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The Bottom Line on Food Safety Training


During National Food Safety Month (NFSM), there’s no better time to highlight the importance of food safety education and how it impacts your restaurant’s bottom line. The Illinois Restaurant Association offers an array of training programs that offer flexibility and convenience for those enrolled. While NFSM offers a refresher on food safety best practices every September, the IRA offers training solutions for restaurants year-round.

Training for Success with the IRA

In 2014, Illinois became the second state to require all food industry operators and employees to receive food safety training through an accredited program. The IRA teamed up with the National Restaurant Association to provide a standard state training program through ServSafe, the food and beverage safety training and certificate program that reinforces proper food safety practices and procedures. While many local health departments offer training and certificate programs, ServSafe represents the highest standard in food safety training and certification, using the latest science-based information, real-world scenarios, and updated case studies. ServSafe is a standout in the industry and is the most widely accepted food service program among local, state, and federal health departments.

The IRA offers ServSafe Sanitation Certification classes, with online or on-site training and exam options for foodservice professionals at both the employee-level and manager-level. The IRA’s experienced staff of instructors provides food service training through several certification classes, including: ServSafe Sanitation Manager Certification, ServSafe Food Handler Certification, Responsible Alcohol Service/BASSET Certification and Summer Festival Food Vendor Sanitation Certification. The four classes are available in both English and Spanish year-round. Private training is also offered for restaurant operators and foodservice companies on-site at their location for groups of 10 or more.

“We’re proud of our commitment to educating foodservice operators throughout Illinois and providing restaurants with the tools they need to succeed,” says IRA President & CEO Sam Toia. “The comprehensive ServSafe program guarantees Illinois operators quality, up-to-date training under the supervision of an accredited organization.”

Investing in Employees, Increasing Profitability

A crucial way to maintain success in the restaurant industry starts with an investment in employees and managers. Training staff properly through a comprehensive program like ServSafe creates a safer dining environment for the general public while simultaneously boosting the operation’s bottom line. Training – at both the manager level and the employee level – can significantly reduce the likelihood of a foodborne-illness outbreak. Training should be viewed as a continuous process, allowing staff to develop a uniform approach to food safety with the same techniques, concepts, and terminology to achieve a consistent cycle of food safety training and customer satisfaction.

Proper food safety training also contributes to restaurant profitability through higher employee retention and increased productivity for the business. With effective training, employees master the skills and techniques needed for positive performance reviews, salary increases, and career growth. The resulting increase in employee retention helps the operation avoid expenses related to worker orientation, which increases profitability.

Get Engaged with National Food Safety Month

Since the inception of National Food Safety Month (NFSM) in 1994, the NRA has educated millions in the foodservice industry about the importance of food safety education. Each year, NFSM showcases a new theme and offers free resources to food handlers with tips on a number of food safety topics. This year’s theme is “Notorious Virus”, and NFSM is offering weekly activities, posters, videos and infographics to keep foodservice professionals informed and engaged.

For the past 22 years, ServSafe has brought food safety concepts to life with NFSM, and has awarded nearly 4 million ServSafe Food Protection Manager Certifications accredited by the American National Standards Institute-Conference for Food Protection. Whether the topic is adequate hand washing, correctly reheating food, or developing an integrated pest management program, the ServSafe program helps employees keep food safe from farm to fork.

For more information about National Food Safety Month and ServSafe, visit

Click here to sign up today for training with the Illinois Restaurant Association. For more information about the IRA's class offerings and upcoming schedule, please contact Mary Wilkie, IRA Director of Education, at (312) 380-4121 or

Flavor Profile

Meet Jodi Fyfe of Paramount Events

A new event space, a soon-to-open restaurant, and dedication to exceptional service and culinary excellence— this is Paramount Events. The Paramount Events team also plays a huge role in the catering operations at Chicago Gourmet. Founder and Principal Jodi Fyfe shared with us a few tips for success and exciting expansion plans this year!

  • Tell us a little about your history. How did you get where you are today?
    • Hard work, dedication and a love for food and wine! I’ve always been passionate about hospitality and great service, and have worked in the food and beverage industry for more than 25 years. That laid the groundwork for me to become the Founder and Principal of Paramount Events, with a goal to build a talented team and become Chicago’s best resource for events and restaurant-quality catering.
  • What is your biggest reward working in the restaurant industry?
    • Food is our life, and having the opportunity to spread a bit of this love to others and have them enjoy it is an amazing feeling.
  • To what do you attribute your success?
    • It means so much to be a part of the most important moments in peoples’ lives – weddings, celebrations, even down to the smallest event or night out, we’re making an impact on someone’s day through our food and service. I think having this in mind day in and day out makes all the difference in keeping us focused and driven, and has been crucial to our success. It’s true now with our catering business and we’ll carry this mentality through to our new restaurant.
  • Tell us about The Lakewood and Eden.
    • The Lakewood is a stunning, versatile event venue in the West Lake District of downtown Chicago. We wanted to create a blank slate that could be the perfect backdrop to any event. We just hosted our inaugural event and are now reserving the space for events and holiday parties for the remainder of 2016 and beyond.

      Eden will open in October. It’s a chef-driven restaurant offering a fresh take on Mediterranean and American food. Inspiration pulls from ‘California cuisine’ which is synonymous with clean, fresh cooking and local ingredients, also drawing from the flavors found in the Mediterranean rim. Think Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt and Morocco plus North Africa.

