Annual Report 2020

Rhode Island Hospitality Association

RI Hospitality Association

To lead Rhode Island’s hospitality industry through advocacy, communication, and education.

To advance Rhode Island’s hospitality industry.

Farouk Rajab
Farouk Rajab
Providence Marriott Downtown

2020 will forever be remembered as the year of endless lessons. We learned how to deal with sadness, fear and deep anxiety; the loss of a friend, family member, or job; remote working, distance learning, and how to keep putting one foot in front of the other. We were reminded just how resilient we are, as individuals and as an industry. There have been what feels like a million sleepless nights, but we never stopped believing that there would be a better tomorrow.

The industry research firm STR recently announced that 2020 was the worst year on record for the hotel industry. The impact of COVID-19 on the travel industry was nine times worse than the tragedy of 9/11. Our industry was the most impacted and as such, will be the last to recover.

But it was not all doom and gloom. Throughout the pandemic, we learned to listen more, to empathize more and how to diversify our offerings to remain operational. As an industry, we found that we had fewer resources to work with and our creativity and resiliency was tested to the limit. As I traveled around Rhode Island and visited with members, I was awestruck at how adaptive they were to the environment. I saw restaurants with no outdoor seating suddenly create beautiful, tented dining rooms in their parking lots, oyster-farming boats were suddenly turned into experiential dining vessels, rooftops and decks became themed igloo-covered dining spaces; the creativity of our industry was incredibly impressive.

Throughout it all, RIHA played a pivotal role helping members navigate one of the hardest years in history. From assisting with state grants, to providing constantly-changing COVID regulatory compliance, to establishing the Hospitality Employee Relief Fund, to launching the #BYOBlanket campaign, the Association was on the front lines providing much-needed assistance to our entire industry, not just our membership.

As we near the end of an entire year of a pandemic, we can truly see the light at the end of the tunnel. Vaccinations offer a true path to regain the lost momentum in our industry, offering the public the protection that will give them the confidence to venture out again. I know that we will rise to meet this new demand, and our nation will overcome all the suffering and pain we have endured in 2020. Our industry has always been the backdrop for life’s important moments and I am confident that we will resume some sense of normalcy, and we will do it safely and effectively for our guests and our associates.

Rhode Island Education Foundation

RI Hospitality Education Foundation

To grow the future generation of hospitality professionals.

To lead the hospitality workforce by providing industry standards of professionalism and certification.

David C. DePetrillo
David C. DePetrillo

The RI Hospitality Education Foundation (RIHEF) develops, supports, and promotes career growth opportunities within the hospitality industry. In 2020 this vital mission faced its greatest challenge ever with the COVID-19 pandemic having a devastating impact on our state’s hospitality industry.

Our staff immediately faced that challenge on several fronts. They quickly set out to establish an Employee Relief Fund with a grant from United Way of RI, an effort to provide stipends to any RIHA member employee that was laid off due to COVID.

With numerous individuals enrolled in certification training programs when the pandemic hit, our team immediately moved our classes to an online virtual environment so that these students did not lose out on the opportunity to earn their industry certifications and improve their lives.

We reached out to our high school teachers to ensure they had access to electronic textbooks and offered home-school lesson plans and virtual guest speakers so that our students could stay engaged.

Our team also began promoting free ServSuccess training offered by the National Restaurant Association. Despite all the pandemic-related challenges, our team still managed to train over 1,200 individuals in 2020! That is an amazing accomplishment.

Throughout this challenging year we were fortunate to have the support of a top-notch RIHEF Board of Directors and dedicated professional staff who are all committed to the goal of providing the best programs possible to educate the current and future hospitality employees of Rhode Island.

David DePetrillo
Chairman of the Board

Rhode Island Hospitality Association


In 2020, we transitioned from a membership organization to servicing the entire industry during COVID to ensure that everyone was getting the up to date information on the constant changing landscape of rules and regulations. We serviced over 4,000 hospitality industry businesses.

Despite the inconveniences of the COVID-19 virus, RI Hospitality Association held 38 Industry meetings (not counting today) with an average of 45 attendees.

RI Executive Order
RIHA has been navigating the pandemic with 123 Executive Orders (and counting) set in place by Governor Raimondo. Many of these orders have been revised, some more than once, but RIHA has made a commitment to communicate these updated changes to continue to help keep the industry educated and compliant.

MARCH 2020


March 2, 2020
First RI patient diagnosed with COVID-19.

March 6, 2020
RIHA launches COVID-19 page on website.


