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RI Hospitality Association CEO Announces Retirement

Dale J. Venturini, retiring President & CEO, RI Hospitality Association.

After 35 years of leadership, Dale Venturini prepares for her next chapter

By Dana Slone

Dale Venturini is considered by many to be the voice of the industry in the state of Rhode Island, serving as President and CEO of the RI Hospitality Association (RIHA) for approximately 35 years. She has been instrumental in improving the industry’s educational and training programs, as well as enhancing the bottom line of the businesses she represents and affecting legislative campaigns that benefit the hospitality industry. Venturini has split her time between the office and the State House, a constant presence for her membership.

Among her many accomplishments was navigating the state’s industry through COVID-19. At the forefront of developments affecting the hospitality industry and amid the ever-changing restrictions while charting a course forward to ensure businesses could keep their doors open, RIHA provided financial relief for displaced employees, adapted new training methods, assisted small businesses with Small Business Administration loans, launched a nationally recognized “Be Kind” campaign, worked with the Department of Labor and Training on workforce issues and much more all under her vigilant direction.

In January, Venturini and RIHA announced she was retiring, with COO Heather Singleton taking the role of Interim CEO. With Venturini’s soon-to-be-celebrated March retirement party approaching, the Beverage Journal asked one last time for her industry insights as she charts a new course in her personal and professional journey.

How many years have you been serving the Rhode Island hospitality industry?

As a lifelong Rhode Island resident, I feel like I’ve been immersed in the hospitality industry for my entire life. However, I have been President and CEO of the RI Hospitality Association for 35 incredible years. It’s a journey that began in 1988, and each year has brought new experiences, challenges and opportunities in this vibrant and important cornerstone of Rhode Island’s economy.

For more than three decades, Dale Venturini split her time between the RI Hospitality Association office and the State House.

What inspired you to become involved?

My foray into this field was spurred by the confidence and encouragement of three esteemed restaurateurs: Ned Grace of The Capital Grille, Bill DeAngelus Jr. of Twin Oaks and Ted Fuller of Gregg’s Restaurants & Taverns. Their belief in my abilities to lead and innovate was the catalyst that propelled me into this role, where I’ve been able to merge my passion for hospitality with impactful leadership.

How has it felt to be synonymous with hospitality in the state?

Being synonymous with Rhode Island’s hospitality industry for over three decades is an honor and fills me with immense pride. It’s a role that I’ve embraced with every fiber of my being—days, nights and weekends—in an effort to lead our industry with integrity and passion.

What have you most loved about your tenure serving RIHA?

During my tenure at RIHA, it’s hard to choose what I have loved the most. Really, all of it. I’m so fortunate to have met so many amazing restaurateurs and hoteliers, fellow tourism and business leaders, supportive legislators and my own dedicated staff. The list goes on and on. What really stands out as a proud moment in time is supporting the industry through the pandemic. This was clearly one of the most significant challenges in anyone’s lifetime and being able to have a seat at the table to affect change, new legislation and, ultimately, new ways of doing business to keep the industry operational makes me incredibly proud.

What was the industry’s biggest challenge in your career?

Undoubtedly, the COVID-19 pandemic was the most formidable challenge we faced. It demanded an unprecedented level of adaptability, optimism and resilience. Leading RIHA through this period, ensuring our members and the entire industry received necessary support and guidance, as well as critical funding, was both challenging and deeply meaningful.

What issues will define the industry in the next decade?

The next decade will be defined by our industry’s ability to swiftly adapt to changing consumer preferences and market dynamics. The hospitality industry must be agile, innovative and responsive to remain at the forefront of these evolving trends. At the end of the day, hospitality remains both a high-tech and high-touch industry.

What do you see as the biggest opportunity for the industry?

The greatest opportunity for our industry is in our ability to be memory makers, to reinforce ourselves as a vital part of the community fabric, of milestones and celebrations. By nurturing these community ties and evolving with them, the hospitality industry can thrive and maintain its relevance to neighbors and consumers alike.

Venturini has been a long-standing local resource in helping media and consumers understand the industry and its issues.

What do you see as the biggest opportunity for trade professionals?

For trade professionals, the key opportunity is in striking a balance between specialization and adaptability. Focusing on core strengths while remaining open to new trends and consumer needs will be crucial for success. Balance! This is an all-encompassing job and it is easy to work way too much!

What do you see as the biggest challenge for hospitality industry workers?

The biggest challenge for hospitality workers is in effective staffing levels and necessary training and certifications. Ensuring a well-trained, well-supported workforce is essential in creating and maintaining the guest experience.

What motivates you now for your next chapter?

As I look toward the next chapter, my motivation lies in embracing new challenges and finding meaningful avenues for my skills and experience, particularly in volunteerism. I look forward to leveraging my knowledge and passion in new ways that continue to benefit our entire community. And golf!

Any broad advice as you pass on the mantle of leadership for your peers, colleagues and industry friends?

My advice to those stepping into leadership roles is to remember the power of collaboration and community. You’re never alone on this journey. The strength of our industry comes from our collective efforts, shared wisdom and the support we offer each other.

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