Our Next Chapter…

Dale J. Venturini
President/CEO, RI Hospitality Association

As many of you have undoubtedly heard, I concluded my 35-year tenure as president/chief executive officer of the RI Hospitality Association (RIHA) at the end of February. As I pen this farewell column, I'm filled with a profound sense of gratitude and nostalgia. After more than three decades at the helm of the Association, which together we built into an incredibly important voice for our industry in the state house and in the community, the time has come for me to pass the baton.

My journey began in 1988 when I was recruited by visionary leaders and local restaurateurs Ned Grace of the Capital Grille, Bill DeAngelus Jr. of Twin Oaks, and Ted Fuller of Gregg’s Restaurants & Taverns. During my tenure and with the support of our staff, members, and the community at-large, RIHA has flourished as the state's premier advocacy group for the hospitality sector. We have achieved a significant expansion in our reach, a substantial increase in our membership, and have successfully advocated for the industry in the state house. The founding of the RI Hospitality Education Foundation (RIHEF) and the Hospitality Training Academy stand as pivotal achievements, underscoring our dedication to nurturing the next generation of industry leaders and providing well-trained, well-equipped staff.

At times the challenges were many, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. We navigated and provided guidance through restrictions, provided financial relief to displaced employees, adapted training methods, and launched the "Be Kind" campaign, among other initiatives. These efforts were not just about survival, but also about fostering a resilient and adaptable industry to meet this challenge.

Heather R. Singleton

There is no one better to continue this work at this moment than Heather R. Singleton, whom I am thrilled to announce as the Interim President/CEO of RIHA. Heather, with her extensive 25-plus-year experience in the industry and remarkable leadership skills, is the ideal person to steer RIHA during this transitional phase. Her contributions as RIHA’s chief operating officer have been invaluable, and her work across various educational and advisory roles demonstrates her commitment to both RIHA and the broader hospitality sector.

Heather's distinguished career includes positions on the International Society of Hotel Associations board, the State of Rhode Island’s Special Legislative Commission addressing economic and social issues related to short-term rentals, the Governor’s Workforce Board Local Area Advisory Committee, and as chairperson of the National Restaurant Association Certification Governing Committee. Her academic credentials from Johnson & Wales University, along with her recognition on the 2007 Women of Influence list and Providence Business News' “40 Under Forty,” highlight her exceptional abilities and commitment. Heather is well-equipped to lead RIHA during this interim period.

As I transition out of my role, I am confident in Heather’s ability to maintain and enhance RIHA’s commitments to advocacy, education, and innovation, ensuring the organization’s continued success during this interim phase.

To the members, staff, and countless friends I've made along the way, thank you for an incredible journey. Your support, dedication, and passion for the industry have been the driving force behind our success. As I embark on this new chapter in my life, I will carry the many memories and lessons of these wonderful years.

No matter where my journey takes me, RIHA’s Culture of Community and its 'Eight Cs' remain constant. These guiding values, both for RIHA and for me personally, encompass cooperation, collaboration, communication, connection, curiosity, compassion, civility, and camaraderie. They are the foundational principles that have steered my actions and decisions, and I am confident they will continue to inspire and guide the future endeavors of RIHA.

Thank you for 35 incredible years. I will always consider the hospitality community my home. As they say in Italian: gli amici sono la famiglia che scegliamo noi stessi. Friends are the family we choose ourselves.