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In our ongoing efforts to keep our industry informed, we developed a COVID-specific section of our website. This served as a holding area for information our industry needed to know. Topics include:

  • How to respond if an employee tests positive or is exposed to COVID;
  • Resources for employers and employees regarding Unemployment Insurance;
  • Guides to reopening for restaurants and hotels;
  • Information about economic relief programs, such as PPP and Restore RI;
  • On demand COVID testing;
  • Common COVID-workforce issues; and
  • Takeout and delivery guides
COVID-19 section on website

As RIHA continues to advocate strenuously for the industry, we have started to quantify and further illustrate the economic impact that the coronavirus is having on the hospitality industry.

RIHA utilized monthly Economic Impact surveys that were sent to the industry to help advocate for economic relief programs for the industry during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A screenshot of the Economic Impact survey

A screenshot of the Economic Impact survey

March 9, 2020
Gov. Raimondo declares a State of Emergency.

In order to keep our members up to date with the fast-paced changes during COVID-19, RIHA adjusted our communications to our membership.

Daily Brief
In March, RIHA launched our “Daily Brief” newsletter to alert our members to the ever-changing news about COVID-19.

Originally based around the Governor’s daily press conferences, this newsletter went out seven days a week. As the pandemic went on, we adjusted the newsletter to going out five days a week.

Each Brief includes an update on the daily COVID numbers and other relevant information for our industry.

Daily Brief

Weekly Industry Calls
In April, RIHA began our Weekly Industry calls, which were open to the entire industry. Every week we covered a variety of topics, including reopening guidelines, economic relief programs and other topics as needed.

We also used these calls as a mechanism for engaging our elected officials, with RIHA hosting three calls with our federal delegation, the Speaker of the House, the Senate President and other regulatory officials.

March 16, 2020
Gov. Raimondo announces closure of restaurants for dine-in service.

March 20, 2020
Gov. Raimondo announces restaurants may sell beer and wine with takeout orders.

From the moment the Governor shut down indoor dining in Rhode Island, RIHA was focused on how our industry would reopen. Over the last year, our staff has worked seven days a week to responsibly reopen our industry as fast and as safely as possible.

Essential Industry Designation
In the case of a lockdown, RIHA sent an official request to the Governor asking that restaurants doing takeout and delivery and hotels be allowed to continue to operate. Many of the other states that have initiated lockdown procedures have allowed these businesses to remain open.

As a direct result of RIHA’s advocacy, Rhode Island was the first state in New England to reopen for indoor and outdoor dining and we have been directly involved in every stage of the reopening negotiations. Although we have not always agreed with the reopening process, RIHA has been proud to be the voice of the hospitality industry at our table.

As we navigate the final stages of reopening, our focus is to avoid future shutdowns and to keep the industry moving forward.

Letter to Lt. Governor McKee
Letter to Lt. Governor McKee
Letter to Governor Raimondo

In March, RIHA worked hand in hand with the Governor’s office to permit restaurants to sell Alcohol To-Go with the purchase of food. Although the Order was originally limited to beer and wine, RIHA was able to expand this to also included cocktails in April.

Based on the overwhelming support from the industry and consumers, RIHA drafted legislation to extend alcohol to go until the end of 2022. This legislation is currently pending in the General Assembly.

March 25, 2020
RIHEF Announces RI Hospitality Employee Relief Fund.

March 28, 2020
Gov. Raimondo announces Stay at Home Order effective March 29-April 13.

RIHA offered a 90-day complimentary membership to foodservice establishments from April to June 2020 to maintain our hospitality community, do our very best to ensure its strength, and provide critical information to keep customers and employees safe. It was important for us to remain steadfast in our commitment to our members that we would do everything possible to help our industry successfully navigate this situation. Over 30 small businesses took advantage of this offer, many of them sending in dues after seeing the value in RIHA membership. Additionally, we serviced the entire state with over 4,000 industry leaders receiving our critical communications by providing updates to the ever-changing landscape our industry is now operating in.

Complimentary 90-Day RIHA Membership

APRIL 2020


April 8, 2020
RIHEF reaches $20,000 in individual contributions to the RI Hospitality Employee Relief Fund.


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RI Hospitality Employee Relief Fund

The purpose of the RI Hospitality Employee Relief Fund is to provide relief to foodservice, lodging and tourism employees facing financial hardship due to COVID-19. Rhode Island Hospitality Education Foundation has been able to help our hospitality family providing over 665 individuals with grants to help with financial burdens. We have covered mortgage or rent, utility payments, childcare, transportation needs, student loan payments, groceries, medical bills, or insurance costs.

Here are just a few stories of how these funds were used:

Madalyn will be using her grant funds to help cover grocery expenses now that her children are distant learning at home and not receiving meals while in school.

Jennifer needed to take time off to care for her medically fragile son who is using a trach and g tube and her husband who is quadriplegic relying on a wheelchair for mobility.

KB, a full-time college student and tenured hospitality employee, will be using his grant to help cover basic expenses. His wife works in the industry and was also laid off. They have three children and the past year has had a drastic impact on their household income.

