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April 2013 

National Restaurant Association Public Affairs Conference

The Illinois Restaurant Association is pleased to continue our tradition of representing Illinois Restaurants before members of Congress when we travel to Washington DC for the National Restaurant Association Public Affairs Conference April 17-18.  

The agenda for the event is below. We will have a reception for members of the Illinois Congressional delegation on Wednesday night. On Thursday, we will travel to the Hill to meet with our members of Congress.  

Over the years, IRA members have enjoyed meeting with the elected officials who represent them in Washington. More than one in four Americans held their first job in the restaurant industry. Many of our congressmen even have experience in the industry. Former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert and his family own White Fence Farm Restaurant in Romeoville. Speaker Hastert has met with our delegation many times and always enjoys speaking with industry professionals.      

Last year we were able to meet with Congressman Bobby Schilling, who owns St. Giuseppe's Heavenly Pizza. Senator Dick Durbin once was also part owner of a downstate pizza parlor.  

The IRA delegation always brings important, timely topics to discuss with our Congressional delegation. When Steve Palmer of Palmer Place in LaGrange goes to Capitol Hill April 17 and 18, he'll be talking about the same issue that brought him to his first Public Affairs Conference 20 years ago: health care. Recently, Palmer and his brother sat down with their congressman's staff to discuss the effects of the new health care law on the deli their parents bought in 1976. They estimated the new health care law would cost them $244,000 per year in insurance premiums, plus related costs. Otherwise, they could face a $130,000 fine.

Join hundreds of your industry peers and colleagues April 17-18 to talk about the issues that matter to your restaurant company. Gain valuable political insights and get a better understanding of how today's top legislative issues will affect your business - and your bottom line - in the coming year. The NRA Public Affairs Conference is a major event for leaders in our industry to join forces and carry the industry's message to Congress on behalf of restaurateurs nationwide. Registration is $165 for NRA members, and $250 for non-members. Register online today.   

Coalition Calls for Immigration Reform

From left to right: IRA Past Chairman Ivan
  Matsunaga, State Senator Kwame Raoul, 
  President Sam Toia, Exective Committee
                  Member Billy Lawless.

The Illinois Restaurant Association is proud to be a founding member of the Illinois Business Immigration Coalition, which launched on Monday, April 1, in Chicago.  IRA President Sam Toia is on the steering and was instrumental in organizing the coalition.  The new group of business leaders wants to recruit 300 CEOs and 1,000 small businesses in Illinois to push for "common sense" bipartisan immigration reform.  To learn more and join please click here.

The April 1st event brought together a bipartisan group of business and civic leaders to discuss the importance of immigration and call on the state legislature and United States Congress to pass immigration reforms.  The event featured a speech by IRA Executive Board Member Billy Lawless who spoke about the immigrant experience and its importance to the business community.  He pointed out that a large number of restaurants are started by the foreign born.  Speeches were also made by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Caterpillar CEO Doug Olberhelman, and various other leaders.  “There's a lot of forces that don't want to see this happen," Emanuel said. "This is a huge opportunity for us and we should not let it get squandered because of politics."

The event was open to the press and received a lot of positive attention.  The Chicago Tribune Story can be found here.  Click here to read the Chicago Sun-Times story.

The Illinois Restaurant Association supports comprehensive state and federal immigration reform.  The IRA supports reforms that expand employers' ability to hire a legal workforce and measures to give employers a way to hire legal foreign workers.  

The Illinois Business Immigration Coalition also includes former Gov. Jim Edgar; representatives from DePaul University and the University of Chicago; the Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association; and others.

The National Restaurant Association supports the following reforms to the immigration system: 

  • E-Verify. Nearly 20 states have made the voluntary federal E-Verify system mandatory for at least some employers.  As a rule, E-Verify is not required in Illinois.  In fact, Illinois is the only state that has tried to block the use of E-Verify by private employers.
  • H-2B visas. The H-2B program allots 66,000 visas a year for foreign workers to fill temporary or seasonal positions when businesses can't find enough domestic employees. Restaurants in many resort areas use the program to fill out their staff during busy seasons.
  • I-9. The NRA supports a more user-friendly I-9 form. The Department of Homeland Security released a preliminary version of a new form in 2012 but hasn't put it into effect yet.
  • Young immigrants. An Obama Administration program that got underway in August 2012 allows some young immigrants who arrived in the United States as children to apply for a temporary reprieve from deportation plus short-term work authorization. The IRA and NRA support the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals initiative as one way to enable employers to hire more legal workers.


