Bill passes House with swipe fee protections intact 

Monday, June 12, 2017 8:52:00 AM

Source: NRA

June 8, 2017


The National Restaurant Association celebrated a big victory June 8, as the House of Representatives passed the Financial CHOICE Act with debit swipe fee protections still intact.


We waged a comprehensive public affairs campaign leveraging grassroots advocacy, digital advertising, and social and traditional media to express our concerns regarding the repeal of the swipe fee protections with lawmakers. Our effort showed them how financially devastating repeal of the protections would be to our industry as well as other small businesses and consumers nationwide.


Keeping the debit swipe fee protections in place means restaurant owners and other small business operators won't face skyrocketing fees every time a customer uses his or her debit card during a transaction.


"By keeping debit swipe protections in place, small businesses will not be stuck with a debit card tax on top of their already thin operating margins," said Cicely Simpson, our executive vice president of government affairs and policy.


Authored by Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, House Financial Services Committee chair, the Financial CHOICE Act seeks to reverse overregulation of the financial services industry. The debit swipe fee protections, also known as the Durbin Amendment, passed in 2010 as part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.


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Going Out for Lunch Is a Dying Tradition 

Friday, June 02, 2017 11:52:00 AM

Restaurants suffer as people eat at their desks; no more three-martini sit-down meals


Source: WSJ

By Julie Jargon

May 30, 2017


The U.S. restaurant industry is in a funk. Blame it on lunch.


Americans made 433 million fewer trips to restaurants at lunchtime last year, resulting in roughly $3.2 billion in lost business for restaurants, according to market-research firm NPD Group Inc. It was the lowest level of lunch traffic in at least four decades.


While that loss in traffic is a 2% decline from 2015, it is a significant one-year drop for an industry that has traditionally relied on lunch and has had little or no growth for a decade.


"I put [restaurant] lunch right up there with fax machines and pay phones," said Jim Parks, a 55-year-old sales director who used to dine out for lunch nearly every day but found in recent years that he no longer had room for it in his schedule.


Like Mr. Parks, many U.S. workers now see stealing away for an hour at the neighborhood diner in the middle of the day as a luxury. Even the classic "power lunch" is falling out of favor among power brokers.


When he isn't on the road for a Detroit-based building products company, Mr. Parks works from his home in Carlisle, Ohio, and eats there. When he meets clients at their offices, they have food delivered and work during what they call a "lunch and learn."


Even some restaurant-company executives don't go out for lunch. Employees at Texas Roadhouse Inc.'s Louisville, Ky., headquarters order in so often that they know the delivery drivers by name. "A lot of our folks are trying to be more efficient," company President Scott Colosi said.


Lunch should be a break, but that doesn't always happen. So here are a few expert suggestions for your office lunch. Photo: Jeff Bush

Cost is another factor working against eating out for lunch. While restaurants have raised their tabs over the past few years to cope with rising labor costs, the price of food at supermarkets has continued to drop, widening the cost gap between bringing in lunch and eating out.


Restaurants are adapting by offering delivery, faster service and smaller portions. But the shift signals trouble for the industry, which makes more money serving meals inside restaurants, where soft drinks, alcoholic beverages, appetizers and desserts boost margins. Maintaining nearly empty dining rooms is costly.


Among the hardest hit are casual sit-down restaurants-such as Dine Equity Inc.'s Applebee's and Ruby Tuesday Inc. -because of the time it takes to order, get served and pay. Such establishments last year saw their steepest ever decline in lunch traffic, according to NPD.


Even fast-casual chains that cater more to harried customers with counter service instead of wait staff are experiencing slower growth. Lunchtime traffic at those restaurants-excluding Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc., which has suffered steep declines in the wake of disease outbreaks-grew 2% last year after posting growth of 5% or higher in each of the prior four years.


The pain is spreading to suppliers. Meat giant Tyson Foods Inc. recently said a 29% drop in quarterly earnings was due partly to the decline in restaurant traffic.


"Consumers are buying fresh foods, from supermarkets, and eating them at home as a replacement for eating out," Tyson Chief Executive Tom Hayes said.


