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September 21, 2018

Cedar Falls Bartender Named Iowa’s Mixology Champion

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September 21, 2018
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September 7, 2018, Des Moines, IA– Seven top mixologists from across Iowa were invited to compete at the Iowa Restaurant Association’s State Mixology Championships held September 6th at Vivian’s Diner & Drinks in Des Moines. Cedar Falls Mixologist Ingrid Folker from Whiskey Road was named this year’s champion.
Each competitor prepared three distinct drinks for a panel of professional judges. The first was a variation of a classic cocktail, the second was a freestyle cocktail, which featured a Sazerac Spirit. The third was a creation on the fly with a spirit assigned by the judges. Competitors were rated on the taste, appearance, garnish, creativity and presentation. Later in the evening, the drink’s samples were prepared for the public who voted in a People’s Choice Competition.
 Folker’s tasty take on the cocktails, like her Total Saz cocktail with a twist of lemon, gave her the edge over her competitors as she poured her way to the winner’s circle.
Runner-up Nick Throckmorton from Hello Marjorie in Des Moines also impressed judges with his skills and personality. Shane Simmons from Splash in Des Moines, won the People’s Choice Award with his signature cocktail, Big Easy Layover.
“The talent, innovation and flavor profiles presented by Iowa’s mixology contenders impressed the judges and public,” said Director of Marketing and Association Development for the IRA, Stacy Kluesner. “It is a great season to go out and explore Iowa’s mixology scene.”
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Iowa Restaurant Association
The Iowa Restaurant Association is an advocacy organization supporting Iowa’s restaurant and bar industry with educational and promotional programs across the state.
Media Contact:
Josephine Jensen
Public Relations Specialist
319-464-0766
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September 5, 2018

2018 Iowa Hospitality Industry Award Winners Showcase Talent From Across The State

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September 5, 2018
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September 6, 2018, Des Moines, IA- On October 8th the Iowa Restaurant Association will host its Annual Celebrating Excellence Industry Awards Ceremony at the Des Moines Marriott. This year’s winners are a diverse group from across state. They will be honored for their creativity, business acumen, philanthropy, mentorship and leadership. Restaurants were nominated by the industry and public. Winners were selected by a panel of industry leaders.
2018 Award Winners
 
Restaurateur of the Year 
Chef Benjamin Smart, Executive Chef, Big Grove Brewery, Solon
Chef of the Year 
Chef Aaron Holt,  Executive Chef/Co-General Manager, RoCA, Des Moines
Emerging Hospitality Leader of the Year
Holly Hintz, Pastry Chef/General Manager, Créme Cupcake + Dessert, Des Moines
Restaurant Employee of the Year
Shayna Watts, Assistant Manager, Fresh Mediterranean Express, Waukee
American Dream Award of the Year
Chef Aman Razadan, Owner/Executive Chef, Hemispheres Bistro, Bettendorf
Purveyor Partner of the Year
Linda Funk, Executive Director, The Soyfoods Council, Ankeny
Industry Champion
Krista Kay, Go Fish Marina Bar & Grill, Princeton
ProStart Educator of Excellence
 Joan Stekl, ProStart Educator, Washington High School, Cedar Rapids
ProStart Mentor of the Year
Drew Beck, Division President, Reinhart Foodservice, Cedar Rapids
Small Community Restaurant Neighbor Philanthropist
Unc’s Cheesecakes, Jessica Baldus Osage
Large Community Restaurant Neighbor Philanthropist
Gusto Pizza, Joe McConville, Josh Holderness & Tony Lemmo, Des Moines
Legislator of the Year
Representative Brian Best, Iowa’s 12th District, Glidden
Legislator of the Year
Senator Mike Breitbach, Iowa’s 28th District, Strawberry Point
The Awards Ceremony is part of a “full-day of hospitality fun” presented by the Iowa Restaurant Association. It will kick off with a keynote address from Joe Essa, President of Wolfgang Puck Worldwide, Inc. The Association will then host an Industry Expo and education series. The Hospitality Awards Ceremony will kickoff the evening celebrations followed by a cocktail reception and Gala featuring the Association’s Annual Culinary competitors, live music, wine, beer and spirit samples.  The Gala event is open to the public. Tickets are available for $50 at www.restaurantiowa.com.
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Iowa Restaurant Association
The Iowa Restaurant Association is an advocacy organization supporting Iowa’s restaurant and bar industry with educational and promotional programs across the state.
Media Contact:
Josephine Jensen
Public Relations Specialist
515-276-1454
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September 5, 2018

G Migs 5th Street Pub Chef in West Des Moines Wins Healthiest Competition at 2018 Iowa State Fair

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September 5, 2018
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Wednesday, August 15, 2018 – West Des Moines, IA

Top Chefs Wow the Crowd
The competing chefs were challenged to make salad dressing recipes which used Mori-nu Soft Silken Tofu as the base of the dressing, were consumer friendly, gluten-free and delicious enough to put on a restaurant menu. Each chef demonstrated the process of making the dressing and then served four judges as well as a crowd of fair-goers.

