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National Restaurant Association - Making a difference, influencing change

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Making a difference, influencing change

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When Wayne Reaves began working at Jack's Hamburgers in Anniston, Ala., as a high school junior, he didn't know he'd work his way up the company's ladder and become an advocate for the restaurant industry.

As a 16-year-old, he enjoyed the freedom and flexibility of the job and took pride in providing exceptional service. Today, as president and CEO of Manna Enterprises, which operates nine Jack's Family Restaurants, he still feels the same way.

"One thing about the restaurant industry is that you don't have to worry about getting bored -- it's so fast-paced," says Reaves, pictured above (left) with Alabama State Sen. Gerald Allen (center).

Reaves joined the Alabama Restaurant Association in 1982, soon after he and his wife formed Manna Enterprises. They found that they had to implement burdensome laws and regulations that put downward pressure on their tight margins.

"We didn't have a choice but to get involved," he says.

Since then, he has hosted "meet and greet" sessions at his restaurants with members of Congress, testified before a Senate subcommittee in support of a federal common sense consumption bill and served on boards of the state association and the National Restaurant Association. He regularly attends the NRA's annual Public Affairs Conference.

"I know my representative personally, and he knows when I call him or meet with him what our issues are going to be,," Reaves says. "We make our voice heard at every opportunity."

Reaves encourages other restaurateurs to get involved in the political process, starting with local health department or city council hearings.

"There is an assumption that one person can't make a difference," he says. "That is a mistake. You can help prevent regulations that could be detrimental to your business, such as a sign ordinance that prevents you from having a reader board - and cause you to lose sales."

On the federal level, Reaves is most concerned about uncertainty associated with the health care law, such as the minimum value of coverage plans employers must provide to employees.

"No one can tell us what it will cost us ... and there is no way to budget the unknown," he says. "Because businesses can't gauge the impact of this legislation on their bottom lines, they are holding resources for equipment or new facilities in reserve."

On the state level, Reaves is more optimistic. The Alabama Restaurant Association won several victories this year. Most recently, it worked to get the state legislature to pass the Common Sense Consumption Act, which prevents people from filing obesity lawsuits against restaurants. The bill was enacted last week.

"It's amazing what they accomplished," Reaves says of the bill's sponsors.

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