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National Restaurant Association - Restaurateurs advocate for industry growth and opportunity

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Restaurateurs advocate for industry growth and opportunity

More than 600 restaurateurs from 42 states came to Capitol Hill to urge lawmakers to support policies that encourage restaurant growth and maximize the industry’s ability to create jobs and opportunities.    

“You couldn’t be here at a more important moment,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told NRA Public Affairs Conference attendees at the day’s opening session. “An army of regulators is crawling all over America with the view that if you make a profit, you must be up to no good. There has been an assault on the private sector across the board, and obviously, that includes you.”

McConnell pointed to the National Labor Relations Board’s implementation of a regulation that limits the time business owners have to respond to union petitions and the steps the NLRB is taking to redefine its longtime “joint-employer” standard, as examples of regulatory overreach. Both issues were on the agenda as restaurateurs met with lawmakers.  

McConnell acknowledged that partisanship remains a significant obstacle for cooperation between the White House and Congress. But he encouraged attendees to stay committed to their advocacy on health care, labor and other issues.

“I hope you’ll pound the table and explain what’s happening with the 40-hour workweek,” McConnell said, referring to the provision in the health care law that defines “full time” as 30 hours a week. “The single biggest thing restraining the entrepreneurial instincts of this country is the government itself. We think it’s a good idea that you’re growing and hiring more people.”

While health care, labor, wages and taxes led the agenda at many of the meetings, attendees also engaged lawmakers on immigration reform, patent abuse, data security, menu labeling, food costs, and tourism.

Richard Weil of Denver-based RFW consulting and former chair of the Colorado Restaurant Association, said the restaurant industry has been under attack in recent years. He cited ongoing attempts at the federal and state level to implement new wage mandates, which he said would force many restaurant operators to increase prices and limit opportunities. “We have to stop that. While it’s well-intentioned, it’s going to create disastrous results.” 

Simon de Vere White, co-owner of de Vere’s Irish Pub in Sacramento and Davis, Calif., said cost and regulatory pressures are backing operators into a corner.

“We’re trying to find a way to stop the hemorrhaging,” de Vere White said. “Between minimum wage, paid leave and the [California] drought, it’s affecting all of us. We can’t raise prices anymore. We’re headed toward a $20 hamburger. We need someone to help us weather the storm.”

That help, operators said, could come in a number of forms, such as passing legislation to change the health care law’s full-time definition from 30 to 40 hours, tax changes like permanently implementing a 15-year depreciation schedule for restaurant improvements, or passing sensible immigration reform measures.

“It’s a tough business,” said Bobby Coyote, who operates Dos Coyotes in California. “People come in and see the restaurant full. They have no idea of the costs involved.”

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