Migliero Wins
Champion: Chef Migliero took home the gold with an orange walnut tofu dressing over a mixed local greens salad. Other competing chefs included:
2nd Place: Chef Jessi Dolson, Barley’s Bar & Grill in Council Bluffs, IA – Orange ginger soy shrimp salad
3rd Place: Tyler Kubiak, Hy-Vee Market Grille, Waukee -Lemon Mint Tofu Dressing
4th Place: Chef Joe McConnville, Gusto Pizza Des Moines – Creamy pesto with balsamic
All participants received cash prizes.
Contest judges included Soy producer and IA Soybean Association board member, Jeff Frank, Food blogger Cristin Clark with Food & Swine, Reporter Ben Oldach with WHO TV 13 and Chef John Andres with the Iowa Culinary Institute. All of the chefs’ recipes are available online at both the Iowa Restaurant Association and The Soyfoods Council websites: www.restaurantiowa.com and www.thesoyfoodscouncil.com.

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The Soyfoods Council
The Soyfoods Council is an affiliate of the Iowa Soybean Association. The mission of The Soyfoods Council is to serve as a catalyst, leader and facilitator to mainstream soy-based foods into the global marketplace-America and beyond. www.thesoyfoodscouncil.comIowa Restaurant Association

The Iowa Restaurant Association is an advocacy organization supporting Iowa’s industry with educational and promotional programs across the state. www.restraurantiowa.com

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April 5, 2018

Iowa Restaurant Association President Named 2018 Inspiring Women of Iowa Courage Award Recipient

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April 5, 2018
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Thursday, April 5, 2018 – Des Moines, IA – Congratulations to Jessica Dunker, President & CEO of the Iowa Restaurant Association, who has been named the 2018 Inspiring Women of Iowa Courage Award Recipient by the Girls Scouts of Greater Iowa. Dunker was nominated by an anonymous source for the Courage Award which is given to a woman who has shown strength in the face of fear, pain, or grief and persevered. Dunker accepted the award at a luncheon held at the Des Moines Marriott on Wednesday, April 4.

In her acceptance speech, Dunker commented, “I realize the courage that was required by the women who were nominated in this category and the things they’ve had to overcome in their lives and I am so honored to be in their company. Every one of the nominees are women of courage, character and confidence.”

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Iowa Restaurant Association
The Iowa Restaurant Association provides advocacy, education and promotional support to Iowa’s restaurant and tavern industry. www.restaurantiowa.com

Media Contact:
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February 5, 2018

70 Million Americans to Celebrate Valentine’s Day at a Restaurant

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February 5, 2018
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West Des Moines – February 5, 2018 – More than seventy million Americans will celebrate Valentine’s Day at a restaurant this year according to the National Restaurant Association. Many restaurants plan to offer special promotions, entertainment, flowers and other romantic items, making a night at a favorite or new restaurant a perfect gesture for the one you love.

“The top three deciding factors for couples choosing to eat out are the familiarity of a favorite eatery, a romantic setting, and special menu offerings,” said Jessica Dunker, president and CEO of the Iowa Restaurant Association. “It’s not too soon to make reservations as Valentine’s Day is the second most popular holiday to dine out in America (behind Mother’s Day), and about one-third of those celebrating the holiday will be visiting a restaurant.”

Those with busy schedules who choose to celebrate their love on a night other than February 14th are in luck. Nearly one-third of consumers prefer to receive a restaurant gift card from a significant other over chocolate, flowers and even jewelry this holiday. Think ahead and give the gift of a great dining.

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Iowa Restaurant Association
The Iowa Restaurant Association provides advocacy, education and promotional support to Iowa’s restaurant and tavern industry. www.restaurantiowa.com

Media Contact:
Katelyn Kostek
Public Relations Specialist
kkostek@restaurantiowa.com
515-276-1454

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January 22, 2018

Hospitality Industry Seeks Reform to Secure Higher Coverage To Help Innocent Victims Harmed by an Intoxicated Person

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January 22, 2018
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Under Iowa’s current antiquated system, only hospitality operators are required to insure themselves against the behavior of others. This mandated insurance is often cost-prohibitive, providing little coverage to the business or assistance to innocent victims.

Des Moines – January 22, 2018 – The Iowa Restaurant Association is asking state lawmakers to pass insurance reform that would make it possible for restaurant and tavern operators to secure better policies to help compensate innocent victims if an intoxicated person causes harm and the restaurant or bar is held partially responsible.

Called “DRAM” insurance, in Iowa this coverage requirement is unique to those who “sell and serve” alcohol such as restaurants and bars. There is no similar requirement for those who “sell” unopened alcohol such as box stores, pharmacies, grocery, and convenience stores.

