Posted on | July 3, 2014
Written by | BevNetwork
Rick Sampson outlines challenges and opportunities on the menu for the restaurant industry.
Rick Sampson is currently the Executive Director of the New York State Restaurant Association’s Educational Foundation, and is also immediate past-President of the NYSRA. His father Fred Sampson is credited with unifying the organization, and Rick has been involved for over 38 years, serving 19 of them as President and CEO, shepherding the association through some challenging economic times. He started the Educational Foundation in 1999, and was instrumental in bringing the ProStart culinary program for high school students to New York State.
Beverage Media Chairman William Slone sat down with Rick Sampson to get his perspective on a variety of issues facing NYSRA members.
ON THE RESTAURANT BUSINESS LANDSCAPE:
Obviously we’ve become more burdened by regulations. We see that as one of the major parts of what our association has done for the industry for the last 78 years, to protect those restaurateurs against big government the best we can. It is becoming more and more pronounced in day-to-day business. When [operators] decide to make changes in their restaurant, the first thing they ask themselves is “OK, does this meet the test of the department of health, labor…?” before they get down to “Will this increase my business and my bottom line?” It’s tough and getting tougher. We’re one of the most heavily regulated industries in the state of New York.
ON THE VALUE OF ASSOCIATIONS:
As I’ve always said in the past, I don’t know how you run a business without belonging to some kind of organization, How do you know all the changes coming out today, all the regulations and proposed legislation, without having an organization you can turn to? It’s so true that there’s strength in numbers. For an individual to go up to the capitol and try to lobby, it’s nearly impossible. But an organization representing 15,000 restaurants? That they pay attention to. It’s numbers.
ON ONGOING EDUCATION:
Part of our responsibility is to educate our membership and give them an opportunity to understand what’s out there, whether it’s health department changes, or SLA issues, or whether it’s waitress training, food cost, liquor cost. Some of the seminars we’ve offered in the past, like “Selling the Menu” for instance, are huge, because they affect positively the bottom line. I’d like to look at something along those lines. A lot of our members rely on the salespeople from the wholesalers they’re dealing with. I think they should be in a position to make those decisions, since nobody knows their customers and what they need better than they do.
ON TODAY’S CUSTOMER:
It’s amazing today, whether it’s New York City or Metropolitan area or Upstate, Long Island, it doesn’t matter. The customer today is unlike the customer 25 years ago. They are very adventurous and they will try anything. They know what they like and know what they don’t like, and they are very vocal about that. Not only with alcohol, but with food. If I am a restaurateur, I want to be ahead of that, and be as educated as I can be with trends and what is happening with the industry and with the consumer. And that’s where they get it: from an association, where we offer these types of programs so we can educate our members. Whether it’s alcohol or food or legislation, that’s what we do.
The NYS Restaurant Association offers advocacy, education and networking opportunities to its members, as well as an array of money-saving programs related to insurance and operations. For more information, visit nysra.org or call 800-452-5212.