“Directors Corner”

By Tom Haas, CEO of The Haaspitality Group

There is a Light at the End of the Tunnel

What a year, 2020.  Thank goodness it is behind us (hopefully).  Finally, we are starting to get some good news as business starts to reopen.

The most recent good news comes from Cameron Mitchell who sees some major positive turnaround results.  Combine that with our other participants, i.e. Frontier Enterprises in San Antonio who lost big in 2020 and who now feels good about turnaround.  In addition, the regional chain, Biscuitville, has reported that drive throughs never seem to have lost a step.

Golden Corral has suffered more than almost anyone in our Industry.  But, like everyone from Red Robin to Cameron Mitchell to Denny’s, believe it or not, the survivors seem to be stronger for this calamity which confronted us all.

All operators had to reevaluate who they were and perform a self analysis on their company to understand what changes had to be made to survive.  The data shows that in 2020 our Industry lost $240 billion dollars and that 3 million workers lost their jobs.  Wow, what a calamity for sure.

Not only did this affect and challenge the actual corporations big and small to survive, but it also presents a major challenge to the National Restaurant Association.  I go back to the mid sixties when I first got involved with my dear friend, Richard W. Brown, who was the president of the N.R.A. while based in Chicago, and he along with his marketing agency came up with the slogan “We are glad you’re here”.  In later years Mike Hurst resurrected that slogan as Mike and Dick Brown were very close friends and it was a most positive public relations effort.

From that time during my tenure as publisher of Nation’s Restaurant News I was in the middle of many challenges good and bad involving the N.R.A.  One of the really successful happenings was when Nation’s Restaurant News created “The Presidents’ Conference” and had invited Ted Balestreri to sit in on a meeting that we had in Carmel, California.  This resulted in a gathering in D.C. at N.R.A. headquarters under the direction of Bill Regas, then chairman, and at which meeting Joe Lee, John Farquarson, Jim Peterson, Tom Russo, Joe Fassler, etc. were added to the board.

My point is that I feel very close to the N.R.A. due to my longevity in this great Industry.  But, after listening to Ray Blanchette, Cameron Mitchell, the owner of Sylvia’s, Laura Rea Dickey, Lady Gaga’s father, Rick Berman, David Portnoy and many others talk about the business, the threat of the Pandemic, the issue with the $15.00 minimum wage, etc., at no time was the National Restaurant Association involved or mentioned.

What a great opportunity existed, and still does, for the National Restaurant Association to prove its value to a suffering Industry.  What an opportunity to show that N.R.A. represents big and small, chain and independent operators across the country.  What a great chance to increase its membership by proving that it is the voice of the Industry.

In good times the N.R.A. was able to be a Washington lobbying group, but in challenging times the Association needs to step up to the plate and be prepared for a whole new game plan.  Hopefully, this is part of the N.R.A.’s self evaluation and strategic assessment for the future.

Let’s hope that our Industry will never find itself in a similar position as per 2020.