Based in Austin, the Texas Restaurant Association is the leading state trade association representing the restaurant and food service industry. TRA has provided advocacy, education, workforce development, training, legal support, business solutions and benefits to the restaurant industry since 1937, while also heading the TRA Marketplace Tradeshow.
The group advocates on the national, state and local levels for Texas’ $52.4 billion food service industry, which spans more than 43,000 locations throughout the state, employing a workforce of 1.2 million.
Kenneth Besserman serves as TRA’s general counsel.
As the sole attorney at TRA, Besserman handles most of the legal, regulatory and legislative questions that arise.
“From time to time we have members that get into a particular legal dispute with a state agency, contractor or other business,” he said. “I try to help them resolve the matter and provide them with legal advice and counsel, but occasionally a restaurateur or operator needs outside legal counsel to resolve a dispute.”
Immigration/visa issues, employment matters, alcohol licensing and business disputes are the matters that Besserman said he most often refers to his network of outside attorneys.
For immigration/visa and employment matters, Besserman said he often refers restaurateurs to immigration firm Monty & Ramirez. For business disputes, he sends members to Roberts Markel Weinberg Butler Hailey, and for alcohol licensing and Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission issues, he refers members to Jack Martin at Martin Frost & Hill.
In addition to handling all of TRA’s internal legal issues, from contract review to employment law matters to other legal/business issues, Besserman also runs the association’s Political Action Committee, which entails fundraising and contributing to candidates. During legislative sessions, he also lobbies on behalf of TRA and the restaurant industry on issues that TRA supports and opposing legislation detrimental to the industry.
“When I am not engaged in lobbying and government relations, much of my time is spent on the phone counseling members on all areas of law that affect the industry—hospitality law, labor law, tax law, health and safety law, immigration, food law, alcohol licensing and business law,” he said.
Route to the Top
After graduating from the University of Houston Law Center, Besserman worked in Houston for a short time with an insurance defense firm before earning his LL.M. degree from the London School of Economics.
He then returned to his hometown of Austin and worked in the Texas Senate for a decade for Sen. Rodney Ellis as committee director, legislative director, GC and chief of staff. Besserman next joined the Comptroller of Public Accounts as an associate GC concentrating on state fiscal issues, administrative law, unclaimed property and legislative issues.
He joined TRA as GC responsible for legal issues, government relations and advocacy in 2014.
Besserman and his wife, Anna-Karin, who have been married since 1999, have one daughter, Rebekah, who is enrolled in eighth grade, and the family travels every summer to Sweden to spend time with family and friends.
“After 45 years of playing competitive soccer, I am still active with a successful men’s league team,” Besserman said, adding he also enjoys Austin’s vibrant restaurant and craft brewery scene.
A voracious reader and listener of audiobooks, Besserman last read “The Spy and the Traitor,” by Ben Macintyre, a true spy thriller about one of the greatest Cold War Soviet agents secretly working for Great Britain for decades.