Rose is the head of her household. Her husband is waiting on a major surgery that has been postponed due to COVID. They have two children and are struggling to cover their bills on Rose’s unemployment benefits alone.

Ronald is looking to secure a new apartment for him and his girlfriend who is pregnant with their first child. He has less than 60 days to find a new home and his savings is quickly depleting while he awaits his unemployment benefits.

View Employee Relief Impact Flyer

April 27, 2020
Gov. Raimondo announces 4-phase re-opening plan.

April 29, 2020
Gov. Raimondo announces limit on summer events and festivals, no more than 50 people through July.

Hospitality business was crippled by the pandemic however, rather than allowing it to close businesses for good operators rose to the occasion creatively rethinking their business models. Those that had never offered To Go service were now taking to go orders, offering curbside pickup, and introduced delivery services. Though with new offerings also came food safety challenges.

RIHA partnered with the RI Department of Health to draft and approve guidelines for safe practices and procedures including:

  • Donated Food Guidelines
  • Face Covering Guidelines
  • Food Safety Guidelines
  • Takeout and Delivery Guidelines
  • Restaurant Sales of Bulk Items Guidelines

RIHA also had informational webinars to remind operators of important procedures and practices to focus on daily. As an industry, staff safety and guest safety were front of mind. Webinars and trainings covered topics such as:

  • Proper glove use
  • No bare-hand contact
  • Face coverings
  • How and when to handwash
  • Proper cooling and storage
  • Time temperature control
  • Cleaning vs. sanitizing
  • Bodily fluid clean up

When the coronavirus pandemic shut down in-person activities, the hospitality industry was hit hard and had to pivot new ways of doing business to keep their operations afloat. The National Restaurant Association assisted with education in a time of need, providing the opportunity to take free online courses including:

  • ServSafe Food Handler
  • ServSafe Takeout: COVID-19 Precautions
  • ServSafe Delivery: COVID-19 Precautions
  • ServSafe Reopening Guidance: COVID-19 Precaution

Since April, more than 600,000 people have taken these courses ensuring safe food handling keeping staff and guests safe, strengthening food safety skills and knowledge, and building consumer confidence.

Both the National Restaurant Association and the American Hotel and Lodging Association also offered training classes to help current hospitality employees up-skill to advance their careers. Free course modules were available through:

  • ServSuccess: Restaurant Professional and Restaurant Supervisor learning suites
  • AHLEI Supervisory Skill Builders
  • AHLEI Hospitality Manager: Leadership
  • AHLEI Certified Hotel Administrator courses

MAY 2020


May 8, 2020
Gov. Raimondo allows Stay at Home Order to expire.

May 9, 2020
Restaurants are allowed to sell mixed drinks, in sealed containers, in addition to beer and wine with takeout orders.


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In April 2020, Mike Reppucci from Sons of Liberty donated 150 – 32oz bottles of sanitizer to the RI Hospitality Association to distribute to those in need. He did this in honor of Al Zannella, the Executive Vice President of Mancini Beverage and a longtime Board Member of the RI Hospitality Association. RIHA handed out this sanitizer to over 40 companies.

Sons of Liberty - Sanitizer

In May 2020, RIHA was asked to participate in a selection committee to distribute 500 laptops, donated by Microsoft, to Rhode Island small businesses who needed a computer to keep their business open during the pandemic. In partnership with Commerce RI, Social Enterprise Greenhouse, and other local organizations RIHA helped review over 1,000 applications with priority given to businesses within opportunity zones, woman owned/led, low to moderate income, persons of color, veterans, geographic location, and industry sector. The Accommodations and Food Services industry had the second highest number of requests and together we were able to provide over 80 laptops to small businesses.


May 14, 2020
RI Restaurant Pledge and Hotel Pledge launch on RIHA website.

May 18, 2020
Restaurants are allowed to open for outdoor dining.

May 30, 2020
Gov. Raimondo announces Phase II guidelines for restaurants.

RIHA stored, gathered, and distributed over 100,000 masks to over 200 companies in the hospitality industry. RIHA even took it a step further and partnered with Discover Newport to distribute PPE to our industry in the Newport County Area. Our staff was eager to meet new faces and reconnect with members whom we have missed so much since COVID hit in March of 2020 (socially distanced of course!)

Rebekka putting together bags of disposable masks

Rebekka Hammond, Finance and Administrative Assistant, putting together bags of disposable masks and vouchers to Ocean State Job Lot for Free N’ Clear disinfectant.

After a shutdown there is always a reopening phase, but how the industry came back was going to be important. Guests were concerned to eat out and State mandated travel restrictions prevented guests from traveling. With this in mind, RIHA created toolkits that would allow operators to view, implement and teach safety procedures.

