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National Restaurant Association - Ground Round’s Crawford: Public Affairs confab a forum for issues

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Ground Round’s Crawford: Public Affairs confab a forum for issues

Ensuring the health and well-being of the restaurant industry is a top priority for Jack Crawford, vice chair of the National Restaurant Association and emcee of the NRA’s April 29-30 Public Affairs Conference in Washington, D.C. Crawford, president and CEO of the Ground Round casual-dining restaurant chain, recently talked about his interest in political advocacy, the importance of attending the conference and why all restaurateurs should be more involved in addressing the issues that affect the way their businesses operate.

How did you become involved in the restaurant industry?I entered into a management training program for Ground Round right after I graduated from college and 33 years later I’m still involved. I was a franchisee for a number of years and involved in several senior leadership positions before becoming its CEO.

Why are you interested in political advocacy?
It’s an opportunity to represent our industry and speak up, to talk to members of Congress and tell them about the career opportunities and jobs we create. It’s a chance to talk about business and how our industry supports the communities we serve.

Why come to Washington, D.C.?
It’s so important for Congress to hear from actual business owners and operators. The NRA and its lobbyists represent our industry, but lawmakers need to hear directly from restaurant owners and operators. We come to Washington as local businesspeople and tell them how the legislation they’re working on affects our businesses. They are very interested in hearing that perspective.

You are especially interested in protecting the industry’s reputation. Why are restaurants so important to our economy and local communities?
We are often misunderstood and thought of as a low-paying, low-benefits job-provider. That’s unfair and an untruth. We provide career ladders for people who want to advance to managerial positions or maybe own their own restaurants one day. We also offer flexible or part-time hours to those who want that. For the customers who dine at our restaurants, we offer respite from their busy lives. We’re extremely active in our communities. We donate millions of dollars every year and are involved with schools and organizations and with various charities. Our industry touches all of that.

How will the health care law affect our industry and what do we need to do to make it palatable for business?
We have a lot of good efforts going on right now to shape the law for easier implementation. That includes working to classify full-time employment as 40 hours a week instead of 30, as well as address the law’s auto-enrollment mandates. We think we can meet with Congress and find ways to achieve our goals. We’re looking for ways to ease the transition for our businesses. This year’s Public Affairs Conference gives us a voice at the right time to express the concerns we have about the Affordable Care Act and its impact on our businesses.

What about the issue of immigration reform?
We’ve been working for comprehensive immigration for a long time, to fix a broken system. Primarily, we support legislation that will present a clear path to citizenship, an accurate and more reliable federal employment verification system, and border protection without an adverse impact on travel and tourism. With bipartisan support from both parties and from the President, we hope something can get done.

The National Restaurant Association’s 2014 Public Affairs Conference will be held April 29-30 in Washington D.C. Join more than 600 restaurateurs and the nation’s lawmakers for discussion on policies and legislation affecting the industry and your business. Register here.

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