2008 Year in Review

This was an exciting as well as a challenging year for the restaurant industry in Delaware.Working with members and the restaurant industry has never been more important. Ensuring success through vigilant representation was our number one priority!

Beginning in early January, survey results from members highlighted the need for more communication and help for the restaurant community. Led by DRA Chairman of the Board, Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head Brewery, DRA developed an updated website designed for members to receive up to the minute legislative, educational and event information as well as a place to post questions for immediate response. A monthly e-news format and a redesigned newsletter also took place in 2008.

Communicating the legislative challenges in 2008 became paramount. Members listened, and took action. Without the grassroots effort of DRA members, your minimum wage, server wage, liquor license fees and taxes would have most certainly increased– costing the industry hundreds of thousands of dollars. In a challenging economy, no one can afford to be silent on matters that hit the bottom line. Board members and staff worked around the clock to ensure success. No negative legislation passed in 2008. This was a huge win!

I was most proud to honor those in the industry who are respected by their peers and who also give so much to their local communities. I was especially proud to honor Pizza by Elizabeths as our Restaurateur of the Year at this year’s Cornerstone Awards and The Cultured Pearl Restaurant in Rehoboth Beach as this year’s Cornerstone Winner. Restaurants truly are the cornerstone of every community.

Our industry would not be as successful if it were not supported by our local allied members. Heartland Payment Systems was given the distinctive Allied Member of the Year award for its true commitment to our organization and to our members.

As we look forward to 2009, DRA membership becomes more important to your success. With the recent elections wiping the Republican majority out of both the House and Senate in Dover, our work to develop new relationships has already begun. Chairman Calagione has been selected by Governor-Elect Markell to represent the restaurant industry and small business on a special committee formed to address economic issues in the state. DRA members and board have scheduled meetings with newly elected leaders to educate them on the importance of our industry in Delaware. When operators have the chance to share their “story” with legislators, it is very powerful. I encourage all of you to invite your elected officials into your businesses. Developing these relationships early will be essential as legislative bills are being drawn up in the halls of Dover. The restaurant industry has earned its “seat at the table” when legislation is discussed.Passage or failure of these bills depends on you.

The challenging economy will certainly be the focus as we enter into 2009. We appreciate your dedication and membership to the DRA.We look forward to serving you in 2009 and the years to come.



Carrie Leishman, President/CEO

Delaware Restaurant Association