The New York State Restaurant Association announced that its board of directors has named Fred Sampson president emeritus for his continuing leadership, advocacy, and support of the Association and its members.
As president emeritus, Sampson will forever hold a position in the Association that he helped grow into what it is today: a potent voice for New York’s world renowned hospitality sector and the go-to resource for restaurateurs of all vintages.
"He's pretty indispensible," says Colleen O'Bryan Holmes, owner of Wheatfields restaurants in Saratoga and Clifton Park and chairwoman of the association. "He really grew the association. Without him we wouldn't be where we are today." And he did it all with a great sense of humor and constant gratitude for the volunteers who worked with the association, she adds.
Sampson began working with the NYS Restaurant Association as executive vice president in 1961. At that time, there were separate regional Restaurant Associations throughout the state. Sampson helped merge the regional Association’s to form one NYS Restaurant Association. Within the next four years the NYS Restaurant Association more than tripled its membership and expanded from one regional chapter to eight.
During his time at the Association, Sampson played roles in representing restaurants on issues including paid sick leave, minimum wage, liquor laws, a state-wide alcohol training program and insurance plans. He even helped repeal a law that didn’t allow restaurants to serve alcohol before 9:00 p.m. on primary and election days. Sampson began a restaurant trade show, today known as the International Restaurant and Foodservice Show of New York, which hosts 16,000 people at the Jacob K. Javits Center every year.
Sampson began his career in foodservice at his parent’s restaurant in Philadelphia. In 1945 he joined the Army, where he worked in the foodservice departments at various locations including the Indiantown Gap Military Reservation in Pennsylvania and the Air-Sea Rescue Unit in the Air Force.
Following the army and the sale of Sampson’s parents’ business, he worked for Slater System, now ARAMARK, which provided foodservice to colleges and small businesses. For three years Sampson worked as the director of Foodservice for the Central YMCA of Philadelphia, and then as director of Foodservice for Temple University.
During this time Sampson was an active member of the Philadelphia and Pennsylvania Restaurant Associations, and in 1956 he became the executive vice president for the Pennsylvania Restaurant Association, where he grew the Association’s membership and chapter base over his three years there. Heading back to foodservice, Fred served two years as the vice president and general manager for the Dutch Pantry chain and in 1961 he accepted an offer as the executive vice president at the NYS Restaurant Association.
"Fred Sampson was the pioneer in establishing a voice for the restaurant industry throughout New York State,” says Brad Rosenstein, third generation owner of Jack’s Oyster House in Albany, one of the oldest family owned fine dining restaurants in the United States celebrating its 100th year, and member of the NYS Restaurant Association. “He has been one of the most highly respected hospitality executives in America."
“He is always about giving credit to other people, despite the major positive impact he brought to issues through sheer force of personality. That said, his real talent was an uncanny ability to anticipate the challenges that would confront the industry over the past four decades,” says Rick Sampson. “He anticipated issues like the DWI, the smoking ban and obesity issues and helped get the industry ahead of the curve. His influence in helping make New York’s restaurant industry the envy of the world really cannot be overstated. And he is still just as sharp today as he ever was.”
“I guess if I had to pick one word to describe Fred Sampson it would be integrity,” says Melissa Autilio Fleischut, president and CEO of the NYS Restaurant Association. “To have your name be synonymous with one organization for more than 50 years says a lot about you and your good name. With the members and with legislators that name is synonymous with integrity.”
"I don't know anyone who has always put the best interests of the restaurant industry in New York State first,” says Anthony Dell’Orto, co-owner of Manganaro’s Hero Boy and member of the NYS Restaurant Association. “He has the ability to articulate any point to anyone. He has brought together two opposing sides to formulate a united and positive response to all issues that affect the restaurant industry in New York. There is no one that deserves the president emeritus title more than Fred Sampson."