I am honored to share a few thoughts with you today as I humbly begin a new year as chair of the Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association, and together we begin this year of resurgence in our hospitality industry. First, I wish to express my enthusiastic view of optimism for a bright future ahead. Not that it won’t be without its trials, but I’m sure we would all agree, there’s nowhere to go but up. I’ve been asked how my interpretation of the future remains so optimistic, and the answer is simple, spending time with all of you over the past forty-plus years leaves me with no doubt. When it comes to resiliency, innovation and perseverance, one would need to search far and wide to find a more resolute group of people than those individuals that make up Michigan’s hospitality industry.
On a personal note, I am also moved by an ever-present force in my life, one that takes me back to my beginnings in this business as a novice bartender looking to offset my college expenses. Through all of the peaks and valleys over the years, my most valued moments all center around the people in my personal and business life. I am very fortunate to have a great business partner, terrific professional relationships, and an incredible team of associates. I was blessed with wonderful parents that taught five children a strong work ethic, solid values, and the importance of faith and family. So, it was natural that as the years have passed, the center of my life is still my faith and my family; my wife, our four children and their spouses, and our new grandson. They are forever my inspiration and support.
There is no mistaking that for the past eleven months, our association and our businesses have faced a crisis unprecedented in history, one that is still in our midst, and one which continues to heap extraordinary obstacles upon us. This unforeseen happening has altered every component of how we deliver on our mission of providing the highest level of hospitality to our guests. We all recognize that while we are certainly not alone in this predicament, our industry and our state has been uniquely tested by the pandemic on a variety of fronts.
With this in mind, it is appropriate to make note in this message of how the MRLA has responded to these innumerable challenges. It has done so in a spirit of teamwork with our local, state and federal officials and association partners, and with a great deal of input from all of you. In providing guidance for financial support to address the crushing economic impact; to aide and assistance for our employees, many of which are like family to us; to ongoing programs for the development of our workforce, including training and education, financial grants, and meal assistance; the people who make up the MRLA have displayed unwavering dedication and commitment to achieving the very highest standards of not only industry-specific excellence, but also excellence of the human spirit.
The duties of leadership and citizenship merged to require our association to respond decisively and comprehensively to address the health and welfare of our employees, our patrons and our businesses. Our CEO, Justin Winslow, along with the entire MRLA staff, and our Board of Directors under Chairman French’s leadership last year did exactly that. While addressing the challenges and the innumerable complexities the pandemic created, our association has led the way in our state and in many cases, in our county. When we consider what the MRLA has achieved in less than one year, it is truly remarkable and a testament to the determination of our industry. For a just a moment, we can all reflect and take enormous pride in those efforts of accomplishment and support that we have all been a part of, and have all benefited from.
We can only allow our reflection on the past accomplishments to be fleeting as there is much work yet to be done. The establishment of the Phoenix Committee, led by Vice-Chairwoman Jennifer Szewc, will provide us with a dedicated advisory group of experienced, unwavering and intelligent people whose specific task it will be to continue the effort of overcoming the barriers brought on by the pandemic.
Finally, let us recognize that this year will bring new and different opportunities as we continue our pre-pandemic mission of advocacy, service and growth. As we mark our 100th year as an association, we can look back to all of those who overcame great adversities and led our industry to where we were prior to March of 2020. In doing so, we can glean inspiration, and together we will embrace the future. Soon we will gather together again in our restaurants, our hotels, and in our banquet and event centers, as the uncertainties of the moment fade to the past, and a fully flourishing hospitality industry makes it mark in the Resurgent Roaring 20’s!
Epoch Hospitality Group