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National Restaurant Association - Make your mark: 5 advocacy tips from restaurant leaders

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Make your mark: 5 advocacy tips from restaurant leaders

Two restaurant operators and one government affairs executive were honored at the 2014 National Restaurant Association Public Affairs Conference for their standout advocacy on health care, wages and other key legislative issues impacting the restaurant industry. The winners of the 2013 America’s Restaurant Advocates Advocacy Leadership Awards are

  • Independent restaurants: Tom Boucher, owner and CEO, Great NH Restaurants
  • Chain restaurants: Don Fox, CEO, Firehouse Subs
  • Government relations: Jamie Richardson, vice president of government and shareholder relations, White Castle

The winners credited their successes on the advocacy front to their passion for the restaurant business, persistence, and a willingness to fight for the industry. They shared five tips to help you make your mark as a restaurant advocate:

  • Show up: Writing letters and op-eds is valuable, but face-to-face interactions with media and lawmakers will help establish your credibility, Boucher said. “As I spoke to legislators and media more, they seemed to be more interested because they know I’m on the front lines every day. If legislators or the media reach out to you with an invitation, you have to show up. They’ll realize that this is somebody who’s in the know.”
  • Build relationships with the other side:  Advocacy is about building relationships, both with those who agree and disagree with your positions, Fox said. “Emphasize building relationships with those who don’t agree with you,” he said. “Consider them long-term relationships. There are times when it seems for so long an issue isn’t resonating, and all of the sudden it connects.”
  • Be persistent: Don’t expect the job to be done after one meeting, Fox said. “You have to be constant and consistent with your message,” he said. “It’s unrealistic to think that one statement of fact or opinion is going to sway everybody. Keep going back.”
  • Clarify why the issue matters: For Richardson, it’s important to emphasize why issues like health care and minimum wage are important to the company. The reason for your advocacy has to be made clear, particularly in the face of opposition. “The reason we’re fighting is to continue to do business and create more opportunities,” he said.
  • Use numbers: Use real figures to illustrate the impact of a piece of legislation. But don’t rely on numbers that show the overall industry impact, as figures that show the impact on your restaurant will resonate better with legislators, Boucher said.
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