Getting Green with Christine Tully

Co-Owner of Autre Monde Cafe & Spirits in Berwyn, IL


April marks Environmental Awareness month. As we celebrate the Earth and consider the footprint we leave behind, we are pleased to bring inspiring stories from Association members who have built their restaurants around a green missive. 

Christine Tully Aranza and her business partner John Aranza, opened the Mediterranean-inspired Autre Monde Café & Spirits in Berwyn, IL in July 2011. Having built their restaurant from the ground up utilizing repurposed materials, as well as building and sustaining a greenhouse that produces year-round for its culinary and cocktail programs, the Aranzas and their team embrace a truly green sensibility that serves as a model to other independent, chef-driven restaurants.

IRA: Is Autre Monde green certified?
CTA: We are nearing completion of our certification with Green Seal and are hoping to wrap it up by May 2013. Working with groups like the Green Chicago Restaurant Coalition (of which we are a charter member) and Project Green Chicago, which works on helping reduce energy costs and usage, has been hugely helpful. 

IRA: As restaurant owners, what is your overall philosophy when it comes to "being green"?  
CTA: We like to take a 360-degree approach. For example, while grass-fed beef is said to be "the healthiest," it also requires very large land demands for low yield, which we feel is not the best because land is also a limited resource. We choose grass-finished beef, which still has many of the same health benefits without such a high land demand. One needs to have full evaluation criteria in place that fits with his overall personal and business goals to have this kind of initiative be effective and meaningful. As we know there are many areas to consider – from food supply, to energy, to recycling.


IRA: What are some examples of sustainability in action at Autre Monde?
CTA: We look at all areas of our operation to be green. It is not just about buying organic or from small farms…it is also about the paint you choose for your walls, the furniture you choose, the equipment, recycling, and so forth. When we built Autre Monde, we used a lot of repurposed items, vintage glassware, Low VOC paint, and recycled paper supplies.

One of the initiatives we like best is that our cooking oil goes into a 50-gallon drum that gets picked up once a month by a company called Solvent Systems. They collect it and turn it into green cleaning products. Zero waste - we love that. We also compost onsite and our chefs regularly visit partner farms. In fact, in late March, our two sous chefs went to Spence Farm to learn how to make and bottle the maple syrup we serve at brunch. The farmers like it as they love sharing their commitment to the land – and our chefs always bring lunch!

We also partner with many of the other green businesses in our area to strengthen the local network. We often partner or share each other’s upcoming events and most of these business, including ours, offer complimentary educational sessions from time to time to help the community at large learn new tips on how to be green. The items available and green technology continues to evolve and we try to re-evaluate and share what we learn. 

IRA: You are one of very few restaurants in the Chicagoland area with a year-round greenhouse. What was the process of building the greenhouse, and why was it important to you to have one as part of Autre Monde? How much work goes into it on a daily basis?
CTA: The ability to grow some of our own produce and herbs for our menu and mixology program is amazing. Our chefs have a farm that supplies some of our seasonal produce, as well, and they grow organically. Our budget was tight as we were building a restaurant from the ground up, but this initiative was so important to us that we launched a Kickstarter campaign in late 2009 to fund it. Then, throughout a very DIY weekend, we built a fence, set pavers and built the greenhouse. Thankfully, we had help from friends and family.  

We have learned a lot over time about what is practical and works – types of soil to use, how to water, etc. Our kitchen and bar staff help plant, water and maintain our greenhouse and planter garden. It is definitely a team effort and a great training tool for our staff to learn about the role many of these plants play in Mediterranean cuisine. Our bar team gets to grow many specialized herbs for our cocktail program. We go through the seed catalogs with our chefs and bar team and decide what we will order each season and it helps to shape our menu.

With this very long winter, we weren't growing much more than microgreens in the colder months, but we love our greenhouse and spring planting is our favorite time of year. Guests love it and like to see what we have going on in there when they sit on the patio.

IRA: As summer nears, what are you and your chefs looking forward to growing and using on your menu?  
CTA: We will be doing a lot of specialized varieties of herbs for both the culinary and cocktail program, microgreens, spinach and a cutting garden in one of our planter boxes. As usual, we expect to have loads of heirloom tomatoes and this year we are trying some heirloom varieties of radish, carrot and cucumber, as well.

