The New York State Restaurant Association announced that its board of directors has named Melissa Autilio Fleischut to lead the organization into its next phase of growth.

In this new position Fleischut will oversee the largest and most powerful hospitality association in New York State with a staff of approximately 25. She will serve as the primary spokesperson for the Association and represent the Association in matters with the National Restaurant Association and the Council of State Restaurant Associations.

Fleischut takes over the leadership reins from Rick Sampson, who served as the Association’s president and CEO for close to two decades. Sampson’s father Fred held the position before that for more than 30 years.

 “After 38 years with the Association, 19 as president and CEO, I am not retiring, but will be focusing on growing specific Association programs to further add value to membership,” says Rick Sampson. “The Association began 78 years ago and today is bigger and more relevant than ever. My father, Fred, served as president for nearly 30 years, and we are proud to pass on our legacy to Melissa – we can think of no one better to continue to lead and grow the Association.”

Fleischut was recruited to the NYS Restaurant Association in 1998 after a successful four years working in the National Restaurant Association’s Government Affairs Department in Washington, D.C.  She began as the Association’s first regional representative and rapidly took on increasing responsibility. Since 2012, when the board of directors named her Chief Operating Officer, she has managed the Association’s daily operations.

Fleischut has been integrally involved in all of the Association’s major state and city legislative and regulatory initiatives over the past decade as well as state wage board proceedings. She has been a key liaison with dozens of industry affiliates and in the past few years, has been heading up the Association’s ongoing successful “snowflake logo” re-branding and marketing efforts initiated by the Membership Committee in 2010.

“It has been exciting to watch Melissa’s development from a mid-level Association professional to the high-caliber Association executive she has grown into today,” says Colleen Holmes, chairman of the Board. “There’s no question she is up to this job because we have watched her successfully master every aspect of this organization’s short and long-term operations. At the same time she has demonstrated top-tier management and strategic acumen that we are looking for to lead the Association into its next chapter.”

“I am deeply humbled to be able to continue serving New York’s world-renowned hospitality industry and create new opportunities for hungry hospitality entrepreneurs who want to continually re-invent the world-class brand of hospitality that New York state represents,” says Fleischut.

 Fleischut has already begun working with the board and membership on a strategic plan for the future of the Association. In conjunction with strategic consultant, Ken Hutton from Hutton & Company, LLC, they are identifying the evolving priorities of members.

“We have a wonderful team of professionals at the Association in Albany, New York City and various locations around the state who work every day to bring value, enlightenment, connections and an edge for success to our members,” says Fleischut. “My role as a president and CEO will be as a catalyst to enhance the value proposition we provide New York state’s restaurateurs and caterers and the overall hospitality experience every day.”

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