When in a Pinch, Call Washington Hospitality

When in a Pinch, Call Washington Hospitality

Originally published in Washington Hospitality Magazine, Nov 2017.

Twenty years ago, the Washington Restaurant Association took a new approach to membership that today is still delivering benefits to members of the Washington Hospitality Association.

In 1996, the WRA reinvented the role of its membership team, launching an area coordinator system to engage members in advocacy efforts and connect them to their legislators. That innovative approach has since evolved beyond grassroots advocacy to “ACs” serving as the go-to resource for any and all questions related to running a hospitality business in Washington state. If your AC doesn’t have a ready answer, she’ll figure out who does.

At the one-year mark of restaurants and lodging joining forces in the Washington Hospitality Association, membership has met another milestone. The AC program now has 10 team members to deliver on the promise of engaging and serving members in all corners of the state. This includes area associates, who focus solely on relationship building and understanding the needs of members for their first six months on the team, and more experienced area managers who have moved up from area coordinator positions.

Your New Best Friend

This breadth and depth of support means every member should now have their membership expert on speed-dial.

Jane Schmidt, general manager of La Conner Channel Lodge and La Conner Country Inn, knows that to be true. She originally joined the Association to get answers about HR issues, and she’s since developed a close working partnership with Kim Hildahl, the Northwest area manager. “Kim sat down with me and talked to me about all the options available and things that they could help us with, including HR situations, which is where I needed the most help,” said Schmidt.

“Now I use Kim for any question I might have. I shoot Kim an email or a text to get a hold of her and say, ‘Can you help me with this?’ – it could be a random question – and then she’ll point me in the right direction.”

Jenn Krogel, HR Director for Wenspoke Resources LLC, the Spokane-based franchisee for 33 Wendy’s restaurants in Eastern Washington, Idaho, Oregon and California, wasn’t sure what the Association and her AC would bring her when her company first joined the Association.

“Quite honestly, I had no idea what the benefit was going to be for me, my role or my organization,” she recalls.

Among many other things, having Area Manager Donna Tikker on hand has meant she has someone helping her stay current on requirements as an employer in Washington state.

“Donna provides us with regular information on the (Association’s) regional meetings and webinars to keep us up to date as legislation is changing,” said Krogel. “She’s very responsive. She just dropped off additional labor posters for us. She popped by and gave me a Hospitality Bluebook as well.”


As a small business owner who has many hats to wear, Gloria Martin values the support she gets from Tamorro Farrell, area manager for Pierce County. Martin is the owner of the popular Southern Kitchen in Tacoma and says it’s hard to run a business, especially a small one like hers. “For me, it’s very helpful to have the support of Tamorro,” she said. “She told me about the paid leave ordinance that the city passed last year…Believe it or not, the city never informed us, but Tamorro has been very, very helpful—the organization has been very, very helpful—keeping me abreast of some of the legislation that’s going on.”

Tamorro has also helped connect her to some of the Association’s cost-saving programs. By joining the credit card processing program, Martin is now saving about $500 a month in credit card fees thanks to the Association’s low rates.

ACs also connect members to the Advisory Network for help addressing operational, HR or other challenges. Lease renegotiation issues, P&L concerns, overtime rules, termination questions are among the frequent topics members bring to their membership partners. If resources to answer a specific resource aren’t readily available, ACs connect their members to the right Advisory Network expert for 30 minutes of free consulting.

Martin can also testify to the effectiveness of using this member benefit. She turned to Tamorro when she needed legal advice, and thanks to the Advisory Network, she was able to speak with an attorney who helped her resolve her problem without incurring any legal fees.

The Takeaway

As Anthony Anton, Washington Hospitality’s president & CEO, writes in his column on page six, your AC should be an extension of your team, freeing you up to deliver great local experiences and helping your employees reach their full potential.

Mama Stortinis Ristorante & Catering General Manager Nathan Vaughn is another member who recognizes the time-saving benefit of bringing Tamorro on to his team. She recently connected him to a program with his local electric company that provides small businesses with a free walk through. They found ways to achieve greater efficiencies and gave him a quote for upgrades at a greatly discounted cost.

“I could be searching those things out, but I just don’t have time,” he said. He describes his AC as a “support line.” “She should be the first point of contact if you have a problem that you don’t
know how to solve.”

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