IRA: Will Autre Monde do anything special to celebrate Earth Day this year?  
CTA: Every year we give each table a packet of seeds to encourage our guests to plant their own garden, or, if they don't have a lot of space, a window box. Nearly everyone can have at least some fresh herbs on hand at home. Fresh makes all the difference.

Autre Monde Café & Spirits
6727 Roosevelt Rd.
Berwyn, IL 60402
(708) 775-8122


Joey Terrell: Paving a Green Path for the Restaurant Industry
Owner of Denny’s in Joliet and Mokena, IL


April marks Environmental Awareness month. As we celebrate the Earth and consider the footprint we leave behind, we are pleased to bring inspiring stories from Association members who have built their restaurants around a green missive. 

We had the pleasure of interviewing Joey Terrell, who owns two Denny’s locations in Joliet and Mokena, IL. Terrell was the first Denny’s owner to pursue and obtain LEED Certification, a lengthy process that required enduring commitment. To say that he’s a true expert and pioneer in this area would be an understatement. Here, he shares his insights about what it takes to be green, as well as what every restaurateur can do positively impact the environment.

IRA: Your Joliet restaurant was the first restaurant in the Denny's chain to become LEED certified in 2009. Tell us about the certification process.
JT: LEED Certification is the standard used by the U.S. Green Buildings Council as their standard in determining that a building is green. The process is long and the paperwork was over 4,000 pages. But we have gone the whole way and stayed on the LEED Green path with our Denny's in Joliet and incorporated our learnings at our second Denny's location in Mokena. There are about 20,000 buildings in the world that are LEED Certified and of those, only a small handful of them are restaurants. 

IRA: What advice would you give to a restaurateur pursuing LEED certification today? Has it become easier since 2009?
JT: Yes, LEED is working on developing programs that are more manageable for restaurateurs to pursue and programs are becoming more specific to building type.

IRA: For those who may not qualify to pursue LEED certification, what are some things that any restaurateur can do to be more environmentally conscious?
JT: Here is a short synopsis of what we have, and how restaurateurs can be more environmentally conscious while at the same time being more profitable.

  • Construction. Our roof features a reflective white membrane that reduces air-conditioning cooling loads in warmer months and helps reduce urban heat island effects. To further improve heating and cooling energy, our roof is insulated with R60, and the walls are insulated with R30 – twice as efficient than standard insulation. Drop ceiling, walls, and floor tiles are made from recycled materials.
  • Daylight Harvesting. People benefit in many ways from natural sunlight. Our six skylights and south-facing windows were strategically placed in order to take advantage of light harvesting in effort to improve the well being of our guests and employees. The Amish community in Arthur, IL made our skylights using no electricity.
  • Energy Conservation. We’ve used low VOC paints, adhesives, and carpet systems. Our Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system is a high-efficiency Trane model that exceeds most restaurant standards. The MERV 13 filters we’ve installed will significantly improve IAQ.
  • Equipment. Our store holds the latest in Energy Star-rated equipment, including the Ice Machine and Traulsen reach-in refrigeration. Our kitchen also contains an innovative step down hood that reduces air circulation use as business slows throughout the day, and steps back up as volume increases. This hood contributes significantly to energy savings in the restaurant. Currently, I have volunteered to assist the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Restaurant Association (NRA) to help to develop an Energy Star Standard for Restaurants along with other restaurateurs who have interest in being green.
  • Lighting and Energy Conservation. We’ve installed LED (Light Emitting Diodes) lighting in our dining room instead of standard 100-watt light bulbs. LED’s are monitored by sensors, which control when they are on or off. LED’s produce little heat, last 20 years, and are mercury-free. Occupancy sensors are used in storerooms, washrooms, and break areas. Highly efficient florescent lighting is used in the back of the house. We also purchase Renewable Energy Credits, which supports the use of wind energy. Restaurants in the U.S. have the greatest energy intensity of any type of commercial building, because of dishwashers, fryers, ovens, griddles, toasters, ice machines, etc. With this information, we have found enormous opportunities to conserve.
  • Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. We are attempting to reach a nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of a Green Restaurant. The LEED Certification recognizes performances in 5 key areas including: site design, water efficiency, energy conservation, material selection, and indoor environmental quality. This is a standard of the US Green Building Council. LEED points are used to determine levels of certification, as follows:

Standard: 21 to 26 points 

Silver Certified: 27 to 31 points 

Gold Certified: 32 to 41 points 

Platinum Certified: 42 to 51 points

  • Reduced Water Consumption. Low-flow toilets and urinals, low-flow sprayers on the high efficiency dishwasher, and tamper-proof aerators on all faucets reduce this store’s water consumption by 43.05%.

