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The Official Publication of the Illinois Restaurant Association
January 2015

Association members gather at the IRA's "Meet the Experts" event to network and take advantage of one-on-one consultations with industry experts. IRA networking events are just one of the many benefits of membership.

Top 3 Ways You Benefit From an IRA Membership


Did you know that in 2014 the IRA experienced an 11 percent growth in membership? As we hope to see this number increase each year, we want to ensure you and your organization are maximizing your membership and taking advantage of the benefits it provides.

Since 1914, our main priority has been to protect and promote the restaurant industry while providing our members with the tools and resources they need to succeed. With multiple membership perks, from cost-savings tools and issues advocacy, to educational seminars and everything in between, we want to highlight the top-three IRA member benefits that will get your new year headed in the right direction.

Power of Community. One of the most valuable resources available to you as a member is an engaged network of peers and industry leaders. Throughout the year, the membership department holds a variety of exciting events that connect fellow members with opportunities for both social and educational enrichment. This year’s events will be bigger and better than ever, building on a line-up of successful events from 2014, including Meet the Experts, the Golf Classic, Chicago Gourmet, From the Chef’s Table and a number of panel discussions on healthcare.

Last year’s Meet the Experts event, sponsored by Axia Law and CliftonLarsonAllen, was held in May prior to the NRA Show. The event was headlined by a keynote speech from Kevin Brown, President/CEO of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, who then joined over two dozen industry experts to provide one-on-one speed coaching sessions with operator members, non-members and aspiring restaurateurs. Because of the success of the first one, look out for two Meet the Experts in 2015!

Be on the look out for similar engaging events and make sure to check the Events Calendar regularly for more information.

Cost Saving Programs. We’re sure reducing expenses is on everyone’s to-do list this year and the IRA has carefully selected partnerships with organizations that can save you money. For example, our partnership with United Healthcare saves you five percent on health care costs and our partnership with BMI extends up to a ten percent discount on music licensing fees. Additionally, members are provided access to a variety of other services, including a reduced rate for ServSafe classes to maintain city and state certifications. IRA Operator members also receive an automatic dual-membership with the National Restaurant Association, which grants you access to the National Restaurant Show, as well as vital research and industry insights. Utilizing these exclusive partnerships and benefits can directly impact your bottom line. In fact, these cost savings alone can pay for your membership.

Lean on Us. Most importantly, we want each of our members to know that they are supported and that the IRA is continuously looking out for the industry and advocates on its behalf. With a strong network of restaurant operator and supplier members, IRA's leaders and professional lobbyists monitor the critical legislative issues and represent the best interests of the Illinois restaurant industry at the local, state, and federal levels. At the same time, the IRA helps members understand the rules, regulations, and laws that directly impact the hospitality industry.

This support extends beyond governmental advocacy; whatever needs or business goals you are looking to address, the IRA can help you navigate the industry and resources available to you. Whether you are looking for a new bread supplier or need advice on hiring a lawyer, the IRA is your first call to get the support and awareness you need.

To learn more about the membership offerings, please call 312.787.4000 and ask for Membership.

Flavor Profile

Q&A with Chef Bill Kim from bellyQ, Belly Shack, Urbanbelly

  • Tell us a little about your history.
    • I was born in Seoul, South Korea and my mother’s traditional Korean cooking is what inspired me to pursue this career. I’ve worked as a chef and sous chef in kitchens around the United States and here in the Chicago area, but in 2008 my wife, brother and I partnered to open our first restaurant, Urbanbelly. From there, we opened Belly Shack and bellyQ. In addition to the restaurants, I also launched a line of specialty sauces available for purchase.
  • How did you get where you are today?
    • Hard work, determination, a lot of luck and many people who helped me along the way during my career.
  • To what do you attribute your success?
    • Support from my wife and family.
  • Do you have any advice for aspiring restaurateurs?
    • Never give up your dream.
  • What is your biggest challenge?
    • Breaking the stereotype of what an Asian restaurant should be.
  • What is your biggest reward in working in the industry?
    • The biggest reward has been meeting and making new friends in the workplace. Also, being in this industry gives you a chance to help your community in many ways that you never thought about.
  • What are you excited for this year?
    • We have a possible new project in the works, as well as a new product line for retail in the works.
  • What would your last meal be?
    • Sumi Robata Bar
  • How are you involved with the IRA?
    • We participate and have the opportunity to interact with thousand of attendees at Chicago Gourmet.
  • What do you see as being the most valuable resources/service that the IRA provides you?
    • Being a part of the IRA allows us the opportunity to reach others in the industry, which has been very valuable.



Congressman Lipinski Champions 40-Hour Work Week Legislation Passed by U.S. House


In early January, legislation sponsored by Congressman Dan Lipinski (IL-3), the Save American Workers Act of 2015, passed the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill, which passed with bipartisan support, adjusts the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) definition of full-time employment from 30 hours to the traditional 40-hour work week, which would protect part-time workers from losing wages and work schedule flexibility as employers adjust to the mandates laid out in the ACA.

IRA President & CEO Sam Toia and previous IRA Chairman Steve Palmer of Palmer Place Restaurant & Biergarten both played an active role in the passage of the bill, providing letters of support and other materials to help bolster Congressman Lipinski’s argument on the House floor.

