Founded in 1914, the Illinois Restaurant Association is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting, protecting, educating and improving the restaurant industry in Illinois. The foodservice industry in Illinois is the largest private sector employer in the state, with projected employment in 2018 of 577,000 people and more than $25 billion in annual sales. To serve the needs of this important industry and support its future, the Illinois Restaurant Association works to provide restaurant operators and suppliers in Illinois with valuable business services, networking opportunities, cost saving programs, and vital advocacy.
The IRA owns and produces Chicago Gourmet – the annual food and wine festival held in Millennium Park that unites hundreds of restaurants, chefs and beverage experts for a weekend filled with food and drink tastings, entertainment, cooking demonstrations, book signings, interactive seminars and more. The Association is a proud host of the James Beard Foundation Awards, which will be held in Chicago through 2021 and celebrates excellence in cuisine, culinary writing, and culinary education throughout the country.