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April 2014

Chicago Gourmet Tickets Now on Sale!

Pre-sale tickets for the seventh annual Bon Appétit presents Chicago Gourmet 2014, which became available at on Thursday, April 10 at 10 a.m., sold out in record time! After this enthusiastic response, regularly priced passes are now available online and are selling quickly. Saturday and Sunday tickets are $170 per day, and Weekend Passes are $275. Tickets to the hugely popular Grand Cru Tasting - which takes place from 2-4 p.m. each day of Chicago Gourmet and features the world's finest wines and cuisine with the nation's top Master Sommeliers and chefs - are also available. Tickets are $199 per person, plus the cost of general admission. All prices exclude taxes and fees.

Produced by the Illinois Restaurant Association, title sponsor Bon Appétit magazine and presenting sponsor Southern Wine & Spirits of Illinois, Chicago Gourmet 2014 - a celebration of food and wine - is one of the nation's most anticipated culinary events. This interactive, two-day epicurean affair showcases more than 150 of Chicago's finest restaurants and chefs, as well as hundreds of renowned vintners, spirit makers and premium breweries from around the world. It also features dozens of live cooking demonstrations, gourmet tastings, wine seminars, and book signings by internationally renowned chefs, master sommeliers and winemakers..

Don’t miss what promises to be the best Chicago Gourmet yet! Tickets at

Also, check out the new Chicago Gourmet video!


Food Handler Certification Requirements Effective July 1, 2014


The Illinois Food Handling Regulation Enforcement Act (410 ILCS 625), amended by SB1495 and passed into law on August 27, 2013, establishes Food Handler training requirements in Illinois. Beginning July 1, 2014, if you work in a restaurant in Illinois and prepare, store or serve food, handle food equipment, food utensils, or food-contact surfaces you must have a ANSI accredited Food Handler certificate within 30 days of hire. This includes most restaurant jobs, including servers, chefs, head chefs, head cooks, cooks, bussers, bartenders, dishwashers, hosts and hostesses who handle food and supervisors, such as the general manager or managers. Managers who already have a Food Service Sanitation Manager Certificate do not need a Food Handler certificate. Click here for more information on Food Handler requirements.

The law does not require employers to pay for an employee's time and expense to take the training and test. The ServSafe Food Handler Certificate belongs to the employee, is transferrable between employers, is valid for three years and is accepted everywhere in Illinois

Go to and use the discount code EMPLOYEE20 to take the online training in English or Spanish for $12.00. Certificates can be printed upon completion of the 90 minute course.

Buyer Beware: There are many training programs available online that are not approved by the Illinois Department of Public Health and will not pass an inspection. Use the NRA's ServSafe for your training needs - the industry leader and a trusted partner.


Illinois Restaurant Association and Fintech Announce

Alliance to Improve Purchasing and Payment Efficiency

of Beverage Alcohol

Last month, the IRA and Fintech announced an alliance to build awareness and improve purchasing and payment efficiency of beverage alcohol. Through this alliance, the two organizations will implement a system of electronic funds transfer payment for purchasing.

“Beverage Alcohol purchasing is an important part of our industry,” said Sam Toia, IRA’s President & CEO. “Through Fintech Analytics, we will help members to better understand their invoices and purchasing. With real time data reports that highlight opportunities to save and maximize purchases, we will educate members about their costs and help improve efficiency in their supply chain. This partnership helps the operator while eliminating costly expenses for the distributor in delivery time and collections.”

Fintech, a leader in providing electronic data and payments to the alcohol industry, has been a strong advocate of the NRA and a participant at the annual trade show and convention in May.

Fintech currently provides service to more than 275,000 retail distributor relationships nationwide and is the only EFT provider approved by all fifty state alcohol regulatory agencies.

With more than 2,200 alcohol distributors utilizing Fintech's system nationwide, the relationship is a natural fit to support the NRA's nearly 560,000 restaurant businesses. The IRA’s partnership with Fintech will also include member access to in-depth data analysis and automated reporting to help operators understand their alcohol invoices and purchasing habits, provide insight into where operators are spending money, where they have the potential to save, best ways to maximize purchases and eliminate costly expenses for the distributor in delivery time and collections.

"I believe this strategic alliance demonstrates a mutual commitment to providing businesses enhanced data and services that will help propel their operations forward, while additionally aiding in the awareness and advancement of the industry. We couldn't be more excited at the opportunity to work with such a great organization," said Scott Riley, Fintech CEO.

