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RIHA Column: Moving forward together…

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, Rhode Island Hospitality Association

These past few months have presented challenges to our industry that we never thought we would have to face. We have seen business models completely upended and reconfigured to offer new services; massive and sweeping layoffs in restaurants, hotels and other hospitality-based businesses; and business owners having to shutter their properties – often their life’s work – with no way of knowing if they will ever be able to open again.

Several of our members experienced needless destruction of property during the recent violence and vandalism in the city of Providence. This is especially disheartening as many of these businesses were just about to open their doors after going through so much hardship, all the while continuing to provide support to a community in need. These acts only distract from the important discussion of racial injustice happening around the nation and we hope that future protests remain peaceful and meaningful.

With unfathomable losses throughout our industry, hospitality leaders are being challenged to identify and implement innovative and thoughtful practices to ensure the viability of their businesses’ ongoing operations in a safe way. From contactless pickup to online ordering, to reconfiguring indoor and outdoor space and more, our industry is adapting.

Despite operating in unfamiliar territory, it is incredibly important that we work together on best practices to achieve our common goals moving forward. Now is not the time for division amongst the ranks, nor is it time to operate in silos. I have said it before and I will say it again: One of the most valuable resources our industry has to offer is connection and camaraderie.

In Rhode Island, the smallest state in our nation, it is often said that “everyone knows everyone here.” While it may seem like an overstatement, we must use this mentality to propel us forward, remembering that many of us are servicing the same guests and communities, contributing to the same economy, and sharing the same backyard. Rhode Island may be the smallest state, but I like to say that we have the biggest hearts.

Trust has always been a huge aspect of how I comport myself in business and in life. Those who know me well know that if there is a battle to be fought, I will climb to the top of that hill with no hesitation. That being said, I consider anybody who contributes to Rhode Island’s hospitality industry to be my ally. Whether you are a member of the RI Hospitality Association or not, your voice matters. When you really look around, you might be surprised to see that many of these individual voices have very similar things to say … there are shared concerns, cries for help and ideas to discuss.

What I want you to realize is that we are a team, and while we may feel like our individual opinions matter more than others, if we open the lines of communication and work in harmony, our shared voice will be amplified – and together, we can accomplish greater things.

Look at where we have come in just a few short months by working together: We have worked with Gov. Gina Raimondo to allow beer/wine and liquor sales via takeout and delivery, we pushed for the reopening of our restaurants’ patios and dining rooms, and we established the RI Hospitality Employee Relief Fund to provide assistance to food service, lodging and tourism employees who are facing financial hardship due to the COVID-19 crisis.

None of this would have been possible without the contributions of our thoughtful and involved members, and the hospitality community at large. Had we not put the community first, we would never have made the progress we have since March. That is why I am desperately asking you to trust me, trust my staff and, most importantly, to trust one another. As Henry Ford once said, “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”

Looking forward to better tomorrows.

Dale J. Venturini is the President & CEO of Rhode Island Hospitality Association. 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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