The average price of a restaurant lunch has risen 19.5% to $7.59 since the recession, as rising labor costs pushed owners to raise menu prices-even as the cost of raw ingredients has fallen. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. last year posted the longest stretch of falling grocery prices in more than 50 years.


"We believe significant food deflation was the primary culprit behind last year's weakness, favoring food at home pricing over food away from home pricing to a degree not seen outside of the global financial crisis," Sanford Bernstein analyst Sara Senatore said in a recent report on the restaurant industry.


More fundamental shifts in consumer behavior also are at play. The share of people doing at least some of their work at home-and who are unlikely to go out and eat-has fluctuated over the years, but was as low as 19% in 2003 and reached a high of 24% in 2015, according to the BLS. And the continued rise of online shopping means fewer trips to the mall-or a stop for a restaurant lunch there. (Read about how people in cities around the world eat lunch.)


Despite the traffic decline, dollar sales at lunch were flat last year because of the menu price increases. But restaurants can't raise prices indefinitely. In fact, many now are offering lunch discounts to bring people out to eat.


Some lunch specials at casual-dining restaurants cost less than a fast-food meal. Lunch can be had for $6 at Brinker International Inc.'s Chili's Grill & Bar, and for as low as $6.99 at Darden Restaurants Inc.'s Olive Garden.


Brazilian steakhouse Fogo de Chão Inc. FOGO -0.36% -where lunch can take two hours and cost up to $34-last year introduced a $15 lunch special of salads, soups, cured meats and stews that can be completed in under an hour.


After it saw lunch traffic "fall off" in late 2015, sports-bar chain Buffalo Wild Wings Inc. introduced a cheaper "fast break lunch" menu with smaller portions. Chief Executive Sally Smith said the new menu-and a 15-minute service guarantee-recently helped improve traffic.


Many restaurants are restructuring. Cosi Inc., Garden Fresh Corp. and Old Country Buffet owner Buffets Inc. recently have filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Others, like Ruby Tuesday and Famous Dave's of America Inc. DAVE -1.28% have been closing restaurants.


Bob Evans Farms Inc. BOBE 0.22% in January sold its struggling restaurant business to private-equity firm Golden Gate Capital. On the same day, Bob Evans announced that its packaged-foods arm was acquiring a potato-processing company in an effort to focus on growing demand for refrigerated side dishes.


Josh Benn, managing director at corporate-finance advisory firm Duff & Phelps Corp., said new restaurant concepts, such as those that cater to consumers' desire for faster, healthier food, are on the rise.


"I think there's a death and regeneration happening in this whole industry," Mr. Benn said.

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Breaking Down the Latest Nielsen Insights 

Wednesday, May 31, 2017 11:41:00 AM

Source: Brewbound

Chris Furnari and Justin Kendall 

May. 25, 2017

 Here's a sobering statistic: One in six neighborhood bars have closed since 2004, according to a new Nielsen CGA report.

 "That's a huge figure," Matthew Crompton, Nielsen CGA associate client director, said during the latest Power Hour presentation, hosted by the Brewers Association.

 Crompton and Nielsen CGA senior vice president Scott Elliott broke down the latest on-premise data, which showed that a staggering 12,766 neighborhood bars have closed over the last 12 years (as of December 2016, Nielsen CGA counted 58,678 neighborhood bars).

 Crompton called it a "long term decline of key drinking channels" and "a hard one to bear" for the beer industry.

 Meanwhile, 60,906 new restaurants have opened in the same time frame, and those outlets aren't necessarily making up for the lost drinking opportunities. Crompton said 52 percent of restaurant-goers reported drinking a beer while out. Conversely, 70 percent of consumers who visited a neighborhood bar had a beer.

 Crompton dug even deeper, noting that the average drinking establishment sells 91 percent more beer than the average restaurant. According to Nielsen, outlets that the research group classifies as "drinking" establishments sell 827 pints per week. "Eating" establishments, however, sell just 434 pints per week.

 Restaurant-goers also appear to be giving up on domestic premium beers, where the biggest disparity between bars (461 pints per week) and restaurants (175 pints per week) is evident. The "high end" beer segment ($25 per case and above) fares much better, however, maintaining velocity of 211 pints per week in bars compared to 179 pints per week in restaurants.