The Illinois Restaurant Association will share a booth with Fintech at this year's NRA Show. Come say hello at booth #6164 (North Hall, Level 3 -Technology Area).


Q&A With Ken Raskin

The IRA's new chairman, Ken Raskin, owner of historic Manny's Cafeteria and Delicatessen, thinks advocacy is as important as mustard on a corned beef sandwich. Find out why in our Q&A with one of Chicago's most successful restaurateurs.

Congrats on being named the new Chairman of the IRA. What are you most excited about in taking over this new role? Are there any issues you are particularly passionate about?

Over the years the IRA has really changed and adapted to the needs of the industry. I hope restaurants both big and small realize this is true, but they should know the IRA works for the industry by offering education and sponsored programs, among other things, and all restaurants can take advantage of this.

For issues I am particularly passionate about, I believe food safety and professionalism are so important.  Food and alcohol handling is key for our industry, and it's really important that both restaurateurs and customers know this.  Now, through legislation food and alcohol training is being mandated by state and local governments, an important step in health and safety. 

Manny's, a Chicago icon, is one of the restaurants we have highlighted during our Centennial year. What has been a key ingredient in running a successful, family-owned operation for over 50 years?

You have to have pride in maintaining a good reputation and public image. Sometimes sticking with something year after year works, and in our case it has. Our customers feel they are part of the Manny's family; they feel comfortable enough to let us know if something is not right. And if there is something wrong, our customers know it will be corrected right away.

What have you seen changed in the industry over the years? What has stayed the same?

The growth of chain restaurants and the dwindling of independents has been apparent in recent years. Also, the consolidating of food manufacturers and distributors has made it harder for restaurants to acquire the important ingredients they have been using for their dishes since the beginning.  Fortunately, people love good food, and as long as we can keep to that standard of excellence we have been successful.  People's tastes change from generation to generation, but we try to stay pretty much the same to keep our identity.  We have to modify slightly, and have found ways to do so.

Also, the increased exposure of restaurants through television is something recent and new, and it has really been great for the industry.

How has the IRA been significant to your success in the restaurant industry?

We've been able to take advantage of the Food Sanitation courses offered by the Illinois Restaurant Association, as well as use the services offered by many of the companies that are sponsors of the IRA, such as credit card processing, POS vending, and insurance. A lot of these programs are important to us, and through the IRA companies that offer these programs can can come to us, and we don't have to track them down.

We've also taken advantage of hiring summer interns through the IRA Educational Foundation ProStart program. That's something that has helped us over the summer, and helped the students gain the experience they need. We've put them at almost every position at some time or another, and it has really given them the real world experience so necessary for these kids.

Any valuable advice or lessons you can share with aspiring restaurateurs?

They should and need to really love what they're doing. And love their customers. Owning a restaurant is not really a job as much as a way of life. For my wife and I, we know this way of life is a part of our family, and sometimes the business comes first, believe it or not. Just thinking you're going to stock shelves and open the door is not going to do it; you really have to have that passion to be able to succeed.

What's your favorite dish on the Manny's menu?

Even though we're famous for our deli sandwiches and potato pancakes, I really love the beef stew. It's definitely one of my favorites.


Government Relations

Paid Sick Leave Mandates Spreading

Paid sick leave mandates are gaining steam in cities, counties, and states across the country. This year, the New York City Council voted 46-5 on a bill to expand the city's paid sick leave to all businesses with over 5 employees. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said, "From waitresses and dishwashers to store clerks and car wash workers, New Yorkers across the five boroughs will finally have legal protection to a basic right that so many of us take for granted."

In addition to NYC, governments across the country are enacting similar mandates including Portland, Seattle, San Diego, Newark, and many others. The push for paid sick days grew out of the Family and Medical Leave Act, enacted in 1993. The law guaranteed that workers could take time off for the birth of a child or to care for an ill relative, but it didn't allow for a paid day off if they or their child were sick. Senator Edward Kennedy first called on Congress to address the issue when he introduced the Healthy Families Act in 2004, but it didn’t go far. Senator Tom Harkin and Representative Rosa DeLauro reintroduced the measure in 2013.

As federal initiatives run into headwinds, local paid sick leave measures have found success. Paid sick leave first became law in San Francisco in 2006 after a group of restaurant workers pushed for a ballot initiative to establish the protection, which voters passed by 61%. Connecticut became the first —and, at present, only state— to pass paid sick leave in 2011.

