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MRA Report: Why You Should Join Your Peers



This column has been a regular feature of Foodservice News since the summer of 2014, so there must be 35 or so in the archives by now. We haven’t written often about the Minnesota Restaurant Association or about the importance of membership to our work.  What does the MRA do and why should you care?

Although we have a longer and more formal mission statement, the reason we exist is to drive the success and growth of Minnesota’s restaurant industry.  The MRA has been doing this work since 1933 and is the state affiliate of the National Restaurant Association. We accomplish the mission through strong advocacy at the state, local and administrative levels; public outreach; operational support for our members; and education.

The association has a staff of 10 who also support the Minnesota Lodging Association and Resort & Campground Association, our partners in the coalition called Hospitality Minnesota.  Membership is important both because dues support our efforts financially and because numbers matter when we advocate at the Legislature, city halls and before administrative agencies.  Membership dues make up about 65 percent of our annual budget with the balance coming from events, programs and miscellaneous income.  

Who belongs? We have just under 2,000 member locations which range from fine dining to fast food. Our membership roster runs the gamut from small town cafes to white-tablecloth establishments. All 87 counties are represented and most of the cuisines you can imagine. On the alphabet we run from A.T. the Black and White to Zorbaz on the Lake. Some of our members are in their third generation of belonging to the MRA. When we gather for our annual Hospitality & Tourism Day at the Capitol each year, we have members in most of the 201 legislative districts.  

Why should you join the association? When we ask members the question, “Why do you belong?” we get a wide variety of answers but there are some common themes:

We want to have a voice with various levels of government and with the media. As a member, we can have an impact on the agenda the association pursues each year.

The networking opportunities are valuable and very helpful to running a successful business.

We value the ability to call the MRA with a wide range of questions about the law, the various agency rules and the industry best practices. The answers are more dependable than Google and specific to Minnesota.

MRA events are helpful for both education and networking. There are frequent Peer-to-Peer Mixers and Hot Topic Workshops on current issues presented with answers that are specific to Minnesota. The annual Hospitality Conference and Expo is the premier education event each year.

The Hospitality Minnesota Law Review is worth the price of belonging. This unique Minnesota handbook for legal issues involving hospitality businesses is a member-only benefit and is updated regularly. We also love the HR Tool Kit and the availability of the required labor law posters.

There are programs that save us money each year, including discounts on music licensing, ServSafe classes and a good value on credit-card processing.

The online vendor guide is easy to use and saves time when looking for an established provider. There are more than 200 Allied members listed. We also post job vacancies at no charge on the Hospitality Job Site. 

As an MRA member we are automatically members of the National Restaurant Association. We get a discount to attend the annual show in Chicago and great information on national issues.

The positions we take on advocacy issues are determined each year by a board of directors made up of members. We work on subjects that range from the minimum wage and the recognition of tips through driving credentials for our immigrant employees, guests and friends. The MRA is a founding member of the Minnesota Business Immigration Coalition.

In recent years we’ve spent almost as much time at various city halls as we have at the State Capitol. City success stories include:

Happy hour is now allowed in Edina

Several cities that have had 60/40 or even 70/30 requirements for a food to alcohol ratio have changed their laws to reflect current consumer preferences.

Environmental packaging ordinances have been compromised in some cities and defeated in St. Paul.

The Minneapolis city wage is being phased in over seven years for most restaurants because of our Pathway to $15 campaign.

What does it cost? The membership dues are dependent on your volume of business and range from $265 and up.  The members who attend, engage and participate get the most out of their investment and continually tell us that this is one of the best decisions they make each year.

Would you like more information?  Our website is www.mnrestaurant.org or you can call me at 651-925-4011.  Just like the minister who promises not to make the sermon about money (very often) we won’t use this column to pitch membership often, but we’re passionate about the benefits! 


Dan McElroy is executive vice president of the Minnesota Restaurant Association and president and CEO of Hospitality Minnesota, which also includes the Lodging and Resort & Campground associations.

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