In the past, the association was viewed as a more North Jersey fine dining organization. We now truly represent all segments of the hospitality industry; fine dining, chains, independent restaurants as well as the lodging sector.
Trenton, New Jersey (PRWEB) July 29, 2015
The fate of the New Jersey restaurant industry is in good hands with Marilou Halvorsen leading the way. In Bielat Santore & Company's "Who's Who in the Restaurant Industry" series, Halvorsen, President of the New Jersey Restaurant & Hospitality Association (NJRHA), located in Trenton, New Jersey, discusses the goals of the organization and the benefits it offers its members. The responsibilities of the association include: supporting New Jersey restaurants by providing them with opportunities for members to grow their businesses and making connections with other industry professionals.
With fourteen years as the Director of Marketing for Jenkinson’s Boardwalk in Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey and Casino Pier in Seaside Heights, New Jersey under her belt, Halvorsen was honored when the association called her to take over after former President and friend, Deborah Dowdell passed away. “When the position became available, it was a good time for me given my children were on their way to college and it was an excellent opportunity to advance my career,” said Halvorsen. “I thought it was a good time with great progression and opportunity to advance my career.” Catapulted into the hot seat as President of the NJRHA during the chaos that Hurricane Sandy ensued throughout the Garden State, Marilou Halvorsen had to spring into action fast.
The mission of the NJRHA is to support, educate and advocate; a motto that the organization takes very seriously to protect their members. “A big part of what we do is advocacy,” said Halvorsen. “We monitor all legislation - anything that has to do with the restaurant and hospitality industry. The main thing is that we make sure that we are properly represented.” Of about 18,000 local restaurant owners in the state, ten percent of them are members of the NJRHA. “In the past, the association was viewed as a more North Jersey fine dining organization,” said Halvorsen. “We now truly represent all segments of the hospitality industry; fine dining, chains, independent restaurants as well as the lodging sector.”
Members also have access to the New Jersey Restaurant Educational Foundation (NJREF) program, which helps young aspiring restaurateurs find their passion in the industry. The program offers ServSafe classes, educational seminars, networking events, and scholarship opportunities. “Education is a big component of food safety, alcohol management, and continuing education classes,” said Halvorsen. The NJREF also hosts a ProStart program providing high school students with the opportunity to go head to head in a state-wide culinary and management competition. The first place team moves on to the National Competition to represent the State of New Jersey and compete for scholarships. “These programs are great because they give kids an investment in the future and knowledge in the industry,” said Halvorsen.
Halvorsen particularly enjoys reading the stories from students who apply for the program. “Applicants don’t necessarily have to have aspirations to go to a four year college to be considered for the scholarship. We try not to be too restrictive,” said Halvorsen. “I love reading the applications because for many of these students, the money really does make a difference. We’re really hoping to grow the program.”
The association also organizes events throughout the year including the ProStart Golf Outing on September 28, 2015 where all proceeds benefit the scholarship program. Most recently announced, the Restauranteur of the Year Awards Gala, to be held at the Stone House in Stirling Ridge, New Jersey on November 30, 2015. The event is to honor the winner of New Jersey’s Restauranteur of the Year, Steve Bidgood, owner of the Salt Creek Grille in Rumson and Princeton, New Jersey. “A secretly collective committee comes together to choose a winner each year and about 400 people attend the ceremony. It’s a pretty big turnout.” said Halvorsen. Other awards that will be presented are the Deborah Roy Dowdell Lifetime Achievement Award, Gold Plate Award and the Hospitality Awards.
The organization helps restaurant goers as well with their new online Dining Guide. Accessed through the NJRHA’s website, patrons can search establishments divided into various categories including white linen, diners, banquet halls, etc. “People call often asking for good recommendations,” said Halvorsen. “It’s funny how we’ve become sort of a referral.” Only NJRHA members are listed in the Dining Guide ranging from 700 to up to 2,000 restaurants. “We hope that restaurants see the value in joining the association,” added Halvorsen. “We are the only association that represents and protects this industry.”
Patrons are encouraged to “like” their Facebook page New Jersey Restaurant Life, sponsored by the New Jersey Restaurant and Hospitality Association, which goes behind the scenes of New Jersey’s local restaurants and historic eateries. “I can tell you single handedly that the generosity that restauranteurs have helping the community and employees is incredible,” said Halvorsen. “Those are the stories that I like to tell.”
To become a member of the New Jersey Restaurant Association, visit their website at http://njra.org/. To speak with a representative, call 800.848.6368 or email info(at)njra(dot)org.
About Bielat Santore & Company
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