They give us their services, but who helps the restaurants? For many in the area and all over the state, the answer is the Mississippi Hospitality & Restaurant Association.
This year, the organization celebrates 62 years. It's the only trade association in the state that exists solely to help the state's hospitality and restaurant industry succeed.
For him, getting involved in the organization was a way to give back to an industry that he says he been good to him. The Wisconsin native's journey through the industry is one that took him from Florida to Oklahoma to New Orleans and then to Mississippi in 1986. He has worked in many facets of the industry, from fast food to fine dining to club management, and he even worked at Ameristar Casino in Vicksburg as the food and beverage director.
Before becoming the executive director of MHRA in 1998, he served on the board of directors as a volunteer for about 10 years.
"I just felt that it was important to do whatever I could to make the industry a little bit better," Cashion says.
Many restaurants and businesses all over the state, from hotel chains to restaurant franchises to local restaurants, are members, and the Jackson metro area has about 200 businesses that are members of MHRA, including Cabot Lodge in Jackson, and Campbell's Bakery in Jackson and Madison.
"The services that we offer and the products we provide are worth the investment that they make," he says.
MHRA has different levels of membership, including one for restaurant members, an associate membership for service professionals and businesses that supply products or services to the industry, and a lodging properties membership. Lodging properties and associate members pay flat fees as dues, and restaurants' dues depend on how much money the business makes per year.
Some of MHRA's services include ServSafe training, scholarships for students, UnitedHealthcare insurance products, marketing, and discounts at businesses such as BMI for music licensing and Office Depot for office supplies.
But some of the association's most important work centers around government affairs. At the moment, the association isn't working on much legislation, but it does work on the regulatory side, including working with restaurants during the Mississippi Department of Health's current restructuring, and working closely with agencies such as Alcohol and Beverage Control, which regulates the state's liquor.
"We were concerned about what the potential ramifications were from a business standpoint," Cashion says. "Were ... tourists going to boycott Mississippi, and not spend their vacation dollars here? (We) started the program to kind of offset some of the negative imaging that we were getting nationally to say, 'Hey, wait a minute. The image that's being portrayed of our state in the media isn't at all what we're about.'"
The organization also creates campaigns such as Dine Out Mississippi, which the organization did during July and August. Cashion said it was another way to highlight MHRA's member restaurants.
For more information on the Mississippi Hospitality & Restaurant Association (130 Riverview Drive, Suite A, Flowood, 601.420.4210), visit msra.org.