Professionals in the foodservice industry are used to keeping a sanitary workspace, but operating in a pandemic is different. The pandemic made it clear we had to heighten our efforts. Included in the toolkit are best practices, reopening guidelines, high touch areas and how to clean and sanitize to prevent spread of illness, food safety guidelines, guidance from the FDA, PPE supplies and resources, fact sheets, posters and training, and so much more. The toolkit serves as an everyday checklist.

Though the toolkit was important for internal use, guests had to be made aware that companies were taking all necessary precautions to keep them safe which led to the creation of the Rhode Island Restaurant Pledge and the American Hotel and Lodging Safe Stay.

The RI Restaurant Pledge is a promise made by restaurants to customers that the particular location is following the best health and safety procedures to ensure the safety of both guests and employees. When customers see the RI Restaurant Pledge sticker or flyer endorsements, they can be certain that the restaurant is taking a leadership role in protection their community and also allows customers to learn what they can do to help keep everyone safe.

The AHLA Safe Stay is for hotels industry wide to focus on enhanced hotel cleaning practices, social interactions and workplace protocols to meet new safety challenges and expectations as a result of COVID-19. The Safe Stay Guidance includes employee and guest health, employee responsibilities, enhanced cleaning and disinfecting protocols and products and day to day checklists.

AHLA Safe Stay and RI Restaurant Pledge

JUNE / JULY 2020


June 1, 2020
Restaurants are allowed to offer indoor dining.

June 12, 2020
Gov. Raimondo announces expansion of free voluntary, asymptomatic testing to include restaurant employees.

July 1, 2020
Gov. Raimondo announces we are moving into Phase III.


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Consumer Confidence Cards were developed to educate the public on what restaurants are doing to keep guests and employees safe.

Consumer Confidence Cards

During COVID, our local municipalities played an important roll in helping our industry.

Municipal Tax Relief
Understanding that cashflow was of the utmost importance to our industry, RIHA sent requests to all 39 cities and towns to provide some type of municipal tax relief to businesses, including that they extend local tax deadlines for business

Several municipalities, including Cranston, Pawtucket, Providence and Warwick took action by creating payment programs for small businesses struggling with the impacts of COVID-19.

Letter to Chairman McGovern




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Slow Industry Recovery Predicted in 2021 at RIHA’s Virtual 17th Annual Economic Outlook “Breakfast”

Industry Experts Say Rhode Island’s Economy Will Rebound Over Time

Cranston, RI – September xx, 2020– Industry analysts addressed approximately 75 Rhode Island hospitality professionals during the 17th annual Economic Outlook “Breakfast,” which was hosted virtually for the first time by the RI Hospitality Association (RIHA). Their findings suggested that in 2021, Rhode Island can expect both the restaurant industry and the lodging industry to slowly begin recovering in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year’s panelists included Hudson Riehle, Senior Vice President of Research and Information at The National Restaurant Association; Rachel Roginsky, Principal of Pinnacle Advisory Group; and Heather Singleton, Chief Operating Officer of the RI Hospitality Association (RIHA) and the RI Hospitality Education Foundation (RIHEF).

According to Roginsky, Rhode Island’s lodging industry took a big hit in 2020, suffering a 53.5% decrease in RevPAR in July 2020 when compared to July 2019. Nationally, Roginsky predicts that room rates will remain significantly depressed and slow to recover, that there will be an increase in permanent closures and a decrease in new supply entering the market, and that while leisure travel will return in moderation, group travel will likely be the slowest segment to recover.

Roginsky analyzed the lodging markets in Providence, Warwick, Newport and Middletown. Providence took a significant step back, with RevPAR decreasing 61.3% from 2019. Warwick, too, shows a decline from last year. With a massive decrease in passengers at T.F. Green, a significant increase in unemployment and a surge in office vacancy, Warwick’s RevPAR decreased 39.1% from 2019.

On Aquidneck Island, Newport saw a decrease in both ADR (down 13.4%) and RevPAR (down 48.6%) since 2019. Finally, Roginsky analyzed the Middletown market, noting that ADR is down 16.5% and RevPAR is down 46.6%.

Hudson Riehle addressed the economic backdrop and performance of the restaurant and food service industry nationally. According to Riehle, national restaurant sales remain well below pre-Coronavirus levels, hitting a low of approximately $30 billion in sales during the month of April, compared to nearly $62.5 billion in sales in April of 2019. That number has climbed to $52.5 billion in July, compared to nearly $65 billion in July of 2019.

Coronavirus concerns, employee recruitment and sales volume are the biggest challenges that restaurant operators are facing in 2020. Because of these challenges, Riehle says that the economy is now only 2.5 million jobs above the 2008 Recession peak as of August, compared to 14.1 million jobs above the peak in February. In July, only 20 states and Washington D.C. had more jobs than before the job losses started in February 2008.

