History - Iowa Restaurant Association

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Iowa Restaurant Association
One of Iowa’s Longest Standing Associations

 On September 6, 1933 a group of restaurateurs met at the Masonic Temple Building in downtown Des Moines to discuss the formation of a statewide association.  An organizational committee was created and within weeks the Iowa Restaurant Owners Association was formed. Because of the foresight of those visionary restaurateurs, today the Iowa Restaurant Association (IRA) represents an industry with over 6,000+ food and/or beverage service establishments throughout the state.

The founding members sought to promote a spirit of cooperation among members as well as to encourage and influence legislation which could impact the industry. During the early days, an annual convention was held in various cities across the state. By 1937, the association’s convention was considered the “greatest exposition of its kind west of the Mississippi.”  The Association’s first publication, The Appetizer was also created that year, with E.L. Beck, then executive secretary, serving as editor. The Appetizer eventually evolved into the Association’s quarterly industry magazine Entrée. Today the quarterly publication is Food and Beverage Iowa Quarterly.

The IRA was one of the first state affiliates of the National Restaurant Association, one of the nation’s most respected and influential trade organizations.

In early 1995, the State Association of Beverage Retail Establishments joined forces with the IRA. The combined organization changed its name to the Iowa Hospitality Association. However, the group returned to its original name in 2005.  

The IRA represents the legislative interests of the restaurant and retail beverage industry in Des Moines and Washington, D.C.  Locally, the Association has a lobbyist who monitors current legislation related to the industry. Iowa also has a long history of participation in the NRA’s Annual Public Affairs Conference in Washington, D.C. Each year a delegation of Iowa restaurateurs and tavern owners meet with national leaders and discuss the interests of state’s food and beverage industry, and the impact potential national legislation may have.

The Association is a recognized as in leader in food safety education. In 2001, the IRA Educational Foundation (IRAEF) was created. The IRAEF’s objective is to provide premier educational programs and services to members. In 2002, one of those programs included the first ProStart School to Career partnership in Davenport Central High School. Today there are over 350 Iowa ProStart students representing 22 high schools and the IRAEF hosts a annual state ProStart Culinary Competition.