Centennial Celebration and dual Inaugural Gala honors Kansas City as the birthplace of nation’s restaurant associations

Two Kansas City restaurants honored as Hall of Fame inductees; first Ronald L. Barkley memorial scholarship recipient announced with additional awards and honors

KANSAS CITY, MO. (Feb. 26, 2016) – The Greater Kansas City Restaurant Association (GKCRA) celebrated 100 years as an association on Jan. 30. The Centennial Anniversary and Inaugural Gala served as a dual inaugural event for the GKCRA and Missouri Restaurant Association (MRA), inducting James Eddy, a third generation restaurateur, and Buddy Lahl, a 30-year industry veteran, for the respective organizations. The event, held at the Sheraton Crown Center Hotel, attracted prominent members of the restaurant community throughout the bi-state area, as well as the national level, with the National Restaurant Association (NRA) CEO and President Dawn Sweeney providing the keynote address.

Newly Elected Officers (see page below for bios and background information)
Each year, the Inaugural Event recognizes the outstanding businesses and individuals who contribute to the Kansas City restaurant industry, including the incoming president, newly elected officers, Restaurateur of the Year, Company of the Year and the presentation of scholarships. This year’s Inaugural Gala included the first presentation of the Ronald L. Barkley memorial scholarship and served as the official inauguration for the greater Kansas City area’s leadership in both the MRA and GKCRA. 

2016 Greater Kansas City Restaurant Association Officers

President – James Eddy, Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen

Vice President – Mike Garozzo, Garozzo’s Italian Ristorante

Chairman/Past President – Dave Brown, KC Hopps, Ltd.

2016 Missouri Restaurant Association Officers

President – Buddy Lahl, Kingswood Senior Living

Chairman/Past President – Bob Luke, Rib Crib BBQ

2016 Hall of Fame Inductees, Missouri Restaurant Association:

  • Victor Allred, Jazz, A Louisiana Kitchen
  • Todd Hulse, Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue

2016 Missouri Restaurant Association Distinguished Service Award Recipient:

  • Mike Burris, Aeris

2016 Ronald L. Barkley Scholarship Recipient:

  • Anthony Fink, Kansas State University

Bios and Background Information
GKCRA President, James Eddy: James Eddy is a third-generation restaurateur; his restaurant industry roots began during his childhood as he “worked” alongside his grandfather, father and uncle at Eddys’ Catering, Arrowhead Stadium and Popeye’s Chicken & Biscuits. Eddy returned to the family business after graduating college, using his skills and experience to oversee, implement, and support all technology, training systems, policies and procedures. Eddy was elected to the GKCRA Board of Directors in 2011. He has served as Membership Committee Chairman as well as a member of the Government Affairs and Executive and Finance Committees. He was elected Treasurer in 2012 and has served as an officer ever since.

GKCRA Vice President, Mike Garozzo: Michael Garozzo is an icon among Kansas City restaurateurs. Garozzo opened the first Garozzo's Italian Restaurant in 1989, leading to the creation of Chicken Spedini – Garozzo’s often imitated, but never equaled signature dish. Today, Garozzo’s has four locations across the Kansas City area. Garozzo's was named one of America’s Top Italian Restaurants by Zagat and AOL City Guide; won Best Italian Restaurant and Best Pasta from Kansas City Magazine; and named Best Ethnic Restaurant by Ingram’s Magazine for nine consecutive years. In 2001, Garozzo was awarded Restaurateur of the Year by the Missouri Restaurant Association. 

GKCRA Chairman/Past President, Dave Brown: Dave Brown, a Kansas City restaurant veteran and 2015 GKCRA President, worked for multiple, locally based concepts in the greater Kansas City area. Brown became acquainted with the restaurant industry while owning a nightclub and gaining managerial experience with several independent bars. He worked with Applebee’s International Inc. and held major roles in both training and beverage departments. In 2004, he joined Houlihan’s Restaurants Inc. as vice president of operations support and regional operations director. Brown joined Northstar Restaurants in 2014, which operates Jose Pepper’s and Cactus Grill restaurants. Brown is currently employed by KC Hopps, Ltd.

MRA President, Buddy Lahl: Buddy Lahl is a lifetime veteran of the restaurant industry. At 18, Lahl moved to Kansas City, agreeing to wash dishes for free to jump start his career in the restaurant industry; two years later he was managing that same kitchen. Lahl has served on the Board of the GKCRA since 2006, focusing on the Education Committee and the ProStart programs before being inducted as the president in 2011. He continued his association career path with the MRA.

MRA Chairman/Past President, Bob Luke: Kansas City resident Bob Luke is a senior regional manager overseeing six Rib Crib BBQ locations in Missouri and Oklahoma. Luke was the 2015 MRA President.