Riehle predicts an industry contraction with geographic variations sustaining to close out 2020. While uncertainty and weakness will continue into 2021, a greater emphasis will be placed upon food delivery, carry-out, alcohol, value-added products and digital service with consumers continuing to manage their spending.

Heather Singleton, who spoke on behalf of RIHA/RIHEF, discussed key statistics affecting the Rhode Island labor force, as well as leisure and hospitality employment on a national scale. According to her findings, Rhode Island’s unemployment rate in July sat at 11.2% compared to 3.6% in July of 2019. Similarly, the United States’ unemployment rate in July was at 10.2% compared to 3.7% in July of 2019. From February to April, a 60 day period, Rhode Island lost 62% of its leisure and hospitality jobs. Singleton also shared employee resources, ranging from mental health and financial services, to community resources and more.

According to statistics provided by the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) as a result of a recent survey with more than 1,200 respondents, 87% of hotels reported being forced to lay off/furlough staff due to COVID-19. 36% of these respondents have been unable to bring ANY of their furloughed or laid off workers back to full-time employment and just 37% of hotels have been able to bring back at least half of their full-time employees.

The National Restaurant Association (NRA), which conducted a survey of more than 6,500 restaurant operators nationwide, found that 8+ million restaurant employees were laid off or furloughed within the first month of the pandemic, with two out of three restaurant employees losing their jobs, and four out of ten restaurants closing altogether. The industry is expected to lose $240 billion by the end of 2020.

2020 Top Food & Menu Trends




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RI Hospitality Association’s #BYOBlanket Campaign Kicks off as Restaurants Pick up Thousands of Blankets, Hand Warmers and Heaters

12,000 blankets, thousands of hand warmers, 370 heaters, and thousands of pieces of PPE being distributed to outdoor dining establishments in Rhode Island

Cranston, Rhode Island (October 19, 2020) – On Wednesday, October 14th, The RI Hospitality Association (RIHA) kicked off its #BYOBlanket campaign, geared toward helping Rhode Island’s restaurants extend the outdoor dining season, with the first distribution of more than 12,000 blankets, thousands of hand warmers, 370 outdoor heaters and thousands of pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE) taking place at the Providence Marriott Downtown at 1 Orms Street, which allowed RIHA to store the supplies in its ballroom for ten days. #BYOBlanket supplies are being distributed to any restaurant that signed up on RIHA’s website and offers outdoor seating, regardless of membership in the association.

“There is a robust national push to extend outdoor dining as long as possible during this pandemic to give our vital restaurant industry a boost,” said Dale J. Venturini, President/CEO of the RI Hospitality Association. “For those customers who enjoy outdoor dining but don’t love the cooler temperatures, we hope these blankets and additional supplies will encourage them to continue to enjoy al fresco dining well into the fall, and that the extension of the outdoor dining season provides much-needed relief to restaurant operators throughout the state.”

Through a partnership with Ocean State Job Lot (OSJL), RIHA purchased the blankets and hand warmers at a significant discount using the funds secured through Commerce RI’s “Take It Outside” grant, allowing RIHA to stretch the dollars they received to purchase additional supplies for the RI restaurant community.

“When the opportunity arose to lend a helping hand to our fellow Rhode Island business owners, we were happy to do so,” said Paul Conforti, Chief Marketing Officer, Ocean State Job Lot. “Through our ownership of Red Stripe Restaurant and Mill's Tavern in Providence, Job Lot has direct ties to the state's hospitality industry and we understand the struggle on a very personal level. We’re very proud to partner with RIHA on such a trailblazing initiative and hope that these supplies provide relief to the many restaurant operators who applied to receive them.”

The number of free blankets and hand warmers that each restaurant receives is determined by its number of outdoor seats. PPE, which includes masks and hand sanitizer, was distributed via request. Recipients of outdoor heaters were chosen through a lottery system.

Paul Conforti, Chief Marketing Officer, Ocean State Job Lot; Dale Venturini, President/CEO, RI Hospitality Foundation and RI Hospitality Education Foundation; and Farouk Rajab, Chairman, RI Hospitality Association Board of Directors and General Manager, Providence Marriott Downtown.
Laurie Camara, Manager of Hospitality Training and Education, RI Hospitality Association, poses with a stack of boxes filled with blankets during a brief respite from loading pallets and cars.
Paul Conforti, Chief Marketing Officer, Ocean State Job Lot, grabs a box of blankets to load into a waiting vehicle.
Sam Glynn, Owner, Chomp Kitchen and Drinks, takes a breather after spending much of the morning as a volunteer, loading vehicles with supplies.
Some of the supplies that are being distributed as part of the #BYOBlanket campaign.

