Sam Toia | Illinois Restaurant Association
Founded in 1914, the Illinois Restaurant Association is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting, protecting, educating and improving the restaurant industry in Illinois, which is the largest private sector employer in the state.
The Association provides legislative advocacy, one-on-one business advising, networking events, educational webinars, certification classes, cost saving programs, and more for the food service industry. To support the industry, the IRA helped to secure $50 million in grant money from the Illinois General Assembly for hospitality businesses as they continue their recovery from the pandemic.
The IRA Educational Foundation is dedicated to building and promoting the health and prosperity of the restaurant industry by investing in future generations of youth and industry professionals. To date, the IRAEF has provided more than $3.2 million in scholarships to deserving students pursuing Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management in post-secondary degrees. The IRAEF also provides Employee Relief Funds for industry workers. Since the Fund launched in October 2020, the IRAEF has provided grants to 565 foodservice employees totaling over $290,000.
The IRA’s signature event is the annual food and wine festival uniting hundreds of restaurants, chefs and beverage experts for a weekend filled with food and drink tastings, entertainment and more. The Association is also a proud co-host of the James Beard Foundation Awards, which will be held in Chicago through 2027.