Show cover of What's with the Pineapple?

What's with the Pineapple?

Welcome to What’s with the Pineapple? A podcast about what’s happening in Michigan’s hospitality industry delivered directly through your speakers brought to you by the Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association. We know that pineapples don’t grow in Michigan, but just trust us. Throughout this podcast, the MRLA will share a deeper discussion with you about current events, major headlines and trends, updates on what's happening at the Capitol in Lansing and Washington D.C., as well as welcome a new interview to each episode.


Ep. 12 - Pickleball & Politics
Did you know that the fastest growing segment of pickleball players is ages 8-18 and 19-28 year olds? Did you know that Justin is too good for the game? Listen in as Justin and Emily cover all things pickleball, fall activities, and what’s happening in Lansing this week as the House and Senate floor lights finally get turned back on. They also have their first Q&A segment that Emily has been trying make happen for months answering the big question mark of “How are you saving the tip credit?” Grab a cocktail-to-go (forevermore) and settle in as the podcast welcomes back its first time ever repeat guests: John Sellek, Founder & CEO of Harbor Strategic Public Affairs, and Adrian Hemond, CEO of Grassroots Midwest, to discuss what will happen in the November election in the House, Senate and the impact ballot proposals will have on voter turnout. If you’re only here for the Pistons analysis… skip to the end. September is also National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Visit for more resources and remember that 988 is the number to call, text or chat with to talk with a licensed professional at anytime.
54:05 09/25/2022
Ep. 11 - STR: Straight to Rick's
Hospitality professionals might think Smith Travel Research or possibly Short-Term Rental when they see the acronym STR. But to MSU and U of M grads and all others who seek to be forever young, STR can only mean one thing... Straight to Rick's! Thomas “Dewey” Bramson, President & Owner of Equity-Vest, which owns college town staples such as Rick’s, Harrison Roadhouse (and yes, the Roadhouse Pub), Beggar’s Banquet, several others, joins the podcast this week in a unique format. Dewey adds his commentary and insight as Justin and Emily cruise through discussing the status on the tip credit, the role technology will play in survival of hospitality, the FAST Act, and more. Dewey then shares stories of his path from lacrosse player to restaurant owner, his experiences from 20 years on the MRLA Board and his plans as he becomes Chair of the MRL Fund Board. And just for the record: no one from Team MRLA got married this weekend… we think.
70:39 09/09/2022
Ep. 10 - An Industry in Purgatory
Justin and Emily are back from a week on Mackinac Island, you know, the #1 Island in the Continental U.S. and today’s episode shakes things up a bit by starting with a breakdown of this week’s Court of Claims ruling on the adopt-and-amend strategy for minimum wage and paid sick leave in 2018. The podcast then welcomes Patrick Theisen from KMC Strategies and American’s for a Modern Economy to discuss new approaches to doing business in the hospitality industry: the gig economy, portable benefits, telehealth, affordable housing and others. For the first time ever, a guest turns the table as Patrick asks the two hosts questions after doing his own research. And, as always, no guest gets out of sharing some sort of sports-related take that ends in an argument with Justin.
59:48 07/22/2022
Ep. 9 - Happy Pork of July!
In the first podcast episode of the summer, Justin and Emily match the temperature outside by discussing several hot topics: Pork of July, er, 4th of July plans, gas prices, an analysis of the current economic state of the industry, Little Caesars taking over the NFL, and Justin finally losing his cool about QR codes. Hint: he hates them and he doesn’t care who knows it. After calming down, the two welcome Dr. Patty Janes, PH. D, a professor at Grand Valley State University in the Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management and founder of Michigan Cares for Tourism. Michigan Cares for Tourism is a volunteer-based program that coordinates an annual clean-up event at a Michigan tourism treasure. For more information, or to sign up as a volunteer, visit
60:10 06/23/2022
Ep. 8 - Three-Legged Stool of Misery
Mental Health Awareness Month takes center stage in today's episode as Justin and Emily welcome Mickey Bakst, Co-Founder & Executive Director of Ben's Friends, a support group for members of the food and beverage industry battling substance abuse and addiction. Mickey shares the history of Ben's Friends, the experience one can expect from being a part of it, how operators can support their teams on the subject, and how to set up a local chapter. As a Michigan native, Mickey tells stories from his time running Tapawingo and Tribute Restaurant. Emily carries most of the show this week as Justin drags himself to the mic after staying out past 11PM (gasp!) on a Wednesday. Why? It's an immersive story that you'll have to tune in to hear. The two (again, mostly Emily) also set a record for most topics covered in an episode as they analyze new operational data for the industry, Starbucks (again), the inevitable robot takeover, the time Justin shredded his boss' bill proposal, and so, so much more.For more information about Ben's Friends and how to get involved, visit
59:05 05/20/2022
Ep. 7 - The Mother of All Election Cycles