Photo Captions (left to right):

  1. Paul Conforti, Chief Marketing Officer, Ocean State Job Lot; Dale Venturini, President/CEO, RI Hospitality Foundation and RI Hospitality Education Foundation; and Farouk Rajab, Chairman, RI Hospitality Association Board of Directors and General Manager, Providence Marriott Downtown.
  2. Laurie Camara, Manager of Hospitality Training and Education, RI Hospitality Association, poses with a stack of boxes filled with blankets during a brief respite from loading pallets and cars.
  3. Paul Conforti, Chief Marketing Officer, Ocean State Job Lot, grabs a box of blankets to load into a waiting vehicle.
  4. Sam Glynn, Owner, Chomp Kitchen and Drinks, takes a breather after spending much of the morning as a volunteer, loading vehicles with supplies.
  5. Some of the supplies that are being distributed as part of the #BYOBlanket campaign.

Press & Media:



November 30, 2020
Gov. Raimondo announces three week “pause” due to increased positivity rate.


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From the beginning of the shutdown, RIHA fought for economic relief programs from the Federal and State government.

  • After months of negotiations, RIHA worked with Commerce to roll out the Restore RI program, which gave businesses impacted by COVID grants. At the beginning of the program, the grants were up to $15,000, but due to RIHA’s continued efforts, this was later increased to $30,000.
  • When the State rolled out the Take it Outside Initiative, RIHA was a key partner in providing heaters, blankets and funds to businesses needing assistance in promoting outdoor dining.
  • Knowing that our hotels and tourism attractions had been decimated by COVID, Commerce RI developed the HArT grant program to provide direct aid to hotels and tourism businesses.
  • In November, Governor Raimondo implemented a 10:00 p.m. curfew on restaurants. RIHA demanded that our industry receive from type of funding to offset the cost – the state provided grants up to $10,000.
  • When the state entered the PAUSE on November 30, 2020, RIHA pushed for additional economic relief, which resulted in grants up to $50,000.

Our aid in this area continues and we are working closely with national partners, the National Restaurant Association and the American Hotel & Lodging Association to get the necessary funding for our industry.

Letter to Governor Gina Raimondo
Letter to Governor Gina Raimondo

RIHA is a proud partner of Hope & Main’s Dish Up RI program, a retail food program providing a full range of FREE technical assistance to Rhode Island restaurateurs interested in producing their own retail product. Resources include conceptualization, branding, nutrition labeling, legal, and retail consultation. There are approximately 30 local businesses that will see this opportunity become a reality when their products are launched in Spring 2021. This opportunity is supported by Commerce RI and CARES Act funding.

For more information visit:

Hope & Main’s Dish Up RI program






January 29, 2021
Curfew is lifted. All other restrictions remain in place.


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Employee Testing

Early on in the pandemic, RIHA began to advocate for free, asymptomatic testing for hospitality employees. Due to RIHA’s advocacy, asymptomatic testing was opened to hospitality employees during the Summer of 2020.

Knowing the importance of getting testing in tourist-rich areas, RIHA asked that testing sites be set up in Newport so that employees on Aquidneck Island could have an easy, convenient location to be tested.

In partnership with the RI Department of Health, we worked to develop a testing program for employees to get tested at their place of employment. In January 2021, this program was rolled out to the industry using the BinaxNOW rapid test.

Employee Vaccination

As the State began to determine how the COVID vaccine will be distributed, RIHA requested that hospitality and tourism employees be considered as one of the “critical industries” and receive priority access to the vaccine. Although a final decision has not been made, we hope our industry will begin to get access to the vaccine as soon as possible.

On-Demand COVID-19 Testing Available



February 5, 2021
Two households per table for indoor dining is permitted.

February 12, 2021
Bar seating reopens for the first time since the November pause.


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RIHA has launched the second episode of our #WeAreHospitality podcast now available here.

Host Bill Bartholomew will be hosting one-on-one interviews with leaders, experts, educators and influencers within the hospitality industry.

In this episode of #WeAreHospitality, RIHA's very own Laurie Camara talks about the impacts COVID has had on Food Safety and how our industry has been affected.

Available now at:

#WeAreHospitality podcast
Rhode Island Hospitality Association



The RI Hospitality Association and Education Foundation promote a Culture of Community. Both RIHA and RIHEF use these eight Cs on a daily basis through their core services and offerings.

The tenets of the Culture of Community are comprised of the eight Cs:

  • Cooperation
  • Collaboration
  • Communication
  • Connection
  • Curiosity
  • Compassion
  • Civility
  • Camaraderie

Professional Staff

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RI Hospitality Association Board of Directors


Chairman of the Board
Farouk Rajab
Providence Marriott Downtown

1st Vice Chairman of the Board
William Kitsilis
Angelo’s Palace Pizza and Antonio’s Pizza by the Slice

2nd Vice Chairman of the Board
David Smiley
Gurney’s Newport Resort & Marina

Ellen Slattery
Gracie’s Ventures Inc.

