Chef's Table - Capitol gains for restaurants

Ron D. Fennel, government and public affairs consultant

Ron D. Fennel is the president of Georgia Capitol Associates, a government and public affairs consulting firm that has represented a variety of hospitality clients, including the Georgia Restaurant Association, the Georgia Hotel and Lodging Association, and the Georgia Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus.

Interesting that your last name is a vegetable that crops up on menus.

My name as kismet? I've worked around the hospitality business most of my life, but never actually in restaurants, except McDonald's when I was 16. I love the restaurant industry. I love spices. The herb that I am, I enjoy.

I understand some of what you do includes lobbying.

Mostly public education, about 25 percent is lobbying. The majority of my time, I help my clients understand how the system works and what the regulatory and legislative rules are to abide by. I help educate restaurants so they don't get into problems.

What exactly have you recently lobbied for? I am thinking of the smoking ban.

I shared experiences from my client restaurants, like what percentage of people ask for a smoking table. We gave information to policymakers so they had enough data to make decisions. I sat on a task force for nearly a year.

What are key pending initiatives?

Immigration. Several pieces of legislation were introduced last session by suburban and exurban Atlanta legislators concerned about the increased influx of undocumented workers. I am looking after hospitality interests. Several things they may do could have unintended consequences. We are watching carefully.

What would I be surprised to know about the industry?

About 20 million meals are served every day in Georgia. If every person who worked in hospitality was registered and voted consistently, there is nobody we couldn't elect — or unelect. Hospitality is the second largest employer in the state and number one in metro Atlanta. There might be an issue about service or about smoking, but there is rarely an issue about the delivery of quality food. Nobody gets harmed or sick. That's a remarkable achievement. I marvel about how we do it.


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