Reflecting on my term as WRA Chairman of the Board
Hopefully 2016 has been a good year for your business. At the Buckhorn, we have enjoyed another busy summer on Lake Koshkonong, and we’re looking forward to what the holiday season brings to our restaurant.
There are many memories going through my head as I write my last column. It has truly been a fun and enjoyable year serving as your Chairman of the Board. I also have many memories of my whole career in this great industry, spanning over 50 years. How could I have ever known when I started out as a dishwasher at the age of 12 that I would go on to manage a restaurant at the age of 22, buy a restaurant at the age of 44, and become Chairman of the Board for WRA at the age of 63. I’m now 64 and thinking a lot about how my final chapter will be written. What a story! What opportunity this great country provides for those willing to work at it.
My motto for my chairmanship: EACH ONE–ASK ONE, has resulted in growth in our membership. The association, under the strong leadership of Ed Lump, continues to grow and get stronger each year. Over 280 new members have joined the WRA this year so far. I want to thank all of you for doing your part in growing our membership.
I have really enjoyed working with the outstanding staff members at WRA. They have helped and guided me through this year. They all truly deserve our thanks.
Through social media, I have tried to share with many of you my travels and dining experiences. My travels took me to Eau Claire, La Crosse, Green Bay, Madison, Sheboygan, Kohler, Milton, Milwaukee, Chicago, Washington, DC, and Dallas/Fort Worth. I had the opportunity to visit with Paul Ryan in the Speaker’s Office, dine at the Governor’s Mansion and even have a chili dog at Rudy’s Drive In. What a year!
But most of all, it always comes down to people. I have met so many good folks, visited so many good restaurants, and listened to and shared so many good stories about our industry. As tired as we sometimes are, and as often as we complain, there is no other job we would rather have.
As I wind down my year, I want to thank each and every one of you for your hard work and support. This really is a great industry, made up of great people. Continue to tell your stories, and I will continue to work on writing my final chapter.
Congratulations to Susan Patterson from Al & Al’s Stein Haus in Sheboygan. She will begin her term as Chairwoman of the Board in January. She is a strong leader who is very dedicated to WRA and our industry. I can only hope her experiences during her upcoming term are as rewarding as mine have been.
Thanks again for a great year.
A better question might be; where is the kitchen table? Do families still eat together? For more and more families that I know, the answer is, rarely.
I am a little older and I grew up in a home with one TV, one radio and a morning and evening newspaper. The only things we had that were close to devices were a portable, manual typewriter and one telephone. Oh the horror!
When dinner time arrived, all seven of us gathered around the kitchen table for dinner/supper. No one could start eating until my mother and grandmother sat down with us. No one could leave the table until we were dismissed. What on earth did we do?
Well, we talked to each other: work, school, sports, religion and politics. As kids, we had to listen and sometimes contribute to the discussion. There were arguments and uncomfortable questions interspersed with “please pass the…” and “thank you’s.” Unless we wanted them cut off (figuratively), we dared not sit down without washing our hands. We prayed before and after dinner.
As the holidays are fast upon us, I admit I am a bit nostalgic. I love both the religious and secular sides of the season. “A Christmas Story” is my favorite movie of the season because it reminds me of my family Christmases. We didn’t have a “leg lamp”—we had a “bowling pin” lamp. The scene at the end of the movie of the humorous but very peaceful family Christmas dinner at a restaurant is priceless, especially as it replaced what likely would have been a somewhat chaotic dinner at home.
What continues to influence my opinion is that scene. No one has to spend hours of preparation, jump up to bring more food, change the music or clear the table and, most importantly... there are no dishes to wash. More people are finding the idea of dining out on holidays appealing. National Restaurant Association research estimates that 10 percent of Americans ate their Thanksgiving meal at restaurants last year, compared to about 4.4 percent forty years ago. And more restaurants than ever before are making the decision to be open on Christmas Day to serve an increased interest in holiday dining options.
I have found the missing “kitchen table.” It is in your restaurant. This is not just during the holidays. It is every day. Restaurants provide the kitchen table where families and friends can gather to relax after a hard day and talk. No work required on their part. You do the work for your guests and as long as you do it well, you will be their “kitchen table” many times over.
I wrote this piece partially because there is an outdoor board on a major highway near my house that encourages people to show their love for their family by cooking them a meal at home tonight. Well and good, but I am pretty convinced that taking the family out to dinner is just as loving and might be more relaxing to all involved.
Further research from the NRA indicates that 78% of adults agreed that “Going out to a restaurant with family or friends gives you an opportunity to socialize and is a better way for you to make use of your leisure time rather than cooking and cleaning up.”
Finally, I want to wish all a very happy and successful holiday season and I sincerely hope that you will find a time for yourself to enjoy your own kitchen table and feel the spirit of the season.
God bless us all!