A Joliet Region Food and Beverage Association has been formed, an outgrowth of local efforts to advocate for the restaurant industry in 2020 as shutdowns were ordered during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The JRFBA has been formed as a sub-group of the Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry to serve as an advocacy and trade group sharing best practices and promoting business development, the chamber said in a news release.
The association will have a kick-off event on Oct. 26 as it seeks membership beyond the seven restaurants who have started the group.
“All of those involved in running an establishment know quite well both the challenges and enjoyment that come with being in the industry,” Tom Grotovsky, owner of the Great American Bagel, said in the release. “This group will bring individuals together to form bonds, use our resources to tackle tough issues, unleash talents, and support all in a way that we can collectively rise to the top of our profession.”
Chamber President Jen Howard said in an interview that the group seeks to go beyond restaurants and bars in its membership.
“We would like to see distributors and manufacturers – anyone who does business with restaurants and bars,” Howard said Friday.
Early members in the group also include George Daskalakis from Al’s Steak House, Sue Schultz with Cemeno’s Pizza, Joe Colkinis with Heroes West Sports Grill, Bill Dimitroulas whose restaurants include Hamburgerseria and Cut 58, Sue Bornhofen Cut with the Jacob Henry Mansion Estate and Don Williams from Syl’s Restaurant and Lounge in Rockdale.
The group plans to have speakers and presentations at its meetings to share best practices and help each other in their business, she said.
The association between the chamber and restaurants grew closer during the mandated restrictions placed on the industry because of the pandemic, Howard said.
“We had started meeting with some of the restaurant owners early in the shutdown,” she said. “We just tried to help them wherever we could. We formed this association so they could have a stronger voice and we could advocate for them if something drastic happened in the future.”
The JRFBA will be open to chamber members and non-members, according to the release. A board of directors will meet on a monthly basis to ensure the mission of the group is being carried out through programs and events.
The Oct. 26 kick-off event will be 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at Heroes West, 1530 Commerce Lane in Joliet. It includes a cash bar, appetizers and a program that begins at 5:15 p.m.
Those interested can call 815-727-5371 for more information.