In this Mother’s Day preview edition of the pod, Justin and Emily skip the always-highly-anticipated episode segments and instead jump right into welcoming Lansing insiders John Sellek of Harbor Strategic Public Affairs and Adrian Hemond of Grassroots Midwest for an in-depth 2022 election preview. The discussion covers the innumerable competing narratives that will impact this election before going deep on the race for governor, especially the very crowded Republican primary field. Adrian and John also review Michigan’s new Congressional maps and the hot races that will make up our federal delegation before diving into the Michigan Senate, Michigan House of Representatives and which of the many legislative initiatives and constitutional amendments are poised to make the ballot. As avid basketball fans, John, Adrian, Justin and Emily wrap the pod with a brief discussion of the upcoming NBA draft and who the lowly (but ascendent) Detroit Pistons should select.Throughout the pod several specific electoral districts are referenced by number, so attentive listeners can follow more closely by referencing the new legislative district maps available HERE.
75:06 05/06/2022
Ep. 6 - Detroit Style vs. Everybody
Spending 45 years in Michigan’s hospitality industry produces a lot of insight. Today’s episode takes listeners to where Detroit-Style Pizza was born by welcoming Wesley Pikula, Chief Brand Officer of Buddy’s Pizza, to the mic. Wesley started working for the famous Detroit brand at age 17 and discusses what he’s learned, how to get back to the basics to welcome in new workforce, and what lies ahead for the industry in Michigan. Justin and Emily run through the always-on-the-brink-of-changing episode segments to update listeners about what’s on the agenda at the Capitol for the limited time left before legislators break for the summer and what Justin will be up to in Washington D.C. Everyone’s sick of hearing the word inflation, but the two share some new statistics coming out of the Restaurant Leadership Conference anyway. It wouldn’t be an MRLA podcast without a few plugs: Industry Insights and HTIM to tease just a few.
48:53 04/14/2022
Ep. 5 - Return of the Mac
After a longer than usual delay (with few noticing frankly), Justin and Emily are back to discuss MRLA Capitol Day, the emotional return of the statewide ProStart competition, why cabbage is a St. Patrick’s Day loser and what’s happening around the Capitol during a very busy legislative session. We then searched the world for the best possible guest and found him right down the hall! MRLA’s Vice President of Government Affairs, John McNamara, joins the pod to share insights from the lobbyist trenches, how he stumbled into this profession and why he came to love it. Finally, we give the people what they want – the oral history of how Johnny came to star in the quirkiest restaurant commercial ever to grace mid-Michigan airwaves. Check it out HERE. Trust us.  
38:41 03/17/2022
Ep. 4 - HGTV or H-2B on Mackinac Island?
In the newest episode of What’s with the Pineapple? Justin and Emily take listeners up north, onto a ferry (or plane, or ice bridge), across Lake Huron and onto Michigan’s most treasured tourism destination: Mackinac Island. Liz Ware joins the podcast from her family-owned Mission Point Resort property to share the unique experiences that come with operating on an island, her thoughts on H-2B visas, the importance of not standing on the sidelines, and much more. They also cover the important topics such as what to eat during the Big Game, what’s going to happen at the Half Time show, a budget analysis of the Governor’s proposed $74 billion in spending, new national data on the State of the Industry, the launch of the Hospitality Training Institute of Michigan – or is there just a new guy named Tim in the office? - and even feature their first ad read. Have they figured out a title for the Current Events segment yet? You’ll have to listen to find out.
47:35 02/11/2022
Ep. 3 - The Butch Cassidy & Sundance Kid of Hospitality External Affairs
In our third episode we welcome Align Public Strategies founding partner Joe Kefauver and managing partner Franklin Coley for a deep dive into the quickly changing landscape around labor organizing in the hospitality sector. We analyze the ubiquitous NLRB filings tied to Starbucks (including Michigan) and debate whether this recent trend will create a tectonic shift that will forever change the industry or something more ephemeral and less significant in nature. Emily and Justin also quickly go around the horn on the MRLA’s grassroots effort to secure a second round of RRF funding, recap the governor’s State of the State address, review the state of Restaurant and Hotel weeks across Michigan and brace for the potentiality of a Snowpocalypse in Michigan this week.
60:50 02/01/2022
Ep. 2 - A Swift Kick to the “*%&$”
Emily and Justin are back against all odds for a second episode to discuss how Omicron is “like a swift kick to the *&^% “ according to one brutally honest operator quoted in Restaurant Business magazine. They also discuss a big advocacy win for the MRLA that will help afflicted restaurants and hotels, the possibility of yet another ballot proposal seeking to eliminate the tip credit in Michigan and the appropriate cut off date for wishing someone “Happy New Year”. Then, Restaurant Business magazine Editor in Chief, Jonathan Maze, joins the pod to discuss 2022 industry trends, the marketability of Detroit-style pizza and who owns the rights to most tortured fan base – Minnesota Vikings or Detroit Lions fans. It was an insightful, but also very fun conversation with a national guest. We told you we’d get better! Enjoy. 
55:49 01/13/2022
Ep. 1 - Not a Podcast for Swingers
MRLA's Justin Winslow and Emily Daunt launch the first-ever podcast from the Association, curiously entitled "What's with the Pineapple?". In this inaugural episode listeners learn the origins of the name, why it is critically important to get it right and then Justin and Emily provide an industry and government affairs update. Then, visionary restaurateur, Jeremy Sasson, of Heirloom Hospitality shares his experience navigating his business through COVID-19 shutdowns, what sets Heirloom Hospitality apart and where he sees the industry going in the years ahead. Listener Note: It's our first episode. We'll get better. We promise.
39:13 12/09/2021