AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine Restaurant Association and the Maine Innkeepers Association announced plans on Monday to create an operating company to jointly manage both organizations.
The move comes as Richard Grotton, longtime CEO of the Maine Restaurant Association, plans to retire at the end of the year.
Greg Dugal, executive director of the Maine Innkeepers Association, will lead the new management company, and become the CEO of both trade associations.
The Hospitality Association Management Services will have its own board made up of members from both associations, Dugal said.
The two associations will retain autonomy, and each board worked hard to ensure the move isn’t seen as a merger, Dugal said.
“The separate parts are the two associations, the employees, the boards and the committees. The common thing is going to be a management company to operate them both,” Dugal said. “So it’s more a collaboration.”
Besides a CEO, the associations will share office space. The innkeepers association will move out of its current space in Freeport to join the restaurant association in Augusta, where they will be closer to the policymakers, Dugal said.
“There’s definitely an opportunity to save some money in this process as well,” Dugal said.
Dugal said the joint management model among trade associations in the hospitality sector is common throughout the country.
One positive is in the legislative arena, where Dugal said the management company will be able to represent both associations without conflict.
He said 80 percent of the issues that he and Grotton worked on were the same. In the rare instance where the associations might take opposing views, the smoking ban in restaurants is one past example, a plan has been put in place, Dugal said. In those cases, Grotton, who has agreed to stay on as a legislative advocacy consultant through 2014, would be the voice of the restaurant association in Augusta.
“I don’t anticipate that’s going to be an issue, but I’m glad we have a plan just in case,” he said.
There will be no net addition of jobs. Each association employs three people, including Dugal and Grotton. Going forward, each association will employ two people, while the management company will employ Dugal as a CEO and a yet-to-be-hired chief operating officer, Dugal said. He will begin the search for a new chief operating officer in early July.
“We are delighted to have this opportunity to strengthen our relationship with the Maine Restaurant Association while maintaining our independent identity,” said Jim Ostrowski, operator of The Inns at Blackberry Common in Camden and chairman of the innkeepers’ board, in a statement. “This is also a great opportunity to move the offices of our association to Augusta from our current Freeport location in order to be closer to policymaking at the state level.”
Dugal has served as executive director of the innkeepers association since 2003, but has prior experience in both the restaurant and lodging businesses.
For nearly 16 years, between 1984 and 1999, Dugal worked at the Samoset Resort in Rockport, as its food and beverage director. During that time he joined the Maine Restaurant Association’s board, which he served on for roughly 12 years, including a two-year stint as board president. He had stints helping the North Park Grille in Augusta launch and served as director of what was then known as the Camden Chamber of Commerce before joining the innkeepers association.
Grotton plans to retire on Dec. 31 after nearly 20 years as CEO of the restaurant association.
“In his time with the Maine Restaurant Association, Dick Grotton has been a stalwart advocate for the state’s restaurant industry,” said Todd Maurer, operator of King Eider’s Pub in Damariscotta, and chairman of the restaurant association’s board, in a statement. “He has given heart and soul, countless hours and invaluable leadership to Maine restaurateurs since he took the helm in 1994. We’re pleased that he has agreed to play a limited consulting role through 2014 and feel confident that our Association will continue to prosper under the direction of Greg Dugal.”