 Imports are driving the on-premise growth of the "high end," despite craft beer accounting for the most volume. High end beer volume performance grew by 2.3 percent during the 52-week period ending February 25. Meanwhile, non-high end beer volumes declined 6.3 percent, driven by poor domestic premium sales.

 Not surprisingly, the largest and most established brands were the hardest hit. Beer's top 10 brand volumes declined 3.3 percent. Similarly, volume sales for the top 10 craft brands declined 3.4 percent on-premise. Meanwhile, the "long tail" of craft brands grew 2.5 percent, Elliott said.

 "This presents a great opportunity for craft brands to come in and get a part of it," he added. "But where the real challenge is, is sustaining that growth and making sure people stick with you."

 Want further proof that brands near the end of the long tail are performing well on-premise? Dollar sales for the newest breweries grew 5.9 percent, according to Nielsen, while sales of maturing brands grew 1.3 percent over the last 52 weeks. However, established brands struggled, as dollar sales declined 2.1 percent.

 "When you are small and when you are new, the growth is there," Elliott said. "The real challenge comes when you want to mature and you want to establish."

 Additionally, sales of draft craft beer is driving category growth, accounting for 84 percent of all craft sales, Elliott said. On-premise sales of packaged craft beer declined 8.8 percent during the same period, however.

 Elliott credited the experience of getting a draft beer, which most people cannot replicate at home, along with quality and price for driving the growth. Nevertheless, he stressed the importance of providing a quality draft beer experience.

 "It's all about getting the right distribution for your draft brands, not just getting distribution," Elliott said.

 Other key takeaways included:

 Craft beer consumers are willing to pay more: A Nielsen CGA survey found that craft beer drinkers are willing to pay more than they are being charged for 12 oz. bottles ($5.73 vs. $4.60/bottle) and 16 oz. draft beer ($6.35 vs. $5.30).

 "Especially in the larger markets, the more mainstream accounts, there is perhaps an area there where the craft prices could be increased," Elliott said.

 Millennials are finding different places to drink beer: 23 percent of millennials surveyed said they visited a brewpub or taproom; 13 percent said they visited a "grocer-aunt"; 12 percent took a brewery tour; and 25 percent visited a "premium bar."

 Millennials are also making more purchases in so called "third space channels," which include sporting events, music festivals and tasting rooms. Millennials made 23 percent of the craft beer purchases and 23 percent of the import buys outside of the off-premise and on-premise channels, according to Crompton.

 Nielsen CGA asked consumers what is and isn't craft: Consumers polled said beer with "unique flavor" and "high quality ingredients" that isn't mass produced is what they considered to be craft beer. What isn't craft? A beer that is "mass-manufactured" by a "large company" and lacks taste and flavor.

 Consumers are "sophisticated, promiscuous and have an unprecedented demand for choice": High end beer drinkers have about 26 go-to brands. On a night out, 27 percent of consumers drink two or more categories; 39 percent of consumers drink two or more beers; and 8 percent of millennials only drink beer. In contrast, 31 percent of 55-year-old drinkers only drink beer.

 "The days of being a beer guy, like my father was and many other people's fathers were, where they just drink beer, those days are long gone," Elliott said. "Keeping people within your category, let alone your brand portfolio, has never been harder, and it will only get more difficult."

 Women still don't drink as much as men: Nearly 25 percent of 21 to 25-year-old women haven't been out for a drink in the last three months. Forty-four percent of women surveyed said they drink beer in on-premise situations, compared to 63 percent of men. Additionally, 40 percent of women surveyed said they drink cocktails in on-premise environments, versus 19 percent of men.

 Danny Brager, the senior vice president of Nielsen's beverage alcohol practice, also shared a variety of recent trends during last week's Beer Marketer's Insights seminar in Chicago.

 The presentation highlighted a number of big picture takeaways, including the following insights:

 Overall per capita drinking volume is flat, but beer is losing share to wine and spirits: According to Brager - who cited data from the Beer Institute, National Beer Wholesalers Association, the Distilled Spirits Council and BIG - beer accounted for 58 percent of "share of servings" in 2003, a figure that has dwindled to just 50 percent as of last year. During that same period, wine's share of servings grew from 14 percent to 18 percent while spirits' share of servings grew from 28 percent to 32 percent.

