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RIHA Column: Industrious Operators Move Beyond the Status Quo

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

The COVID-19 pandemic is mostly behind us, but supply chain issues, workforce woes and faltering consumer confidence levels continue to limit our businesses’ ability to operate as they normally would. These problems are far-reaching and affect every industry, but they have had incredible consequences for the hospitality industry specifically.

While over the course of the last three-plus years many longstanding businesses have shut down and others have come and gone, there have been many success stories documenting transformation within the industry and the development of exciting new concepts, ideas and business models.

We are not going back to 2019; the “status quo” now is not what it was then. Restaurants, hotels and other industry-based businesses that survived (and even thrived) these past few years have adapted to changing consumer demand and developed their identity, business model and brand reputation.

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the most successful businesses, restaurants and hotels have shifted their priorities and found creative ways to maximize their profitability during what has been one of the most difficult stretches of time in the history of our industry. We have seen business models upended, reimagined and reorganized to meet the needs of the consumer while still aiming for a rewarding return on investment.

For restaurants, paring down menus to focus on crowd-pleasers and signature items, prioritizing the takeout experience and shifting toward a more sustainable business model are recurring examples of ingenuity that we have seen from successful operators throughout Rhode Island.

For hotels, catering to business and leisure travelers by updating workspaces, digitizing guest experiences like checking in and checking out, and offering more personalized options for each individual guest are ways they have modernized the lodging experience and created a standard practice across the industry.

I encourage any industry operators and managers reading this column to ask yourself, “What makes my business unique? What do we want our customers to remember us for?” The answers to those two questions should be the foundation of your business model.

The market is oversaturated with copycat concepts, and in order to stand out from the crowd, your business should be providing exceptional value, an extraordinary product and/or unrivaled convenience. Gone are the days of sacrificing quality for convenience; most consumers, especially those on the younger side, expect to “get what they pay for” when choosing where to dine or stay overnight.

Our industry should not fear change but instead embrace it. Consumer trends indicate what works and what does not, and to ignore that data is to remain stuck in the past. The current cutthroat economy can be likened to a “survival of the fittest” scenario. In the case of the hospitality industry, those who refuse to evolve will make room for those who are less stubborn. On which side of history do you want your business?

Please consider visiting the RI Hospitality Association’s website,, for answers to most industry-related questions. There, you will find a number of valuable resources for both employers and employees, from education and training opportunities including boot camps and classes, to job listings, toolkits and more.

Additionally, please think about attending one of the upcoming RI Hospitality Association Kitchen Cabinet meetings, where you will have the opportunity to network and collaborate with and hear from other industry leaders as they provide perspective, opinions and advice focused on a number of important initiatives and updates affecting hospitality in Rhode Island. Details will be available on the RIHA website once the next event has been scheduled and placed on the calendar.

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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