Building Economic Sustainability through Tourism Project

USAID BEST supports Jordan Restaurant Association to provide new and improved services to members

19 May 2016

The USAID Building Economic Sustainability through Tourism Project (BEST) is providing support to Jordan Restaurant Association (JRA) through a grant that will help to build the capacity of JRA to provide new and improved professional services to its growing membership that will allow the association to generate sustainable revenues. The grant was signed at a ceremony held at BEST project offices on Tuesday May 17, 2016. Additionally via more effective communication, outreach, and coordination, JRA will serve as a leader for the restaurant industry in its collective efforts to elevate the quality and experience that Jordanian restaurants provide to their customers.

The restaurant sector is a powerful and regionally competitive sector that contributes to the growth of Jordan's economy. Jordan Restaurant Association advocates and represents the needs of its members and aims to create a healthy business environment for the restaurant industry. It accomplishes this by providing needed services and training and linking its members' needs with development efforts by the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities (MoTA) and other industry stakeholders.

JRA currently supports 1,006 classified members with a workforce totaling 19,508 employees in the restaurant sub-sector (based on 2015 figures). With increasing numbers of new restaurants opening each year, there is a need for JRA to provide restaurant industry employees with well-developed and comprehensive training programs in line with international best practices that meet the specific needs of its members. JRA must also ensure its members uphold high standards of excellence and safety when it comes to food handling, as this plays a vital role in attracting and retaining tourism demand.

To that end, JRA is developing a plan of action for the implementation of a comprehensive campaign, with USAID support, that would ensure the adoption of best practices and industry standards when handling food in tourist outlets, hotels, restaurants and training facilities.

The USAID tourism projects and Jordan Restaurant Association have been working together over the past decade to support and build the capacity of restaurant sector employees through training on safe food handling, hospitality skills and guest courtesy. In addition, USAID worked with JRA and MoTA and Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority (ASEZA) to develop and implement a new restaurant classification system in Aqaba in 2015, which classifies restaurants as "tourist approved" depending on the quality of food, service and hygiene. USAID BEST will now support JRA and MoTA to reinvigorate the system and introduce it to the rest of the country.

USAID BEST will be supporting the following activities under the grant to JRA:

- The grant will help build the capacity of JRA members through selected training courses such as customer/guest care, fire/safety and security, and cost control. By learning new skills, workers in the restaurant sector can improve production, reduce production costs, reduce mistakes, build confidence in Jordan's restaurant workforce and create a better working environment for employees.

- USAID BEST will also help JRA to enhance standards of excellence at members' restaurants through conducting awareness sessions and training courses on proper food handling and hygiene around the country in cooperation with Jordan Food and Drug Administration (JFDA).

- JRA also plans to launch an online job center with USAID BEST project support, pairing the finest talent in the restaurants and food service industry with outstanding opportunities at member's restaurants and institutions. This will be accomplished through an agreement with premier employment companies, which will allow restaurants to post jobs for minimal service fees.

- JRA will also collaborate with the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities to update the Restaurant Classification System, train new assessors to assess restaurants, raise awareness of JRA members around the country on the system, and produce a guidebook to be distributed to all restaurants for self-assessment. This will ensure a transparent classification system is implemented that will improve the service at, and market restaurants under each category.

- Under this grant, JRA will conduct a non-competitiveness study to demonstrate how regulatory burdens imposed on restaurants affect Jordan's competitiveness in the region, and recommendation on how to reduce the burden on restaurants to encourage investment in the rapidly growing sector.

- USAID BEST support will also contribute to enhancing services to JRA members through improved communication, including designing and implementing a social media and marketing strategy to expand JRA's work. In addition, by building and maintaining good and credible relations with stakeholders and local media, JRA and its members will help to overcome challenges that face the industry and increase potential for investment and employment at Jordanian restaurants.