HistoryThe Georgia Restaurant Association (GRA) has operated as the voice for Georgia restaurants since 1906. We have very limited knowledge of the association’s activities until 1972, when under the leadership of Marge McDonald the GRA joined with the Georgia Travel, and Georgia Hotel and Lodging Association, which then fell under the umbrella of the Georgia Hospitality & Travel Association (GHTA) as its food service division (GRA) to merge the three organization into one at that time.
Many of our industries leaders served alongside hotels, travel experts and individuals who operated attractions. The various industries grew rapidly through the 70, 80, & 90”s. In 2002 a group of restaurateurs organized the Georgia Restaurant Council (GRC) in response to the belief that an independent restaurant association was needed to represent Georgia's restaurant industry.
The Food Service division of GHTA was chaired by Jim Squire who along with Niko Karatassos, Chairman of the new GRC joined together the former GRA (under the GHTA) and the GRC into a new, unified association, called the Georgia Restaurant Association. In August of 2004, the GHTA board of directors voted to disband the GHTA. The hotel association re-incorporated into the Georgia Hotel & Lodging Association (GHLA), while the travel association ceased operation. As a result of the merger, the National Restaurant Association established a Dual Membership agreement with the new GRA.
The current Georgia Restaurant Association (GRA) evolved from the Georgia Restaurant Council (GRC), which was created in early 2002 by a small group of prominent Georgia restaurateurs, including Karen Bremer, Phil Hickey, Pano Karatassos, Alan LeBlanc, Perry McGuire and George McKerrow. Ron Wolf, a former executive with Atlanta-based AFC Enterprises, Inc., and Bass Hotels, was hired by the founders to be the Association's first executive director. Wolf retired in 2010. Karen Bremer was hired by the Board of Directors as Executive Director in September of 2010.
Since the merger, the GRA has swelled to a membership of nearly 500 corporate member companies, representing almost 4,000 restaurants. With a chapter in Savannah, and members across the state, the GRA continues to grow.
Today, the GRA provides a unified voice for an industry comprising over 16,000 foodservice and drinking places in the state of Georgia with total sales in excess of $16.5 billion and provides more than 408,000 jobs, second only to Agribusiness, in non-government employment.