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RIHA: Looking Back on 2022, Looking Forward to 2023

Dale J. Venturini, President and CEO of Rhode Island Hospitality Industry Association.

Dale J. Venturini, President and CEO of Rhode Island Hospitality Industry Association.

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

After a year in which our industry began to recover from the restrictive regulations of the pandemic, global economic pressures and concerns around inflation, staffing and product shortages, supply chain issues and more, our staff, owners and operators all deserve a big pat on the back.

As was reported to you back in October, the economic experts’ consensus is that Rhode Island’s recovery process is ongoing and all projections are pointing to a better 2023 for the hospitality industry in particular. Overall, 2022 was a successful year for the RI Hospitality Association (RIHA).

We launched the RI Hospitality Association Group 401(k) Plan, established in partnership with Napier Financial, to make retirement benefits available for industry workers; saw the 10th Annual Rhode Island ProStart® High School Culinary and Management Competition return to the Rhode Island Convention Center after a one-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic; hosted a number of successful events for our members, including the recent Women in Hospitality Self-Defense Awareness Training seminar, in partnership with the Providence Police Department’s Training Division; and spearheaded a number of important legislative wins, including the permanent allowance of “alcohol to-go,” the passing of H-7910, which gives hotel management the ability to remove guests who verbally abuse hotel employees, and the extended moratorium on the enforcement of any municipal ordinance or zoning requirement that allows restaurants to continue outdoor dining through April 1, 2023.

New trends emerged in 2022, specifically for restaurants, many of which now have fewer workers and more seating capacity. Many dining establishments are also cutting costs by eliminating paper checks and menus, and by revamping menu items and specialty dishes to be more budget friendly. Additionally, an increasing number of restaurants are now charging cancellation fees for reservations that are not honored by their guests.

To combat labor shortages and concerns around employee retention, businesses are offering more wellness benefits, including access to educational opportunities, granting permission for more flexible work schedules, recruiting from outside of the hospitality industry and placing a greater emphasis on company “values.”

For hotels, an increased level of attention is being placed on accommodating business leisure travelers, many of whom are now permanent remote workers who are looking for makeshift offices while on the road. Since the pandemic, many hotel services have become digitized, most notably mobile check-in, contactless payments and voice-controlled amenities. The everyday consumers’ increased desire for safety, sustainability, convenience and well-being has influenced each of these new practices.

All things in life are subject to change, and if the pandemic has taught us one lesson, it is that we cannot become set in our ways. Business models that refuse to adapt are failing, while those embracing new technologies, trends and standards are thriving. As it pertains to the hospitality industry, our staff members and valued customers have been telling us what they want since way before the pandemic, we just have no choice but to listen now.

By accepting that we cannot undo the damage of the last two-plus years and instead looking forward to a brighter future, we are putting our industry in the best position to succeed in 2023—and well beyond.

A veteran of more than 25 years in the hospitality industry, Venturini is considered by many to be the voice of the industry in the state of Rhode Island. She has been instrumental in improving the industry’s educational and training programs in the state, as well as enhancing the bottom line of the business she represents. Venturini splits her time between the office and the State House, a constant presence for her membership.

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