Anthony Pellegrino
The Dean Hotel/ASH NYC

Immediate Past Chairman
Burnell Goldman
Omni Providence Hotel

Dale J. Venturini
RI Hospitality Association and RI Hospitality Education Foundation


Walter Andrews
Newport Marriott

Michael Bryan
Renaissance Providence Downtown Hotel (TPG)

Brian E. Casey
Oak Hill Tavern and The Company Picnic Company
Chairman, National Restaurant Association

Paul Conforti
Encore Hospitality Group

Jeffrey Day
The Dean Hotel/ASH NYC

David DePetrillo
Chairman, RI Hospitality Education Foundation

Antonio E. Fonseca
Packaging & More

Chuck Fraser
Sysco Boston

Kristin Gennuso
Chez Pascal & The Wurst Kitchen

Colin Geoffroy
G Hospitality

Michael Halpern
Texas Roadhouse

Charlie Holder
Midtown Oyster Bar

George Kilborn

Jennifer Luxmoore

TR McGrath
McGrath Clambakes

Keith Morris
Mancini Beverage

Randy Nason
Seven Stars Bakery

Tina Tomaselli
T’s Restaurants

Michael Vuolo

Ex-Officio – NON VOTING

Lisa Doucet-Albert
Regan Communications

Norman LeBlanc
Kahn, Litwin, Renza & Co., Ltd.

William Murphy
Dome Consultants, LLC

Thomas Regan
OceanPoint Insurance


Craig Sculos
Twin River Casino Hotel

H. Robert Bacon
Gregg’s Restaurants & Taverns

Honorary – NON VOTING

Peter Cafaro
Judd Brown Designs

Daniel Hostettler
Ocean House

Len Panaggio
N.E. Restaurant Financial Group

RI Hospitality Education Foundation Board of Directors


Chairman of the Board
David C. DePetrillo
RI Hospitality Education Foundation

Vice Chairman of the Board
Sam Glynn
Chomp Kitchen & Drinks

Joanna Arrighie
Providence Marriott Downtown

Frank Martucci
Bally’s Corporation

Dale J. Venturini
RI Hospitality Association and RI Hospitality Education Foundation


Angela Armenise

Alan Chille
Providence Performing Arts Center

Floyd Crisp
Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar

Vincent Costable
Gordon Food Service

Kristin Gennuso
Chez Pascal & The Wurst Kitchen

Karsten Hart
Newport Restaurant Group

Lee Lewis
Junior Achievement of RI

Thomas Riel
Providence Warwick Convention & Visitors Bureau

Damian Santoro
Ladder 133

Melissa Varao
Salve Regina University


Ray McCue
American Culinary Federation/RI Chapter


Michael Sabitoni
Johnson & Wales University


The following four pillars are our industry outcomes:

Jobs and

We are tackling the long-term structural employment problem.

Food and
Healthy Living

From “Farm to Fork” we are helping drive the industry and regulatory change to meet the growing demands of safety and nutrition.

Sustainability and Social Responsibility

We embrace opportunities of sustainability and philanthropy.

Profitability and Entrepreneurship

We are successfully operating on tight margins.

Rhode Island Hospitality Association



1,211 individuals participated in our training programs this year.

2020 changed the landscape of training for RIHA. Prior, all training was done in-person with very few exceptions. RIHA was tasked with pivoting all trainings to virtual based learning, a new platform for the organization. Lesson plans had to be adjusted to provide the same value and meet the same needs, classrooms had to be created and shortly after best practices were discovered, and employees were gaining knowledge and learning skills.


  • Cook Apprenticeship
  • Hotel Boot Camp
  • Entry-Level Cook Training
  • ServSafe Alcohol
  • Customer Service & Diversity
    • Hospitality: The Third Language™
    • First Impressions: Exceptional Customer Service™
    • Lasting Impressions: The Core of Communication™
    • ServSafe Workplace
    • Boost Your Service Game
  • Food Safety
    • ServSafe® Food Protection Manager Certification
    • ServSafe® Food Handler
    • ServSafe® Allergens
    • Norovirus
  • Career & Management Programs
    • ProStart® - Foodservice/Culinary Arts
    • Coaching for First Time Managers
    • Hospitality & Tourism Management
  • Guest Services Gold
Rhode Island Hospitality Association


The Rhode Island Hospitality Education Foundation supports thirteen career and technical education Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management programs throughout the State. As schools moved to a distance learning format our team immediately reached out to our teachers and worked with the National Restaurant Association and American Hotel and Lodging Association to provide access to electronic textbooks and free online training tools. We also provided sample lesson plans that could be delivered in a virtual classroom.



