Restaurateurs across the country are bringing their concerns about federal policy issues like minimum wage, health care and too many regulations directly to their representatives in Congress.
Nine local restaurateurs turned out for a recent roundtable with Rep. Ryan Costello (R-Pa.) at P.J. Whelihan’s Pub in Reading. Jim Fris, president of the Brandywine chapter of the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association and chief operating officer of PJW Restaurant Group, which operates P.J. Whelihan’s and 14 other restaurants, hosted the event.
“Rep. Costello took the time to talk with each of us and asked us to tell him about our restaurants,” Fris said. “Not everyone does that. He understood who we were and what our companies were about.”
So what’s on the menu when a member of Congress visits a restaurant? Those who met with Costello had a number of concerns:
Wage mandates: Restaurateurs are concerned about the prospect of dramatic increases in the minimum wage for both tipped and non-tipped employees. “The tipped wage, I believe, is the number one concern of every restaurant out there,” Fris said, adding that the costs of an increase would be borne by customers, businesses and employees. “Every one of my servers makes in the high 20s, 30 dollars an hour. I can’t tell you how many people we have working for us, paying their way through college—everywhere from Harvard to the community college. They don’t want this to turn into something that moves backwards.”
Health care: Changing the law’s definition of “full time” from 30 to 40 hours remains a top concern for restaurateurs who attended the meeting, Fris said.
Depreciation: Restaurateurs told Costello of the need for a permanent 15-year depreciation schedule for restaurant improvements and new construction, leasehold improvements and retail improvements, so they can be certain about how upgrades and expansions will be taxed.
Labor issues: Costello echoed concerns of local restauranteurs regarding overreach by the National Labor Relations Board and the potential costs of proposed changes to federal overtime regulations.
Costello showed a sharp understanding of the pressures facing restaurants, Fris said. “There was no issue we discussed that he didn’t get,” Fris said. “Sometimes you talk to politicians and leave the table saying ‘are you kidding me?’ He understood everything and was able to articulate it in a language that we understood. Everyone was thrilled.”
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