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National Restaurant Association - Meet the Advocate: Diana Lynch

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Meet the Advocate: Diana Lynch

Diana Lynch has been a world-ranked athlete, a Wall Street whiz and an executive at an aerospace company. Since 2005, she’s owned restaurants with her brother, Chef Paul Staley, and her husband Theodore Lynch. As one of America’s Restaurant Advocates, she aims to influence local and national policy-makers to foster restaurant growth.

Winning record: I’ve had a very interesting career. Before I was professional tennis player, I was a champion squash player in high school and college. Squash opened a lot of doors for me. I continued to play after I graduated while I was working on Wall Street. One day, I met a rep from Dunlop who invited me to train at Bolletieri Tennis Academy in Florida. I ended up turning pro and played in every big tournament around the world.  

Career takes flight: I retired from tennis in 1996 and went to work at Pratt Whitney. I eventually ran the division that makes robotic systems to apply or remove coatings from surfaces, such as B2 bombers. It was a very exciting time for me.

Family affair: Over the years, I used to tell Paul that we should open a restaurant together. He attended the Culinary Institute of America and apprenticed with Jacques Pepin. In 2005, he finally agreed, and we opened Madison Chocolates in Madison, Conn. In 2009, we opened Splash American Grill, a 5,000-square-foot restaurant in Guilford, Conn., with 220 seats and 16 employees. My husband Theodore has a master's degree in hotel and restaurant management, so it truly is a family business.

Making it work: Paul, Theodore and I each bring different strengths to the table to make Splash what it is today and what it will become in the future. We hope is to continue to grow our business and plan to launch two new locations in 2014. Eventually, we’d like to open more locations and ultimately go public.

Discipline pays off: My experience on Wall Street and at Pratt Whitney was good preparation for the restaurant industry. Running a division was like running my own business. I was under extreme financial pressure and constantly had to prove myself. Even as a professional tennis player, I was on tour 50 weeks a year.

Getting involved: As I worked to grow our restaurant, I became concerned about the over-regulation of our industry. There’s a large volume of laws that are unfair to small restaurants, and lawmakers don’t understand the ramifications of their legislation. Information is what drives good decisions, and there’s not sufficient dialogue.

Spreading the word: We have to start locally to create relationships to make things better. It’s our responsibility to present information that can drive good decision-making. I’m on board to do whatever I can to help.

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