grapes
  • 1 orange, halved
  • 2 tbsp. honey
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup goat cheese crumbles
  • 2 tbsp. green onions, thinly sliced
  • salt and pepper

Method: Heat grill to high. Drizzle a little olive oil on the kale and sprinkle with salt & pepper. Grill Kale on all sides for 1 minute a time, or until kale gets slightly charred and crispy. Remove. Add the orange and lemon, cut side down, and leave there for 5 minutes. Remove from grill and squeeze juices in a measuring cup. Toss on grapes (leave on bunch) with a little grape seed oil, salt & pepper, and grill 8 minutes or until blistery and charred. Chop the kale into bite size pieces and throw in a bowl. Pluck grapes from bunch and add them to the bowl along with the goat cheese and green onions. In a measuring cup, add the honey and whisk in the olive oil. Season with salt & pepper. Toss salad and serve.

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