Published in the August 10, 2017 edition


NORTH READING – The co-owner of the Horseshoe Grille is taking on a new leadership role among the state’s restaurant owners and the variety of issues they work on from year to year.

Pat Lee was recently elected chairman of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association’s Board of Directors, a post he is expected to hold for one year. A North Reading native, Lee has also been a local Chamber of Commerce president and he is involved with St. Theresa’s Parish on their council and finance committee. Lee said that he also still serves as an assistant hockey coach for North Reading High School, continuing more than 25 years in town as a youth coach.

In a conversation this week with the Transcript, Lee said that he first got involved with the state’s restaurant association about 20 years ago, in part to educate himself as a business owner but also because there financial benefits in doing so, such as programs to help restaurants save on costs like gas and liquor liability insurance. Lee added that he’s served on the state organization’s board for 12 years, having been nominated back then by former North Reading restaurateur Mike Larkin. From there, Lee added that he found the opportunity to give something back, by serving as a voice for the area’s independent restaurants. “As an industry we’re a major economic force as well as employer,” said Lee, adding that restaurants account for about 10 percent of Massachusetts jobs, malls benefiting more and more from the foot traffic they generate, and with towns and the state both benefiting considerably from the associated tax revenues – an amount he estimated to be in the tens of millions of dollars per month.

During his time as board chairman in the coming months, Lee said he hopes to focus on a handful of issues currently affecting the region’s restaurant industry. He said that he hopes to help bring more independent restaurant owners into the statewide organization and to it more accessible to younger entrepreneurs and providing them with the services and professional development opportunities needed to make their businesses grow. He also noted that the state restaurant association’s education foundation has awarded more than $1 million, including to 40 students in June. Lee cited a handful of other issues currently facing the restaurant industry in Massachusetts and elsewhere, such as the increasingly complicated nature of human resources, uncertainty over and effects of a higher minimum wage, and what may sound like an unlikely problem to many – a general shortage of staffing.

“As an association we are very in tune to what our members’ needs are… If we can make them a stronger group, we’ll provide better service to all guests,” said Lee.