    Our Easy Water Conditioner system takes the place of a water softener. This system rearranges the water molecules so that they do not stick to the sides of the pipes, or cling onto the interiors of the equipment through which they pass. This system reduces the amount of water dumped into the sewers by 5-10%, and will not add salt to regional fresh water bodies.
  • Reduced Kitchen Natural Gas Usage and Waste Oil Recycling. Our kitchen staff uses a computerized deep fryer to control the heating of oil and amount of gas for frying food, which eliminates standby losses of heat. This efficient fryer utilizes a computerized filtering of the fryer oil, and automatically recycles the fryer oil for use as bio-diesel and animal feed. We also have two tank-less hot water heaters to replace an 80-gallon water heater, which significantly lowers natural gas usage.

IRA: How do your customers respond when they realize the lengths you've gone to build a more environmentally friendly restaurant?
JT: Customers love it. And our employees are happy to give them any information that they have about what we did that sets our Denny's apart from other restaurants; it gives them a great deal of pride.  For us it is a WIN, WIN, WIN situation. 

Part of being LEED is to teach others to do what you have done and teach them to do the same. Towards this goal we have produced our own website,, that helps people to read about what they are observing in the store. As we have free Wi-Fi, it is not unusual to see a customer sitting with their laptop or cell phone and checking out our Denny's that way. They often have questions, which our servers and front of the house team members are happy to answer. We also have signs posted around the restaurant that help people to understand what they are looking at. A lot of what we have done is not visible to the customers so we do take the effort to answer any questions they have. 

IRA: What cost-savings have you noticed as a result of the environmentally friendly systems you've put into place at Denny's?
JT: Our cost savings are very significant. Our Denny's in Mokena (3700 square feet) has utility bills of $20,000 higher per year than the larger restaurant in Joliet (4100 square feet) even though we have done several energy conservation efforts in Mokena. But to put it into dollars, our Joliet location has and electric bill of less than $1,000 per month and a natural gas bill of $600 (summer) to $1800 (Winter). In Mokena our bills are twice that and I am told by other Denny's franchisees that their utilities cost two to three times and more than what we pay in Joliet.

IRA: Are there others in the industry you admire for their work in this area?
JT:  There are very few of us out there that have gone to this length. However, one person who has made great strides in the Greening of America's Restaurants is Don Fisher of Food Service Technology Center.

IRA: Any special plans at Denny's in celebration of Earth Day?
JT:  For us, Earth Day is every day, and we make it a point to teach others daily how to be green. Keep in mind that restaurants consume 285% more utilities per square foot than any other type of building, so the opportunities to conserve are enormous. 

2531 Plainfield Road, Joliet, IL 
(815) 439-1833 


19099 Old Lagrange Road, Mokena, IL 
(708) 479-6488

On the Scene: Job Shadow Day - March 6, 2013


Almost 400 high school ProStart® students participated in the Illinois Restaurant Association (IRA) Educational Foundation’s Job Shadow Day on Wednesday, March 6th, 2013. The ProStart® program is a high school curriculum for students who are studying culinary arts and hospitality management. Students spent approximately 4 hours in various area restaurants and foodservice industry businesses to gain a real-world view of the industry.  Hands-on experience in front of the house and/or back of the house roles is a critically important work-based learning opportunity.

The IRA Educational Foundation identifies opportunities for ProStart® students to explore careers in the foodservice industry. Sixty-three worksite partners volunteered to host students for the event. Students went to a range of restaurant types ranging from fine dining  (Mexique, Piccolo Sogno, Shaw’s Crab House, Townhouse, Tortoise Club) to casual dining (Hofbräuhaus, T.G.I. Friday’s, Connie’s Pizza and Chili’s). Special thanks go to our many restaurant partners, as well as our foodservice partners such as Sysco Chicago and US Foods.


