What made you want to run for the state House?
I’ve always been involved in legislative issues that affected the restaurant industry throughout my career. It was important to fight for, or against, legislation that impacted us. At home in Bucks County, I was appointed to Richland Township’s Planning Commission and was Chairman of the Preservation Board. I was then elected to Township Supervisor in 2005 and re-elected in 2011. When the opportunity presented itself to run for the state house, I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t. It’s truly a privilege and an honor to serve, for which I’m grateful.
You spent 25 years working in the restaurant industry. What makes our industry unique?
There are many career paths you can take within the restaurant industry and, if committed, there is great opportunity for advancement. Our industry is very demanding, especially on the operations side, where we work nights, holidays, and weekends—basically, when other people are off work. The hours can be long, too. Like any industry, to be successful you really must have a passion for it!
There are many reasons why people choose careers in hospitality. What was your favorite thing about working in our industry?
Team building and sales building! There are a lot of components to running a restaurant, and the key is to execute on all cylinders. A solid training program is critical to achieving this. Customers have many choices in today’s market, and you spend marketing dollars to get them to choose you. The goal then becomes to get the consumer to return. The market is more competitive and saturated than ever before, so meeting a customer’s expectations isn’t good enough to get them to return. You have to go above and beyond the competition—you have to exceed expectations!
How has your restaurant background influenced the decisions you make as a legislator?
My guide to decision making was that any decision I made had to be fair for everyone involved. It had to be good for the customer, the employee, and the company. If it wasn’t, it’s not a good decision. The same holds true as a legislator. You really need to look at proposed legislation in the same way.
Additionally, to be successful in the hospitality industry and as a legislator, you need to have a servant’s heart—you have to want to serve others.
What are the biggest issues you hear from hospitality operators in your district, and how do you work to help them in state government?
It really varies throughout the industry. Tavern owners would like the opportunity to increase sales with Video Gaming Terminals (VGTs), some restaurants would like to see an elevated emphasis on career and technical education to increase the skilled labor force geared toward the industry. Others are focused on ways to attract and retain millennial workers. As their representative, I try and have a relationship with local establishments. I make myself accessible, so I can hear and understand their issues.
The theme for this issue is “Industry of Opportunity and Goodness.” How have you seen restaurants in your community give back?
My observation is that the successful restaurants in Bucks County are very engaged in the community. You have to be! You have to get outside of your four walls to ensure people know who you are. This is done through local marketing, introducing your product at local community events, participating in fundraisers for youth sports and other causes. We recently had one restaurant bring food to an accident scene for the victims and first responders. People remember these things and want to do business with you.
What advice do you have for members of our industry who want their voices heard in Harrisburg?
Stay close to the issues, and stay informed. Remember that we represent you in Harrisburg—we’re your voice. Reach out to your state representative and senator. Take the time to get to know them, and share your thoughts and concerns—it makes a difference. Whether through email, phone call, or a stop into the district office. That’s why we’re here. I welcome it and look forward to it. •
Rep. Craig Staats
(R, Bucks County)