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National Restaurant Association - What should restaurant operators talk to lawmakers about?

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What should restaurant operators talk to lawmakers about?

In August, the House of Representatives and Senate will head home for summer recess. It’s the time when legislators reconnect with their constituents by hosting town hall meetings and attending community events. Now is the perfect time for restaurateurs to have their voices heard by their Congressional representatives.

Get involved this summer! Attend a town hall meeting. Introduce yourself to your elected officials at events. Invite them to tour your restaurant.

Here are tips on how to talk to elected officials and some suggestions on restaurant-specific priorities to bring up.

Keep it simple and short. Introduce yourself and your restaurant. State your position on an industry issue that matters to you, and ask what the lawmaker can do to help solve the problem. Be polite and thank him or her for meeting with you.

Talk about your restaurant. Lawmakers want to hear about you and your business. Tell your story. How did you get started in the industry? What was your first job? How many people does your restaurant employ? How much tax revenue does your business generate? What are your biggest challenges? And most importantly, what can Congress do to help you?

Priority issue: health care. The Affordable Care Act will have a particularly profound effect on restaurants because of the industry’s unique nature. It’s highly labor-intensive, with low profits per employee, significant numbers of part-time employees, and a young and mobile workforce. Ask lawmakers to support changes that would help you manage and comply with the requirements of the new law.

·        Define full-time as a 40-hour workweek. It’s currently 30 hours, but that doesn’t reflect employers’ workforce needs or employees’ desire for flexible hours.

·        Simplify and streamline employer reporting rules. Currently, the requirement is burdensome and offers no viable simplified options for businesses like restaurants.

·        Raise the threshold that determines which small business are treated as “large” under the law. The current definition (and calculation employers must perform each year to determine whether they’re considered large or small) places an undue burden on industries with large variable-hour workforces, such as restaurants.

·        Eliminate the auto-enrollment mandate, which could cause financial hardship for employees who don’t opt out by the law’s deadlines. The requirement is redundant, unnecessary and will be expensive and confusing for employers and employees.

Priority issue: tax. One of the industry’s top asks to Congress is to extend tax provisions that expired at the end of 2013. Congress typically reauthorizes these “tax extenders” for just a year or two. The uncertainty makes it hard for restaurants to plan. Ask your lawmakers to provide restaurants with more tax certainty by making these three provisions permanent.

·        A 15-year tax depreciation schedule for restaurant improvements, new restaurant construction, and leasehold and retail improvements. The write-off schedule is currently 39½ years, which isn’t in line with marketplace realities for restaurants.

·        The Work Opportunity Tax Credit, which gives employers a tax credit for employing people who might otherwise have a hard time finding jobs.

·        The enhanced deduction for charitable contributions of food inventory for restaurants and other businesses that properly save and donate wholesome food to approved agencies.

Engage. After you connect with your senators and representatives, keep the conversation going on social media. Start by thanking them for their time via Facebook or Twitter.

Learn more about all of the restaurant industry’s top issues.

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