 Beer Volumes are in decline: According to Nielsen data through April 22, 2017, off-premise volume sales of beer are down 0.2 percent while sales of wine are up 1.5 percent and spirits are up 2 percent. On-premise, it's a similar story. Volume sales of beer are down 1.9 percent while volume sales of wine are up 1.2 percent and sales of spirits are up 1.4 percent.

 Consumers spend $234 billion on alcohol: Beer is competing for attention both on- and off-premise. According to a 2016 Nielsen Homescan, 74 percent of spirits buyers also buy beer while shopping off-premise. Meanwhile, 63 percent of beer buyers also buy wine - compared to just 47 percent that purchase spirits. Also, during a typical night out, half of millennial drinkers (ages 21-34) drink across two or more beverage alcohol categories.

 Consumers are confused: According to a 2016 Nielsen study, 24 percent of shoppers do not know what drink category they'll buy from before entering off-premise retail stores. Meanwhile, 29 percent of consumers do not know what drink they'll purchase before entering on-premise establishments. At a company level, 72 percent of shoppers don't know what brand of beer they'll purchase before entering off-premise retail shops while 75 percent don't know what brand they'll buy on-premise.

 High End growth opportunities still abound: On average, beer that sells for less than $25 per case still accounts for 54 percent of category dollars and two-thirds of volume. In convenience stores, where as much as $18 billion of beer sales occur, 64 percent of the dollars are from non-high end brands. In contrast, non-high end brands account for just 43 percent of dollar sales in food stores, according to 52-week Nielsen all channel data through April 22, 2017.

 Not all millennial consumers are created equal: More than 30 percent of the alcohol consumed by those ages 21-34 is beer, more than wine and spirits, according to Nielsen. In contrast, about 45 percent of alcohol consumed by those ages 55 and above is wine. Brager argued that the younger generation is "critical" to beer, but their incomes could also dictate what types of alcohol they are able to afford. 54.4 percent of millennial drinkers make less than $50,000 annually, according to Nielsen statistics from 2015. Just 15.4 percent, however, earn more than $100,000 annually and Brager contends that these two groups will consume alcohol differently.

 According to Nielsen Scarborough data collected between 2015 and 2016, millennial consumers making less than $50,000 per year indexed significantly lower (61) than those earning over $100,000 (160) when asked if they drank craft beer during a prior 30 day period. In other words, older millennials are "more inclined to trade up," Brager shared. 56 percent of "older" millennials said they were "extremely likely" to purchase a premium craft brand, compared to just 49 percent of younger millennials.


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5 reasons independent restaurants are winning 

Wednesday, May 31, 2017 11:39:00 AM

Blog: Profit pressures on big chains and a consumer thirst for local help independents win over dine-in customers

Source: NRN

Jonathan Maze

May 25, 2017

 Traffic at restaurant chains has been increasingly problematic in recent years, and has fallen at least 4.2 percent on a two-year basis in four of the past five months, according to MillerPulse.

 One reason for the decline is that consumers are broadening their spending, especially at dine-in concepts where prices are higher.

 The beneficiary of this is the independent restaurant. As my colleague Lisa Jennings reported last week, independents are expected to gain market share in the coming years, and will grow at a higher rate.

 To be sure, it's difficult to truly get a handle on shifts in the independent market, and there's some disagreement among experts as to whether independents are really gaining market share.

 But there are five reasons why I think independents can get a leg up on chains for the first time in many years:

 1. Younger people like local. This cannot be emphasized enough. Large chains can tout their local ingredients all they want, but they will have only so much credibility with consumers. Independents have no such problem. "Millennials are the largest customer base out there," small business advocate Rhonda Abrams said at the NRA Show, "and they like to shop local."

 2. Chain profit pressures. If chains are losing share, a lot of it is their own doing. Over the past decade, many chains have relied on discounts and lower-cost items to get customers in the door. But they've also faced higher food and labor costs in the process. So what to they do? Cut food quality, portion sizes or service. And the worst ones delay maintenance on buildings. Consumers notice these issues over time, and they opt to go elsewhere.

