Q. Jot, it’s been a busy couple of months for the CRA – tell us what you have been up to:
It’s been a very active spring for our industry and the CRA. Last month we held our annual Lobby Day at the state Capitol and several delegates attended the National Restaurant Association’s Public Affairs Conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. These are our signature advocacy events where we connect our industry leaders, en mass, with their lawmakers. This is the time of year when the state Legislature and Congress are in high gear, so they’re voting on lots of bills that affect restaurants’ ability to operate successfully. Letting them know our views on the issues before them – good or bad – is critical.
Q. As President + CEO of the CRA, what are your most important duties as you see it:
My No. 1 priority is to assure that this enterprise is focused on and moving forward with the mission set by the CRA Board of Directors, which is the nation’s most impressive assembly of industry leaders, owners and executives. They are committed to the struggle of our industry. The board understands that aggressive, strategic advocacy is critical to managing our government-imposed risks. Whether in Washington, D.C., Sacramento, city halls or the many regulatory venues, my most important duty is to assure that our industry has a voice. Preferably a loud voice.
Our mission, in part, is to be the definitive voice of the state foodservice industry and to protect and promote its success. Essentially that mission has never changed over our association’s 106-year history.
Q. How did you end up at the CRA? Tell us a little about your background.
In my previous life, I was an advocate for the manufacturing sector representing the interests of some of the larger aerospace, technology, and industrial interests. Our former chief executive was John Dunlap, who was chairman of the California Air Resources Board before joining the CRA. As an advocate for the manufacturing sector, I spent a lot of time lobbying air quality regulators, and he was among them. When he became the CRA’s CEO he was tasked with establishing and a more aggressive advocacy presence. So, he tapped me to head up that effort. When he moved on to other opportunities in 2005 I was given the “battlefield promotion.”
Q. How is the restaurant industry bouncing back from the most recent recession?
The bounce has been similar to that of a slightly underinflated basketball – not the kind that we historically experience. The fragile recovery makes many of the mandates and regulations imposed by the government all the more pronounced. On the bright side, there is movement in the right direction and this economic slump has produced a much smarter and more focused restaurateur.
Q. What do you think is the biggest benefit for an operator in considering joining the CRA?
Over the last two years, the CRA has developed a very robust Legal Center, which is really a suite of resources that includes compliance services, topical whitepapers, and access to help from a bunch of very sharp attorneys across the state. They are finely attuned to the common legal issues that trouble that restaurant industry and are prepared to act quickly and aggressively. We’re finding that no matter where an operator falls on the political spectrum, the threat of litigation and vulnerability to lawsuits is something that everyone relates to and needs.