Concerns over what paid sick leave could mean for small business owners have stalled these initiatives in some places. Mandates were voted down in Denver after The Colorado Restaurant Association and National Restaurant Association spent hundreds of thousands of dollars fighting the mandate. Some states have enacted laws against paid sick leave before support for the measure can take hold. As of November 2013, 10 states had adopted laws that ban any city or county within the state from establishing sick leave protection. The most notable case is Wisconsin, where legislators repealed Milwaukee's sick leave law in 2011 even though it had passed by ballot initiative in 2008 with 69% support.

There are currently two bills in Springfield mandating paid sick leave. The “Earned Sick Time Act (SB2789; HB4420)” would require that all employers with 20 or more employees provide paid sick time. It specifies all employers provide a minimum of one hour of paid sick time for every 40 hours worked by an employee, with a minimum of 2 days of paid sick time per calendar year. The “Employee Paid Health Care Time Act (HB5570),” allows employees to accrue paid health care time at a rate of no less than one hour for every 22 hours worked for an employer with 50 or more employees and at a rate of one hour for every 40 hours worked for an employer with fewer than 50 employees.

In Chicago, an ordinance sponsored by Aldermen Proco "Joe" Moreno (1st Ward) and Toni Foulkes (15th Ward) would require all private employers in Chicago to provide paid sick days to their workers. The proposal was signed by 26 of the city's 50 aldermen. Under the ordinance, workers would get one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked, with a limit of five or nine days a year, depending on the size of the employer. A first violation could trigger a $500 fine, a second double that and a third $1,500. Click here to read the ordinance.

The IRA believes paid sick time mandates are well intentioned but misguided. The IRA will work with other stakeholders against these proposals. To join our efforts, please contact Andy Peters at (312) 380-4134 or


Don't Miss It

May 13: Meet the Experts Power Hour
Join us for a Meet the Experts event featuring Kevin Brown, President & CEO of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, Inc. Are you staying up at night worrying about these questions:

How do I successfully lower my food cost?
What steps do I take to open another location?
How do I stay ahead of the curve with my Food & Beverage Program?
How do I get licenses and permits?

Join Kevin Brown and dozens of industry leaders for the answers to these questions and more during an evening of networking, collaboration and speed coaching. The event is Tuesday, May 13, from 5pm - 7:30pm at Untitled, 111 W. Kinzie, Chicago.

If interested in sponsoring or participating, please call the Membership department at 312-787-4000.

May 19: IRA-NRA Political Reception

Former IRA Chairman Jay Stieber of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, The National Restaurant Association, and the Illinois Restaurant Association hopes you will support the hospitality industry at the Annual IRA-NRA Political Reception at Studio Paris, 59 W. Hubbard St., Chicago, on Monday, May 19th, from 5:30-7:30pm. It is important we go into the 2014 State and 2015 Municipal election seasons strong.

For more information please contact Andy Peters at or 312-380-4134.

News & Notes

Silver Anniversary for Gibsons!

In April, Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse celebrated its 25th Anniversary. Congratulations to Steve Lombardo, Immediate Past Chairman John Colletti, and the Gibsons Restaurant Group, a team that sets the standard of excellence in the restaurant industry.

VIPs celebrated Gibsons' Anniversary on Monday night. Clockwise from bottom left: Former Mayor Richard M. Daley; attorney Terry Newman; sports impresario Jerry Reinsdorf; Gibsons owner Steve Lombardo; Gibsons managing partner John Colletti; Mayor Rahm Emanuel; real estate executive Bob Judelson; Hyatt Regency Chicago general manager Patrick Donelly; Patrick Daley, the former mayor's son.

IRA Wins March Advocacy Madness

Illinois took down the Texas Restaurant Association to claim the championship in the March Advocacy Madness Tournament. The IRA won the national battle for which state has the most involved membership in advocacy and government affairs. Thank you to everyone who prior authorized, signed up as a key advocate, and is joining us in DC on April 29 and 30.


New Members

The Association is pleased to welcome:

Anthony's Italian Ice
Arthur J. Gallagher & Co.
Breakwater Chicago
Elephant & Castle
Franco's Cucina
Houndstooth Saloon
Moon Meals
Nancy's Pizza
Quencht LLC
Revamp Social
Stocks & Blondes
Temple Bar
Uber Technologies

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