MRA Hall of Fame Inductee, Victor Allred: Vic Allred is the current owner or co-owner of five New Orleans-themed French Quarter cafés, Jazz, A Louisiana Kitchen. Allred was hired as the Kitchen Manager and eventually General Manager of the first Jazz restaurant in Lubbock, Texas while finishing his degree. Allred has since opened two Jazz restaurants in the Kansas City area, one on 39th Street and one in Village West at Legends Outlets Kansas City. Allred has continued to expand the Jazz brand by opening a Jazz Franchise Management System, as well as extending operations to Columbia, Missouri, Omaha, Nebraska and most recently in Reno, Nevada. 

MRA Hall of Fame Inductee, Todd Hulse: Todd began his culinary career at the age of 12, working at a local café in Ellsworth, Kansas. Hulse relocated to Kansas City to become a member of the second graduating class of the Hospitality Program at Johnson County Community College. Hulse has operated many restaurants in the Kansas City area, leading to his involvement with the MRA and GKCRA, becoming the GKCRA President in 1999 and MRA President in 2012. Currently, Hulse operates Jack Stack Barbecue’s catering division and is on the MRA Board of Directors.

MRA Distinguished Service Award Winner, Mike Burris: Born in Emporia, Kansas, Mike worked 22 years in the food service industry from a dishwasher to owner. His experience ranges from Eddy’s Loaf & Stein Catering to transitioning Trotter’s BBQ in Springfield, Missouri from family-owned to franchises. After working six years for Micros in Kansas City, Burris left to start Essential POS in 2013. He has been a GKCRA Allied Board Member since 1997, awarded the Allied Director of the Year Award five times and the Workhouse Award three times.         

Restaurateur of the Year, Kevin Timmons, Co-Owner of Nick and Jake’s: Kevin has worked in the restaurant industry from a young age, experiencing everything from washing dishes in the kitchen to opening restaurants. Locally, Timmons opened Nick and Jake’s in July 2001, and has since opened two additional Nick and Jake’s restaurants in the greater Kansas City area that give back to the community. 

Company of the Year, Excel Linen Supply: Founded in 1931, Excel Linen has been owned and operated by the Joseph F. Brancato Family since 1974. With the help of his boys and many great employees, Excel Linen has become a leader in the Kansas City hospitality linen rental industry. Today, Excel Linen serves a 100-mile radius of Kansas City businesses, including 16 routes with more than 1,200 customers.

National Restaurant Association Keynote
The event was highlighted with a keynote address from current NRA president and CEO Dawn Sweeney, who attended the Centennial Celebration with other NRA representatives. Sweeney’s address focused on celebrating the history and future of the restaurant industry in the birthplace of the NRA, Kansas City.  Sweeney spoke of the growth in the industry over the past century, noting the importance of the restaurant industry for the national economy as the second largest employer in America. 

A Brief History
Over the past 100 years, the GKCRA has pioneered efforts for restaurant associations across the country. The GKCRA was established in 1916 in order to take a stand against the rising cost of eggs; when these efforts received national attention, the same group launched the NRA in 1919. The group was comprised of key members including George Fowler, Myron Green, Guy Taylor, A.B. Carder and W. J. Holt. The NRA headquarters remained in Kansas City until 1927. 

Fowler was father-in-law to Joseph Gilbert Sr. of the iconic Gilbert/Robinson restaurant group, who went on to help form the Missouri State Restaurant Association. As the local chapters and the NRA continued to grow, statewide organizations formed with local affiliate chapters for a more formal structure. The MRA was founded September 26, 1935; the GKCRA is an affiliate of the MRA as well as the Kansas Restaurant and Hospitality Association (KRHA). 

GKCRA Highlights
In the past 10 years alone, the GKCRA gave $200,000 in scholarships to students in the culinary and hospitality fields, and donated $40,000 to Johnson County Community College for its new state-of-the-art culinary facility. Additionally, the GKCRA has orchestrated local efforts in the wake of tragedies across the Kansas City area, including raising more than $110,000 for JJ’s Restaurant following a fire in 2013, and more than $123,000 for the families of fallen firefighters John Mesh and Larry Leggio in November 2015. 

About Greater Kansas City Restaurant Association             
The Greater Kansas City Restaurant Association (GKCRA) is a trade association with more than 600 members consisting of restaurants, caterers, hospitals, schools, institutions, clubs and in-plant cafeterias as well as vendors serving the local restaurant industry. Members work together to represent, educate and promote the restaurant and hospitality industries in the Missouri counties of Cass, Clay, Jackson, and Platte and Kansas counties of Johnson, Leavenworth and Wyandotte. For more information on the GKCRA, “like” us on Facebook at or follow GKCRA on Twitter at