It has been a busy summer for NRRDA’s committees. We conducted our first members only CLE course back in July and are scheduling future courses. If you have a topic for these one-hour courses contact the NRRDA office at firstname.lastname@example.org. In addition, Industry members got the chance to join on Zoom to discuss counsel and claims relationships. Do you have a topic you’d like to discuss with your peers? Please let us know!
Our Lighthouse Committee has been hard at work planning the conference, which will take place at the Hyatt Regency DFW Airport on October 19. We will hold a social event the evening before to allow members to meet in person for the first time since our annual conference in 2020. This will be an innovative conference addressing the myriad legal issues created by the growth of technology and artificial intelligence in the retail and restaurant industries as well as in claim handling. Registration is open and we recommend registering early, as spots are limited. We are disappointed to not host the conference in Los Angeles as originally planned but the complexities of planning two meetings during Covid were too much to overcome while ensuring the safety and health of members. You can register for the conference and reserve hotel rooms. We look forward to seeing as many of you as possible in just a couple of weeks.
The annual conference Committee has also been busy planning the 2022 Annual Conference at the Westin Riverwalk in San Antonio from March 2-4. We have received many submissions for topics and the committee will be reaching out to everyone. The conference title is Building our Foundation Stronger Together – an appropriate topic for these times, but also the foundation upon which NRRDA was built. By sharing our experience, challenges and knowledge, we help everyone grow and improve outcomes. Along the way, we also have a lot of fun. The hotel is located right on the Riverwalk and is within walking distance of the Alamo and dozens of great venues for connecting with friends. Registration will be open later this year. Registration is deeply discounted for industry members and many scholarships are available to offset registration and travel costs for industry attendees. While the program is still being developed you can be assured that this conference will be full of great information you cannot get anywhere else.
The Annual Conference also provides many opportunities for our industry members to host Panel Counsel Meetings. Space for these meetings is limited so we suggest signing up for a spot as soon as possible. If you are an industry member and are interested in learning more about hosting a Panel Counsel meeting at the Annual conference please contact us or read more here. Industry members who host panel counsel meetings receive free hotel rooms and other benefits that offset the cost of your travel. Between these benefits and scholarships, industry attendees who host panel counsel meetings should be able to attend at very little cost.
I am looking forward to seeing many of you next month and then again in March. Summer flew by and March is only just around the corner.
I recently had the pleasure of chatting with NRRDA Industry Member, Latoya Lee. LaToya Lee is currently the Director of Claims at Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers. Latoya became a member of the Raising Cane’s family about six years ago due to a picky four-year-old daughter who would only eat chicken fingers and toast. Raising Cane’s was around the corner and she frequented it regularly. Latoya noticed immediately that it was a very happy family- oriented place. They had good food that was not fast food, but quality food delivered in a quick manner. It did not feel like a fast-food restaurant. At the time, Latoya was an adjuster handling personal auto, general liability, and premises. She saw a claims manager position advertised on Indeed, applied, was hired, and has been working at Raising Cane’s since September, 2015. I asked LaToya if it felt different moving from an adjuster background to being on the employer’s side of things. She answered that a claim is a claim. Latoya said that the transition was easier than anticipated, but different because she was no longer in the weeds. It was refreshing for her to be dealing with people more. Also different was the fact that she now handled workers’ compensation claims on a national basis. I asked her what the most challenging thing was about becoming a national Director of Claims, and she said, “California.” She finds the state to be challenging and surprising. Raising Cane’s opened their first location in the same month and year that she started, and they have now saturated the market and have 42 restaurants in the state.
I also asked LaToya how she felt about handling workers’ compensation claims since this was different from her general liability background, and she said that she felt like she brought her strong negotiating skills with her when she started to handle workers’ compensation claims and has been really excited to work with crew members who had been injured to promote Raising Cane’s philosophy of taking care of their employees. LaToya said that the restaurant’s workers’ compensation claim counts are low because she and her team treat the injured workers as family. Raising Cane’s hold the injured worker’s hands throughout the claims process. Latoya has received some positive feedback from injured employees who have returned to work. She has received thanks for treating each person as an individual when they were scared, and for the commitment that Raising Cane’s has in providing excellent medical care, and eventually bringing people back to work.
The last year has been a challenge. During the pandemic, Latoya had to detach from her position as the Director of Claims, as she became one of the leaders for COVID support and crisis management. Raising Cane’s did an excellent job with fostering a safety-first method, whereby they had daily checks of all employees to make sure that COVID was kept at bay. Except for one store at the very beginning of the pandemic, all stores nationwide remained open.
Currently, Raising Cane’s has 558 stores in 32 states. They most recently opened a store in Utah and Wisconsin. The great majority of these stores are corporate-owned. 510 stores are corporate-owned with 48 franchises.
Latoya is a self-described “Caniac,” where she describes embracing Raising Cane’s philosophy of providing quality service, excellent food and a nurturing environment for their employees. LaToya attributes the positive atmosphere in the workplace to the founder, Todd Graves. Raising Cane’s began as a college dream--a restaurant that served high-quality chicken finger meals and nothing else. From this vision, Graves created a business plan which has resulted in an incredibly successful nationwide restaurant group. LaToya is based in Raising Cane’s corporate center in Plano, Texas and says that when Todd Graves comes on-site, which he does often, he is one of the guys. Graves rolls up his sleeves and you feel like he is a peer, rather than your boss.
LaToya is married with five children. LaToya has two girls from a prior marriage, now 11 and seven. Her husband has an 11-year-old boy from a prior marriage. Seven months ago, they had twins--a girl and a boy. LaToya feels that the twins have completed the circle. The older siblings are enthusiastic about their little brother and sister and pitch in to help out.
LaToya and her husband are also dog people. To complete their family, they have a four- year-old, 107-pound Rhodesian Ridgeback/Doberman Pinscher named Leo and a 30-pound Boston Terrier named Sam. LaToya and her husband are involved in animal charities both within Raising Cane’s and also personally.
LaToya and her family set aside Friday nights to shake off the week. During COVID, they would take walks around the block or have movie and popcorn night. Now that restrictions are lifting, they are going back to the movies. They recently took their family to the Gulf Shore for the first time. LaToya says that their first big trip will be to Disney. Her seven-year-old daughter is a Disney fan and identifies with the Disney princesses.
LaToya has been a member of NRRDA for six years. Her first NRRDA trip was to Fort Lauderdale and it is her favorite so far. She went alone; but by the time that the conference ended, she had made many new friends. Latoya calls NRRDA her safe space where she can meet old friends, make new ones and connect with business partners. Like everyone, Latoya is really looking forward to the San Antonio annual conference in March of 2022.
Still time to register for the 2021 Lighthouse Seminar