ProStart® is a national school-to-careers program that prepares high school students for careers in foodservice and hospitality management. ProStart® in Illinois is administered by the Illinois Restaurant Association Educational Foundation to over 3,000 students at 55 schools in the Chicagoland area.  Students have the opportunity to earn industry-recognized credentials and articulated credits for college while in high school. The Foundation provides work readiness training and connects students with industry professionals through job shadowing and internships to hone help students their skills in the foodservice industry. The ProStart® program is also offered in 47 states encompassing more than 90,000 high school students in more than 1,700 high schools. For more information, visit


News & Notes


Starbucks Howard Schultz to Keynote NRA Show 2013
Join us at NRA Show 2013 for a keynote address from Starbucks chairman, president and chief executive officer Howard Schultz. Listen, learn and be inspired by the unconventional ideas of the man who grew Starbucks from four to more than 18,000 stores - not simply as a purveyor of coffee, but culture, stewardship and community. Learn more, and register to save 50% for the NRA Show. The NRA Show takes place May 18-21 at McCormick Place. Visit

James Beard Finalists Announced
Finalists for the James Beard Foundation were announced last month. Several journalists, chefs and restaurateurs from Chicago and its surrounding areas are nominated in both regional and national categories. Congratulations to all of the nominees. Winners will be announced in New York on May 3 and May 6, 2013. Visit for more information.

Zagat’s “30 Under 30” Honored in Chicago
Thirty of Chicago’s rising industry stars – including chefs, managers, and beverage experts – were recognized by the esteemed Zagat Survey on March 25, 2013. The “30 Under 30” recipients were honored at a special event and ceremony held in Chicago. Congratulations to all of the honorees.

Zagat Spots the Most Iconic Eateries in 15 U.S. Cities
Congratulations to Chairman of the Board, John Colletti, and Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse for being named one of the most iconic restaurants in 15 U.S. Cities by Zagat Survey.  The editors of Zagat compiled a list of the most iconic restaurants across 15 major U.S. cities, a list of restaurants “that embody the essence of their city.”  For Chicago, Zagat bestowed Gibsons with that honor.  To view the full list of iconic restaurants in their respective cities please click here


Upcoming Events

  • 5/9 Good vs. Evil: An Evening with Anthony Bourdain & Eric Ripert 
    Two chefs. Two unlikely friends. Two very different careers and philosophies sharing one stage. Join Anthony Bourdain - famed chef, author, and television host of the Emmy award-winning No Reservations and The Layover - and Eric Ripert - renowned Le Bernardin chef, author, and regular guest on Bravo's Top Chef - as they share stories and muse on the place of food in our personal, community, and global life. It's an evening of storytelling and observation, providing frank and provocative insight into what really goes on behind the kitchen doors.

    The event will be held on May 9 at Auditorium Theatre. Tickets on sale now: click here.

  • 5/16 - 5/17 Retail and Hospitality Litigation and Claims Management Seminar
    DRI, the voice of the Defense Bar, is hosting a seminar May 16-17 at the InterContinental Chicago to address current litigation trends in employment, loss prevention, and securities, and how these trends affect the retail and hospitality industries. Speakers at the seminar include C.J. Childers, Family Dollar Stores, Rebecca Roby, Hard Rock Cafe International, and Howard Rosenblum, Walgreens. For more information, click here
  • 5/18 - 5/21 NRA Show and International Wine, Spirits & Beer Event
    Every year, over the course of four days, more than 1,800 suppliers and tens of thousands of buyers come together to make lasting connections that drive business profitability and shape the future of the restaurant, foodservice and hospitality industry.

    Join us May 18-21 in Chicago and experience the energy and inspiration of NRA Show 2013. You may just find that new product, trend or idea that makes the difference in your business next year. Register today at
  • 7/10 - 7/14 Taste of Chicago
    Chicago’s tremendous array of culinary delights are located in one place at the five-day lakefront festival where food choices range from ethnic to exotic to Chicago specialties.

Sample culinary offerings from Chicago’s various neighborhoods along the lakefront this summer as Taste of Chicago 2013 serves a diverse menu in Grant Park July 10-14. Many new items will be offered this year from both new and returning restaurants, providing Taste attendees with an endless array of options in one location. Visit for more information.


Millennium Park   |   Sept 26 - 30