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November 2014

Government Relations

Minimum Wage: Call to Action

The Chicago City Council will vote this week on hiking the minimum wage to $13 or $15 an hour, a 57 percent or 82 percent increase, respectively, from Illinois’ current minimum wage of $8.25.

A coalition of local business association leaders, represented by Chamber President Theresa Mintle, IHLA President Marc Gordon, IMRA President Rob Karr, and IRA President & CEO Sam Toia, will hold a press conference outside City Council Chambers tomorrow, Monday, December 1, at 2:30pm. Council Chambers are located on the 2nd Floor of City Hall, 121 N. LaSalle. Please join us and have your voices heard on this critical issue.

The IRA urges its members to contact their aldermen and state legislators about the minimum wage issue. Please let your elected officials know you and the Illinois Restaurant Association support "preemption" of local wage laws, and a reasonable increase to the minimum wage that is uniform throughout the entire State of Illinois. Preemption means that no municipality can set a minimum wage higher than the State. We strongly support a uniform standard a reasonable increase to the minimum wage. Acting uniformly will help keep more jobs in Illinois, and create more business certainty.



The following points are crucial to stress to legislators:

The minimum wage needs a uniform, reasonable standard. Enacting differing minimum wages for cities is unsound public policy as it creates a powerful incentive for employers to leave their current location to seek lower labor costs. It also has the potential to draw in workers from neighboring communities and displace local workers searching for those jobs.

In some larger cities, there are proposals to raise the wage as much as 57% higher than the current standard. The City of Chicago is presently discussing a $13 per hour minimum wage. This is a wage 57% greater than its suburban neighbors and 79% higher than the state of Indiana. Operators will have no choice but to move their businesses and will incur significant costs doing so.

Restaurateurs are already bracing for the uncertain effects of federal health care implementation in Illinois. To comply with the Affordable Care Act, analysts estimate approximately $3,000 in extra costs per employee. Given the enormous fiscal stress of the economic downturn, tepid recovery and policy uncertainty on employee costs, businesses are struggling to bear these additional labor costs.

The veto session is currently underway in Springfield and action could be taken this week. We need your help now, before it's too late.

Click here for talking points.

IRA President and CEO Sam Toia recently went on Fox Chicago to explain the IRA's support of one reasonable statewide minimum wage. Click here to watch Sam's discussion with Mike Flannery and Alderman John Arena.


Immigration Action

Last week, IRA Executive Board Member Billy Lawless introduced President Obama during his visit to the Copernicus Community Center to discuss immigration reform.

A veteran of immigrant justice and a successful businessman, Lawless immigrated to Chicago from Galway, Ireland in 1998 with his wife Anne and family. Starting out with 10 employees in an Irish-themed pub in Wrigleyville, Lawless now owns three successful restaurants in Chicago - Gage, Acanto, and Dawson - employing over 260 people.

"We really wanted to see if we could succeed in the United States and live the American Dream," Lawless told the audience of 18,000 people."This is what we emigrants do," he stated.

Obama said Lawless and his son Billy, who also runs the restaurants, exemplified what he was trying to do empowering immigrants.

"Together they have gone from employing 10 workers to employing more than 250 workers and you just heard what Billy said: 'This is what immigrants do.'" said Obama.

Congratulations Billy on all you have accomplished.


A "Roaring" Night at Chef's Table

This year's 37th annual Chef's Table Annual Restaurateurs for Education Event Presented by Home Run Inn celebrated 100 years of the IRA with a 1920s Celebration at the Hyatt Regency Chicago. A night of entertainment and culinary treats, the event showcased some of Chicago's most renowned restaurants and welcomed over 600 food service professionals for an event honoring the IRA Educational Foundation and ProStart programs. Get a full recap of the event here.



Chicago Gourmet 2015 Holiday Sale Has Begun!

A limited number of Chicago Gourmet 2015 tickets are available at a special discounted rate of $125 for a single-day ticket, or $225 for a Weekend Pass.

With tickets regularly priced at $170 per person, per day, or $275 per person for a Weekend Pass, purchasing tickets now is a great way to give and save this holiday season.

This was a very popular promotion last year, and tickets sell out quickly. Chicago Gourmet 2015 will be held September 25-27, 2015. Specific questions regarding ticket sales may be directed to or 312-787-4000 ext. 140.

Click here to purchase tickets.


IRAEF Update

ProStart Students Pitch in to Make Chefs Table a Success

The Chefs Table provided over 35 ProStart® students with the opportunity to showcase their culinary skills by assisting some of Chicago’s finest chefs with the preparation of the meal. Students assisted with everything from prep and plating to serving. All proceeds from the Chefs Table benefit the Illinois Restaurant Association Educational Foundation and the ProStart® Program.

ProStart® is the Educational Foundation’s two-year high school program that connects curriculum and industry. In Illinois, ProStart serves almost 4,000 students in 59 high schools. To get involved with ProStart® and to help support our future industry leaders through mentoring, judging, internships, and more, please contact Kathy Summers at or (312) 380-4147.

