The restaurant industry, locally and around the state, can expect to experience
more local sourcing and ingredients, unique
specialty cocktails, healthful kid’s meals and
a strong overall economic outlook, according
to a report released last month by the New
York State Restaurant Association.
The chairwoman of the group is Colleen
Holmes, co-owner of Wheatfields Restaurant
in Saratoga Springs and Wheatfields Bistro
and Wine Bar in Clifton Park.
According to the association study, nationally, the restaurant industry represents 10 percent of the nation’s workforce and will continue to drive new employment by creating 13.1 million positions in 2013. In New York state over the next 10 years, the restaurant industry is projected to create approximately 50,600 jobs, a 6.7 percent increase in employment over the decade. Holmes said the association “has worked hard in recent years with Gov. Cuomo and local leaders in New York City and across the state to improve the climate for restaurateurs, caterers and other hospitality professionals. These numbers just out from the NRA’s national research signals this work is beginning to get traction.”
The report projects a 3.8 percent increase in sales this year from 2012.
NYSRA, working in conjunction with its national affiliate, the National Restaurant Association, highlighted hospitality and related economic trends consumers can expect in 2013 based upon interviews with 1,800 leading chefs nationally.
The top five culinary trends from the research include: Locally sourced meats and seafood; locally grown produce; healthful kids’ meals; environmental sustainability as a culinary theme; and children’s nutrition as a culinary theme “Local and healthy are the dominant themes again this year, as they have been in recent years,” said Holmes. “And New York restaurants are responding to these consumer trends in innovative and unique ways; combining good, old-fashioned, farmto- market principles with modern delivery mechanisms.”
The study also focused on the adult beverage sector and determined the following five trends emerging in the coming year: Onsite barrel-aged drinks; food-liquor/cocktail pair ings; culinary cocktails (e.g. savory, fresh ingredients); micro-distilled/artisan liquor; and locally produced spirits.
On the economic side, the projections point to national restaurant sales topping $660 billion in the coming year. In New York state alone, sales are projected to be up $33,569,546 or approximately 3.9 percent beyond 2012, Holmes said.
When elected to her first term, in 2011, Holmes was the first woman to hold that position. Given that the association is 76 years old, “it was about time,” she commented. Her mission is to focus on the needs of the membership and to build membership.
Among the key functions for the group is to keep the members apprised of new or proposed laws and regulations that affect their businesses.
“We are very adept at reading a 600-page piece of legislation and determining how it will impact our members,” she said. She tries to assure that those in the industry will not be taken by surprise by new requirements. The association also lobbies on behalf of its members on the local, state and national level. “We have a very strong and refreshing relationship with the governor’s office,” she said.
She called the organization “an association of small business owners,” but “very diverse types of business owners,” ranging from individual owners of small neighborhood restaurants and take-out shops, to franchisees of large chains like McDonald’s or Dunkin’ Donuts, to owners of major restaurants and groups of restaurants.
The restaurant business is one of the state’s largest employers with many different types of employees, Holmes noted. In addition to keeping members informed of legislative developments and making their views known to government officials, the association “is a tremendous resource” for members, she said.
It provides professional services including legal and accounting services, advice on advertising, and help with practical problems of running a restaurant business. For an individual restaurant owner, such services can be prohibitively expensive.
The restaurant business is “very dynamic,” changing from day to day, Holmes said, and “it is exciting to be part of that.”
Holmes holds an unpaid elected position that “takes up quite a bit of my day.” The association has a paid executive board headed by a president/chief executive officer and a vice president/chief operating officer and paid staff, all under Holmes’ overall direction.
More information on the association is available at its website, www.nysra.org.
Writer Jill Nagy contributed to this story
Photo Courtesy of Wheatfield’s Restaurant