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The Official Publication of the Illinois Restaurant Association
july 2017

A Comprehensive Outlook for the Industry: Learn What's Next


Restaurateurs always want to be just ahead of the curve. From technology to food concepts, recruitment to consumer habits - knowing what lies ahead for the industry can be hugely beneficial to a restaurant's bottom line.


Each year, the National Restaurant Association prepares a comprehensive overview of and outlook for the restaurant industry - which comes free with IRA membership. Take a look at what members are learning about the State of the Industry in 2017.


#1 Challenge - Retaining and Recruiting Employees

Recruiting and retaining employees was cited by roughly three in 10 quickservice, family-dining and casual-dining operators and two in 10 fine-dining and fast-casual operators as their most significant challenge in 2017. As the economy keeps improving and employment levels rise, there is more competition for qualified employees to fill vacant restaurant positions. 


We're Adding Middle-Class Jobs

The restaurant industry added middle-class jobs at a rate nearly four times stronger than the overall economy during the nation’s recovery from the Great Recession, according to an analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. Between 2010 and 2015, the number of restaurant jobs with annual income between $45,000 and $74,999 jumped 42 percent. By contrast, the total number of jobs in the U.S. economy with income in this range rose just 11 percent in this period.


Top Five Food Trends

The top food trends at tableservice restaurants include: new cuts of meat (e.g., shoulder tender, oyster steak, Vegas Strip steak, Merlot cut), street food-inspired dishes (e.g., tempura, kabobs, dumplings, pupusas), healthful kids’ meals, house-made charcuterie, and sustainable seafood.


An Older Workforce

Older adults represent a growing share of the restaurant workforce. More than 19 percent of people 65 and older now participate in the labor force, and 210,000 of them are employed in restaurants.


Got Wi-Fi? Tech Trends to Watch

Nearly seven in 10 restaurant operators offer free Wi-Fi, and almost nine in 10 smartphone users say they use their phones to look up restaurant locations, directions or hours. More than half of consumers like the idea of wearables for servers (such as an Apple Watch that alerts a server when guests need something) and food-safety technology, such as hand-held scanners to detect allergens or bacteria. Predictive ordering also intrigues operators, as more than half of restaurant operators would be interested in technology that would allow them to suggest menu items based on guests’ preferences.


Consumers Want Face to Face

Nearly half of consumers say technology can complicate restaurant visits, up from 37 percent in 2014. Among consumers who believe technology complicates restaurant visits and orders, about three in four say technology makes it hard for guests to ask questions. About half of American adults say their top reason for not using technology in restaurants is that they prefer to deal with people.


Hungry for more?

The 2017 State of the Industry Report is available to download free for IRA members. Nonmembers can purchase the report here for $325. To learn more about IRA membership, visit the IRA homepage or contact Eric Fine, Director of Sales & Marketing at (312) 380-4115 or

Flavor Profile

Vince DiVincenzo, Manager of Frannie's Beef & Catering


This month, we sat down with Vince DiVincenzo of Frannie's Beef & Catering, a family-owned and -operated catering company serving Chicagoland for over 25 years. 


Tell us a little about your history. How did you get where you are today?  


Frannie's started when my father and uncle founded the company in 1991. They turned a vacant building on River Road into a restaurant, and gradually grew the business into the operation we have today. 


I started working at Frannie's as a teenager, and ventured off to get my education at Roosevelt University. After spending some time working in finance, I came back into the family business.


Our main focus is customer service, and catering events throughout Chicagoland. We do events all year long, from Taste of Chicago to the Chicago Hot Dog Fest, and various festivals. Our delivery service is extensive, to say the least. We'll usually do 300-400 deliveries a week. 


To what to you attribute your success?

First and foremost, my upbringing by my mother and father. They instilled in me a set of morals and values that I've carried my entire life. 


I'm also very fortunate to have met and worked with some incredible people in the industry, especially through the IRA. You learn a lot from different restaurateurs in various segments of the business. 

What is the most exciting thing about the catering business?

You meet all kinds of people. When you meet people's expectations by making sure the quality and service is first and foremost every time, there's no better feeling. You learn new things constantly and take on new challenges in catering. We just catered the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and then we turned around and did a wedding reception on the north side of Chicago. Always busy!

What is your biggest reward working in the restaurant industry?