Save-the Date for the 14th Annual ProStart® Invitational on February 28th at McCormick Place!

On Saturday, November 15th, over 100 students and their teachers attended an all day practice session at Kendall College to prepare for the 14th Annual ProStart Invitational competition. Student teams competing in the Culinary or Management competitions participated in a day of hands-on learning. Culinary students learned poultry fabrication and knife skills from several Kendall chef instructors, led by Chef Michael Arlip. The teacher of the two time State winners from Elgin High School, led students in a variety of exercises on concept development, presentation skills and critical thinking scenarios. 17 Culinary teams and 10 Management teams will compete on February 28th.


Restaurant Operators' Insight Event

From left to right: Patrick Swanton from Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce, Tim Coonan from Big Shoulders Coffee Works, Mike Telesky from United Healthcare and Gregg Stauber from United Healthcare.

On Wednesday November 5th, IRA members joined in a discussion about steps you need to take today to make sure you are in compliance with the Affordable Care Act. Bob Romay, from Platinum Sponsor Heartland Payment Systems Payroll, and Michael Levin, from Total Insurance Services, gave operators a thorough understanding of exactly what they need to do (if anything) in order to comply with the Affordable Care Act.

The event was followed by networking hosted by Billy Bauer of Marcelo’s Father & Son.

Speaking: Mike Levin from Total Insurance and Robert Romay from Heartland Payment Systems.

For information on this event and to receive copies of the materials handed out, please contact Eric Fine at


Don't Miss It

Sanitation Certification Winter Schedule

The Illinois Restaurant Association's Winter schedule for sanitation certification classes is now available.

Click here to view the calendar.

Click here to register for classes.


News & Notes

2015 Michelin Star Restaurants and Bib Gourmands Announced!

Congratulations to IRA Board Member Mike Olszewski, and Chef Curtis Duffy (above) of Grace, who were awarded three stars in the 2015 Michelin Guide. Chicago is now home to two three-star restaurants - Alinea and Grace. A big shout out to all of Chicago's Michelin star restaurants and Bib Gourmand winners. These recognitions further solidify Chicago's position as a culinary capital of the world. We are honored that you call Chicago home!


Glenn Keefer Joins Heil & Kay Insurance Agency

Glenn Keefer, Executive Board Member, Partner at Tavern at The Park and former co-owner of Keefer's Restaurant has joined the Heil and Kay Insurance Agency, the endorsed agency for the Illinois Restaurant Association.

Principals John Heil and Mark Kay have over 40 years of experience in guiding clients with personalized hands on service for insurance products including health, workers compensation, liquor liability, directors and officers, commercial liability, commercial auto, & property and casualty insurance for Restaurants, Manufacturing, Distribution and Tech Companies. Heil and Kay is A++ rated by the Better Business Bureau and has been consistently recognized as a top agency on a state and national level by numerous insurance carriers over the past decades.

Congratulations to Glenn on his new endeavor!



Q&A With Chef Audry Triplett

The IRA recently had the opportunity to sit down with Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse Executive Chef Audry Triplett, named ‘Chef of the Year’ by the American Culinary Federation (ACF) Chicago Chefs of Cuisine.

ACF. What does this accomplishment mean to you?

The Chef of The Year Award means so much to me. I was so honored when it happened. It shows that hard work and dedication pays off in a long run. Being recognize by the ACF Chicago Chefs of Cuisine means a lot!

What was your position when you first started with Gibsons when the restaurant first opened its doors in 1989?

When I started with Gibsons I started as Sous- Chef under the direction of Chef Mike Clark.

Gibsons is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. To what do you attribute this restaurant's long time success?

I think the long time success of Gibsons is attributed to the fact that we are constantly striving for the highest level of custom satisfaction, both through our food and our service. Also, working as a family and as a team as we all have for so many years has certainly contributed a lot to our success!

What are you doing to celebrate your recent accolade from ACF?

My family and friends have all been so supportive – A lot of congratulatory calls and encouragement…it feels good!

What have you seen change in the business over the past 25 years? What has stayed the same?

While certain things, like menu items, have changed over the years, the important things have stayed the same. Our dedication to quality, value and customer service will always remain our number one priority. What hasn't changed is the focus on taking care of the customer and maintaining the consistently high quality of our food.

What is your favorite item on the menu?

We have a great meat program, Gibsons is the only group in the country to have its’ own classification with the USDA: USDA Gibsons Prime Angus. But a favorite item? I don’t have one – Because I think it is ALL great


New Members

The Association is pleased to welcome:

Zam Zam Banquet Hall
Rosetto Serving Solutions
Brass Monkey Brasserie
Apple Canyon Lake P.O.A.
Cacciatore & Co. Insurance
Food For Thought
Oak and Char
Unite Urban Grill
Limelight Catering
Cheap Eatz
Bombdigity Bar and Grill
Lodge Management Group








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