“We are the only segment of the industry which is held responsible for the behavior of others,” said Jessica Dunker, president and CEO of the Iowa Restaurant Association, the group spearheading the proposed changes. “We understand we have a unique relationship with patrons and as such we’re willing to carry the extra coverage, but we also have to have access to affordable policies.”

According to Dunker, Iowa ranks 46th in the nation in “insurability” for DRAM. “That’s a pretty unattractive marketplace,” says Dunker. She points to the rankings from ISO, an organization that provides actuarial and other information about property/casualty insurance risk. This data is used by insurance carriers to select markets and set rates.

“The way Iowa’s laws are written today, it’s nearly impossible for them to determine their risk,” says Dunker. “If I was an insurance carrier, I’d think twice about writing DRAM policies in Iowa too.”

As a result, Iowa restaurants and bars can often find only one carrier willing to offer the insurance, resulting in high-cost, low-coverage policies. “I know of one operator who has a $150,000 policy that he pays $40,000 per year for,” said Dunker. “This is particularly tough for border businesses who simply can’t compete with their counterparts in other states.”

The Association hopes their proposed changes will bring Iowa’s DRAM insurance grade in line with surrounding states. “Nearly anything would be better than what we have today,” said Dunker.

The Iowa Restaurant Association will be meeting with legislators this week to discuss their proposed changes. A copy of their proposed bill can be found here.

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Iowa Restaurant Association
The Iowa Restaurant Association provides advocacy, education and promotional support to Iowa’s restaurant and tavern industry. www.restaurantiowa.com

Media Contact:
Katelyn Kostek
Public Relations Specialist
kkostek@restaurantiowa.com
515-276-1454

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January 18, 2018

Restaurant Group Warns Against Lowering Drunken-Driving Threshold

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January 18, 2018
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January 16, 2018

Ignition Interlocks Will Soon Feature Cameras to Monitor Convicted Drunk Drivers

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January 16, 2018
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January 15, 2018

Technology Leads People to Restaurants, But Can Frustrate Their Experience

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January 15, 2018
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Technology may be an increasingly important tool for getting guests to walk through the doors of a restaurant, but consumers still prefer the “human touch” once they arrive.

Des Moines – January 15, 2018 – Research from the National Restaurant Association reveals that having the ability to view an online menu before choosing a restaurant was the difference maker for 60% of patrons looking for restaurants.  Millennials were even higher with 74% citing access to an online menu as the primary factor when opting for one restaurant over another, and 68% of Gen Xers and 50% of baby boomers saying the same.  Additionally, the ability to read online reviews is important to all ages with nearly six in 10 adults saying this was a key decision maker when picking a restaurant.

However, once that decision is made, most patrons prefer to interact with people. Nearly half of consumers surveyed said technology can complicate restaurant visits and ordering. In fact, 74% said the inability to ask questions can detract from their restaurant visit or ordering experience.

“Given the demographics and culture of our state, most Iowa restaurants are taking a blended approach to integrating technology,” said Jessica Dunker, president and CEO of the Iowa Restaurant Association.  “Even Mom-and-Pop Shops are taking strides to be intentional about their online presence, but the importance of real people making patrons feel welcome and cared for in the hospitality industry can never be replaced by a smart phone or tableside tablet.”

Results cited from the National Restaurant Association’s Technology Consumer Survey.

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Iowa Restaurant Association
The Iowa Restaurant Association provides advocacy, education and promotional support to Iowa’s restaurant and tavern industry. www.restaurantiowa.com

Media Contact:
Katelyn Kostek
Public Relations Specialist
kkostek@restaurantiowa.com
515-276-1454

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January 8, 2018

Iowa Restaurants Well Positioned to Take Advantage of Hottest Culinary Trend in 2018

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January 8, 2018
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Des Moines – January 8, 2018 – Iowa restaurants are well positioned to be on the cutting edge of 2018’s top culinary concept according to the Iowa Restaurant Association. A recent survey of top chefs found that 74% consider “hyper-local” restaurant concepts – including those with onsite beer brewing, house-made items and even restaurant gardens – to be the top culinary concept trend for 2018.

“Living in the heart of the nation’s breadbasket means Iowa restaurateurs can literally look out their windows, and find local ingredients,” said Jessica Dunker, president and CEO of the Iowa Restaurant Association. “Other top trends also name simplicity, back to the basics and farm-branded items as top concept trends which are our state’s culinary wheelhouse.”

The National Restaurant Association surveyed 700 American Culinary Federation members in October – November 2017, asking them to rate 161 items as a “hot trend,” “yesterday’s news,” or “perennial favorite” on menus in 2018.

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Iowa Restaurant Association 
The Iowa Restaurant Association provides advocacy, education and promotional support to Iowa’s restaurant and tavern industry. www.restaurantiowa.com

Media Contact:
Katelyn Kostek
Public Relations Specialist
kkostek@restaurantiowa.com
515-276-1454