Working with incredible people on a daily basis. People that love the industry as much as I do, and put their best foot forward every day.

What are you looking forward to in the coming year?

We're always looking to continue developing our staff and build customer relationships. We build our brand by offering the highest quality of customer service and positive experiences with the people we serve. 

What do you see as the valuable resources/services that the IRA provides you?

There's no better way to connect with people in the industry than through IRA membership. Vendors, hotels, distributors - whatever you need, the IRA can help connect you. The IRA represents operators in Chicagoland and throughout Illinois, and helps move the industry in a positive direction. It's all about connecting with people and collaborating with others from different walks of life. The IRA's events like the Golf Classic, Chef's Table, Lobby Days, and more help bring industry professionals together and really help people develop new ideas and build lasting friendships. 


Any advice for aspiring restaurateurs?

It's definitely going to be tough - no doubt about that. You'll miss your fair share of holidays! But the rewards are there, if you love what you do. Work hard and stay focused on your goals, and you will succeed in the business. 


Frannie's Beef & Catering

4304 River Road

Schiller Park, IL 60176

On Facebook @FranniesBeef



Cook County Soda Tax Is Back, Effective August 2


Last Friday, the Cook County Sweetened Beverage Tax was cleared to go into effect by a Cook County judge. The County has announced the Sweetened Beverage Tax will now go into effect for retailers on Wednesday, August 2.

The previously established rules and regulations for the tax are now in effect. Retailers must begin to administer and remit the tax starting on Wednesday, August 2.

In Regulation-5, the Department of Revenue established that retailers must take inventory of the sweetened beverages in their possession for sale on Tuesday, August 1. The "floor tax" on this inventory must be remitted to the Department of Revenue along with the floor tax return by Wednesday, September 20. Click here to obtain the floor tax return.

The IRA will continue to work with our industry partners to repeal this regressive tax. Sign up and stay engaged with the Can the Tax Coalition for the latest developments.

Contact Matt Quinn, Government Relations & Communications Manager, at (312) 380-4122 or with any questions.



See You on the Links!


The IRA Golf Classic is this Wednesday, August 2 at beautiful St. Andrews Golf & County Club. Hundreds of industry pros will be “Mad for Plaid” as they hit the links and enjoy gourmet bites and cocktails throughout the day.

A special thanks to our Presenting Sponsors Anheuser Busch and Samuel Adams for making this extraordinary outing possible, along with all our event sponsors for their generous contributions to the event.

Miss out on your ticket this year? The IRA has special events year-round that offer unique and unforgettable experiences for attendees.

The 10th Annual Chicago Gourmet, featuring the new eXtraordinary Chefs-eXtraordinary Places series, is just a few weeks away in late September. Tickets for a series of ancillary events are on sale now. On November 3, join us for the one-and-only Chef’s Table, a night of live music and culinary treats at Morgan MFG. Sponsorship opportunities are available now.


To learn more about IRA special events and sponsorship opportunities, please contact Ashley Brandon, Director of Special Events, at (312) 380-4133 or


Ronnoco: Handcrafted for Those Who Love Coffee


At Ronnoco, our passion is serving those who serve our products. What does that mean? Simply put – it means we’re here to make your life easier, to help you better serve your customers and employees – and increase your bottom line. How do we do it? We create custom beverage solutions that work for your business – which make both you and the people who count on you happy. We think about coffee 24/7/365 so you don’t have to.

Your restaurant provides excellent service – and so do we. That’s the Ronnoco Difference. To ensure the freshest coffee possible, we deliver direct to your door. We make sure that your servers are trained on proper brewing techniques and cleaning procedures for all brewing equipment, so every cup of Ronnoco coffee tastes fresh and delicious – every time. At Ronnoco, we have a wide selection of coffee brands and other beverages to position your restaurant, hotel, or coffee shop just the way you’ve always imagined. Our role is to help you make your customers happy – serving you, your customers, and your bottom line.

The more your customers know about your Ronnoco products, the more they will love your coffee and other hot beverages. Which helps your restaurant stand apart from your competition. Our in-house marketing and graphic design team can design a custom marketing campaign for your restaurant that helps you promote Ronnoco coffee in a way that works for your business.

To learn more about creating a custom beverage program for your restaurant, contact 34-year industry veteran Bill Ruehl at (630) 669-2885 or


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