CEO Dale Venturini

In life, it is often said that it takes a village; and while individuals certainly can make a difference, it is often the collective that can affect the most significant and meaningful changes. The women who are the backbone of the RI HOSPITALITY ASSOCIATION (RIHA) embody and embrace this sentiment with conviction, dedication, and passion.

RIHA and the RI Hospitality Education Foundation (RIHEF) is led by President/CEO Dale Venturini, who is supported by a team of fi ve diverse women with varying backgrounds. Together, they represent more than 900 foodservice, hotel, vendor, and hospitality members in the state of Rhode Island and serve more than 4,000 businesses.

The Association has been the voice of the hospitality and foodservice industries in the state since 1963. RIHA’s mission to lead the state’s hospitality industry through advocacy, communication, and education was certainly tested in 2020 as COVID-19 ravaged every business

across the globe. In RI, where the industry employs close to 87,000 residents and

This past year required incredible self-sacrifice, resilience, and dedication for the greater good of our industry. I could not be prouder of my team – this group of women has really shown what they’re made of. And, they are as strong as they come.

is one of the largest economic drivers in the state, COVID’s impact was swift, hard-hitting, and profound – and goes far beyond what the statistics show. “There

is almost no way to accurately calculate the loss; between jobs, lost sales, meals/beverage, and lodging tax, and the loss to our supply chain,” says Venturini. “Rhode Island’s restaurants and hotels contributed close to $300 million in sales taxes in 2019, putting the hospitality industry right behind the gaming industry, the state’s largest source of revenue.”

Venturini understood that RIHA’s members and the entirety of the state’s industry were all working harder than ever before in a climate rife with health concerns, economic worries, and unprecedented operational restrictions. “There is no ‘I’ in team, but there is a capital ‘I’ in industry,” she says. The Association pivoted from a membership-based advocacy and lobbying organization to one that represented the entire industry in a time when it needed a strong voice and advocate more than ever.

The team at RIHA deeply understood what was at stake and worked tirelessly,

seven days a week, for what often seemed like 24-hours a day, to make sure that the industry could remain open. Forming even tighter legislative relationships, Venturini and VP of Advocacy and General Counsel Sarah Bratko burned the midnight oil on calls with state agencies, working hand-

Sarah Bratko

in-hand with the Governor’s office, RI Commerce, the Departments of Health, Labor and Business Regulation, and others, to provide expert insight into how best to protect the public while still allowing restaurants and hotels to operate in some capacity. Weighing in on everything from industry best practices

COO Heather Singleton

from a national perspective; to fighting for increased capacity limits; to offering beer, wine, and mixed drinks via curbside pickup and delivery; to how best to clean and sanitize; the RIHA team continued to fight on behalf of the industry and negotiate for the best possible outcome, an effort that had to continue through every shift in the state’s COVID landscape.

Laurie Camara

Behind the scenes, COO Heather Singleton was a calming voice and ensured that RIHA adapted to member needs, which included instituting the Hospitality Employee Relief Fund that allowed displaced hospitality workers to apply for grants, applying for critical grant funding for RIHA to continue operating, and adding additional training seminars that Laurie Camara, Manager of Hospitality Training & Education, ran both in-person and online at a record pace as operating rules and regulations constantly changed.

Rebekka Hammond

Funding sources became critical as RIHA suspended membership dues and opened its doors to the industry as a whole free of charge. Finance/Administrative Assistant Rebekka Hammond kicked into high-gear and kept all the paperwork together to ensure that RIHA was able to operate despite record-breaking revenue losses.

In November, as New England’s weather started to turn seasonably cold, emphasis was still being placed on outdoor dining

as a safer dining alternative. RIHA swiftly turned its focus to creating #BYOBlanket, a campaign designed to assist the industry in this endeavor and a massive undertaking of collecting and distributing more than 12,000 blankets, thousands of hand warmers, and hundreds of propane-fueled outdoor heaters. VP of Membership and Marketing Monika Zuluaga returned from maternity leave in the middle of pandemic-chaos and quickly put her communications and organizational skills to use by communicating daily with the industry and managing a massive, multi-day distribution event in Providence. With help from RIHA Chairman Farouk Rajab, the Providence Marriott’s empty ballroom

Monika Zuluaga

found a new use as storage for towering, serpentine rows of blankets, heaters, and hand warmers to organize and distribute. Since then, the RIHA team has also distributed more than 3,000 warm fleece jackets to the staff of any Rhode Island restaurant that is still offering outdoor dining so that they may serve guests while also staying warm.

As we look forward to 2021, the team at RIHA is stronger and more cohesive than ever before. “We have literally gone through the most difficult period in any of our lives,” says Venturini. “This past year required incredible self-sacrifice, resilience, and dedication for the greater good of our industry. I could not be prouder of my team – this group of women has really shown what they’re made of.