A constituent of Congressman Lipinski’s 3rd congressional district, Steve Palmer explained how the new full-time employee definition of 30 hours per week has affected Palmer’s Place, which has served customers in LaGrange, IL for over 30 years. "Many of my employees work part-time and enjoy the flexible schedules that restaurants can offer,” Palmer said. “Students can balance work with a busy course load. Single parents can take shifts that accommodate their childcare. Very few other industries can boast of such flexibility. Fortunately, Rep. Lipinski and his forward-thinking colleagues listened to my concerns and the concerns of many small business owners across the nation and took immediate action to bring back the traditional work week definition of 40 hours per week.”

The IRA commends Congressman Lipinski for his efforts to pass this legislation, which will encourage a business environment where employers in the restaurant and hospitality industry can focus on creating more jobs, expanding their businesses, and contributing to a robust economy. The bill is now up for a vote in the Senate. The IRA will continue to work with the National Restaurant Association and Congressional leaders to ensure this bill passes both legislative chambers and makes it way to the President’s desk.


IRA Springfield Lobby Day


The IRA's Annual Springfield Lobby Day is set for Wednesday, March 11, 2015. The IRA is once again partnering with the Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association (IHLA), Illinois Council of Convention & Visitor Bureaus (ICCVB), and Asian American Hotel Owners (AAHO).

There are many very important issues to discuss with legislators, including minimum wage, tip credit, tourism funding, and taxation. Please register as soon as possible, as we need to know who is joining in order to form groups and make appointments with your legislators. There is a $75 Lobby Day registration fee. This payment is used for the conference room rental, lunch buffet, and cocktail reception.

Click here to register for the event.

For more information on the event, contact Matt Quinn at 312-380-4122 or


D.C. Lobby Day


The Illinois Restaurant Association will be participating in the 2015 NRA Public Affairs Conference on April 14-15 in Washington, D.C. IRA leadership and members will be advocating, educating, and promoting the restaurant and hospitality industry to legislators on the national level.

If you are interested in attending the conference, please contact Matt Quinn at 312-380-4122 or


A La Carte

Health Insurance Council


It has never been easier for restaurants and foodservice operators to wrap their arms around the Affordable Care Act than with the introduction of the Health Insurance Council, sponsored by our endorsed program with UnitedHealthcare.

The Council brings together health insurance and benefits experts to service restaurants and foodservice establishments, including your local pizzeria, the multi-unit franchisee, franchisor or restaurant group. “It has never been more challenging for restaurant operators to stay profitable than it is today. The Affordable Care Act presents a set of formidable challenges to Illinois restaurant and foodservice owners, operators and entrepreneurs. The Illinois Restaurant Association's new Healthcare Council can be a valuable resource to operators struggling to comply with the requirements of the Affordable Care Act. I am thrilled to be a part of this group that provides such a valuable benefit to members,” said TJ Callahan, IRA’s Chair of the Health Insurance Council and co-owner of Farmhouse Tavern in Chicago and Evanston.

Eligible members in Illinois can now access potential savings of up to five percent on UHC's standard medical product portfolio, which offers a broad range of plan designs and options through its vast care provider network.

Ben Schwartz, principal of Supreme Great Lakes, a manufacturers rep (foodservice brokerage) based in Arlington Heights, was able to eliminate an increase on his company’s UHC policy going into the 2014-2015 renewal period. “The cost savings was in excess of five figures and by renewing our IRA membership in 2014, we did not have to raise premiums for the more than 100 team members in 19 states we employ. I can’t remember the last time we didn’t have to pass along some type of increase to our team. “

UHC also offers members up to a five percent discount on specialty benefits products, including dental, vision, life and disability, for fully insured groups. Plus, UHC is the only endorsed health insurance carrier of the National Restaurant Association and the Illinois Restaurant Association.

In a recent press release, Colleen Van Ham, president and CEO, UnitedHealthcare of Illinois said, “The National Restaurant Association has been a valued partner with UnitedHealthcare since 2010 and this extension of our relationship in Illinois now provides members throughout this state the opportunity to save on their health care costs. Delivering affordable healthcare insurance options allows the restaurant industry to promote growth and to also retain and create new jobs in Illinois.”

“It’s a win-win connection for our members, the association and our new partner, UnitedHealthcare,” said IRA President & CEO Sam Toia.

For more information on IRA Membership, UHC or the Health Insurance Council, please call (312) 380-4115.



Takito Kitchen


Takito Kitchen
2013 W. Division St.
Chicago, IL 60603

Fried Chicken Wednesday’s. Every Wednesday after 5 p.m., Takito Kitchen offers Fried Chicken Tacos (regular or spicy) for $3 each. The fried chicken tacos are served on a hot sauce tortilla with Hook’s cheddar, herb aioli, avocado and lettuce.


Bar Takito


Bar Takito
201 N. Morgan St.
Chicago, IL 60607

Brunch is now available Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. Featured dishes include Pambazos (Spicy Mexican Torta), House Telera Bread, guajillo sauce, house chorizo, potatoes, eggs, crema, queso fresco, lettuce, and cilantro, Huarache (Spicy Corn Pancake), corn masa cake, pork belly, beans, smoked queso fresco, aji amarillo, fried eggs, cilantro and sesame. Breakfast Tacos, beer tortilla, chorizo, potato, egg, Oaxacan cheese, pickled chiles, cilantro and pepitas.


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