      We grow as much as we can in our onsite urban garden and carefully select local, seasonal ingredients for the rest. The kitchen is helmed by Chef Devon Quinn (my husband and partner) with Miles Schaefer as Chef de Cuisine and Stefano Tulipano as Pastry Chef. Our wine list will be stellar, curated by our Sommelier Arif Rahman and the cocktail program will be innovative with Mixologist Alex Rydzewski behind the bar.
  • What do you see as being the most valuable resources/services that the IRA provides you?
    • The IRA is made up of an incredible network of people. It’s wonderful to connect with others in the industry and take in the creativity – very inspiring!

  • What are you looking forward to in the coming year?
    • 2016 has been huge for us – we outgrew our old space and moved into a new one, complete with a state-of-the-art catering kitchen. We also opened The Lakewood, and now Eden is right on the horizon. In the coming year, we are looking forward to being in full operation, making our mark on Chicago.
  • Do you have any advice for aspiring restaurateurs?
    • Dream big and don’t stop innovating!

To learn more, visit:


New DOL Overtime Rule: What It Means For Your Business


New U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) federal overtime regulations will take effect on December 1, 2016. Is your business prepared for the new rules? Are there questions you need answered?

Join the Illinois Restaurant Association and Seyfarth Shaw attorneys Noah Finkel and Rebecca DeGroff on Wednesday, September 28 at 10:00 a.m. for a webinar focused on everything restaurants need to know and prepare for regarding the new overtime regulations. Effective December 1, 2016, any employee making less than $47,746 per year is entitled to be paid overtime, including salaried employees. The current “exempt from overtime” salary threshold is $23,660.

Webinar topics will include: evaluating job responsibilities, timekeeping, risk mitigation, timelines for implementation, and best practices for execution.

There is no cost to attend this program; however, registration is required. Click here to register today. Send questions in advance of the webinar to Login instructions will be emailed to registrants the day before the webinar.

To review compliance materials, please visit the DOL overtime webpage. The Illinois Restaurant Association will continue to provide updates and resources for employers on overtime regulations. Please contact Matt Quinn, IRA Government Relations & Communications Manager, at (312) 380-4122 or with any questions.


A La Carte

DON Serves Illinois through State-of-the-Art Distribution Center


With a long history of serving restaurants and foodservice operations, Edward Don & Company is a fixture in our industry - but that doesn’t mean DON is resting on its laurels. The 95-year-old family owned and operated company, which distributes foodservice equipment and supplies, has always worked to improve its systems and capabilities.

When the new millennium began in 2000, DON embarked on a plan to update its nationwide network of distribution centers. As a result, since 2003, all six facilities are new and situated to better serve the industry. The newest DON facility is the National Headquarters and Illinois Distribution center located in suburban Woodridge, which opened in 2012.

Located at the intersection of Interstate Highways I55 and I355, the new facility provides easy access to DON customers throughout the state and the entire Midwest. The 362,500 square foot building brings the total square footage of DON national warehouse space to 1,152,500 square feet and with 38 external loading dock doors, the new facility can handle current needs as has more than enough space to continue growing.

The facility features a number of high-tech upgrades including a state-of-the-art order processing system, which streamlines operations and gets DON products to customers in a quick and efficient manner. A number of sustainable features are also included in the new building, including motion-activated lighting and the latest in environmental control technology.

While the modern and efficient distribution center is a huge boon to DON and its employees, its most important purpose is to make the ordering and delivery processes better for DON customers. “Our new facility has allowed for improvements in many areas, namely overall service to our customers and streamlined operations,” said IRA Educational Foundation Chairman Darwin Claude, DON Regional Sales Manager for Illinois local.

Founded in 1921, DON offers unmatched product selection, nationwide distribution centers, and integration of new technology serving the foodservice, hospitality, and healthcare industries. DON serves more than 35,000 customers throughout the world and employs over 1,000 people. With a product line that includes tabletop, kitchen smallwares, equipment, bar supplies, buffet items, disposables, and janitorial products, DON offers Everything but the Food.

Visit for more information.



Lunchin' at Imperial Lamian!


Imperial Lamian is an authentic, modern Chinese restaurant in River North featuring traditional Chinese Lamian noodles, as well as a variety of other indigenous Chinese cuisine, such as wok dishes, dim sum and xiao long bao (soup dumplings). In addition to serving dinner and brunch, Imperial Lamian is also a premier destination for lunch, with a daytime menu focused on lighter fare.

The chefs at Imperial Lamian have incorporated traditional Chinese flavors into items like the Bom Bom chicken salad, which features pulled chicken breast, cashew and red leaf lettuce mixed with a Thai peanut dressing. Chinese ingredients take center stage in the Imperial Sweet and Sour wok with plum, apple, pineapple, mango and hawthorn berry.

The Lunch Set at Imperial Lamian is a unique and approachable option for a midday meal, allowing guests to try just-right portions of standout starters and main dishes.

Imperial Lamian is open for lunch Monday-Friday from 11:30 a.m.-3:00 p.m. The full lunch menu is available here. The restaurant has two stunning private spaces available for corporate or social gatherings.

For more information, please visit

Imperial Lamian
6 W Hubbard St | Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 595-9440
Follow on Facebook: @ImperialLamianChi
Follow on Instagram: @imperiallamianchi
Follow on Twitter: @imperialchi

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