 3. Television. I have a confession: My family loves watching "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives" on Food Network, so much so that we will routinely seek out restaurants in Minnesota that the show features. There are countless other shows on Food Network, Cooking Channel and other channels highlighting interesting local restaurants. Much like HGTV has impacted the way consumers buy houses, Food Network has impacted the way diners pick restaurants.

 4. Delivery. Consumers clearly want food to be delivered directly to them. It's the biggest single trend in the industry, and every decent executive in the business is at least studying the issue. But I still say that delivery favors the independent restaurant. Diners have demonstrated a willingness to pay higher prices for local cuisine. And delivery wipes out the convenience advantage that many chains enjoy, particularly in the casual-dining segment.

 5. Social media. Ratings services and social media word-of-mouth advertising are erasing the messaging advantage that chains have historically boasted. Reviews on Google and Yelp remove the risk factor associated with picking an unknown local restaurant. Social media spreads the word about these restaurants more efficiently. Abrams highlighted a number of strategies innovative local concepts have used to get nearby customers to come to in their doors using Facebook.

 None of this is to say that chains can't gain market share. They can, as Olive Garden, Dave & Buster's and Texas Roadhouse can attest. But general trends suggest that independents have advantages in the battle over the consumer dollar that they haven't had since, well, ever.

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Are we sure alcohol products are safe? 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017 12:19:00 PM

Source: Public Action Management

By Pamela S. Erickson

May 24, 2017

 In 2012, the Czech Republic experienced a horrible episode of methanol poisoning from a tainted alcohol product. All of a sudden people were hospitalized and soon 42 had died. Methanol is a form of alcohol often used by unscrupulous businesses to produce cheap alcohol. But, methanol is unfit for human consumption and can cause serious injuries and death. Similarly, in 2014 vodka laced with antifreeze was illegally produced in England.

 In order for the Czech Republic to find all the tainted products, authorities banned the sale and export of products with more than 20% alcohol. Lawful and unlawful businesses were impacted. By 2014, the death toll stood at 51 and many others had permanent health damage. The perpetrators were eventually located and sentenced to prison terms.

 The United States has largely escaped this kind of scenario, but that could change. To ensure product safety, you need adequate testing, restrictions on distribution, a way to track products and a complaint process. Historically, the US alcohol regulatory framework has been a closed system of product sale, so that all products are only sold from a licensed manufacturer to a licensed distributor and to a licensed retailer. The distributor has the responsibility to track all bottles and cans from the supplier down to the retailer and back up in the case of an emergency.

 This has been a good tracking system. Recently, it was used to identify alcohol that possibly had broken glass in bottles. All the products were quickly removed from retailer shelves and no one was injured. But, we gradually have moved away from a closed system by granting small brewers, wineries and distillers the ability to "self-distribute." Self-distribution involves several types of activities: selling out of a tasting or tap room, selling at festivals, direct shipment to customers, and direct selling to retailers (stores, restaurants, bars).  

 US 3 Tier Closed System of Product Sale

 Counterfeiters and black marketers thrive in unregulated systems allowing them to sneak in their illegal, dangerous, unregulated and untaxed product into the stream of commerce. The Three Tier System prevents this because distributors are the only authorized sellers to retailers. If product is in a store that the distributor did not provide, authorities are notified and the public is protected. In Control States, where the state owns all or part of the business, the state controls what is distributed and placed in its ABC stores. Once again, the public is safe-guarded.

 Another factor to consider is that there are now thousands of small operators: over 9,000 wineries, 5,000 breweries and 2,000 distilleries. This is far different from the past where alcohol was made primarily by relatively few large companies. It is still true that most of the sales come from large companies, but small producers inhabit every state and their numbers are still growing. States that allow self-distribution need to determine if they have an adequate tracking system to quickly remove any product that is a health hazard.

 A second issue is testing. Testing is done to ensure there are no unsafe ingredients or contamination, but also to ensure that statements on the label match what's in the bottle-- such as alcohol content. Testing is done by the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), by some states and sometimes by companies themselves. Also the TTB has a complaint system, so a consumer has a place to report a problem.

 But, testing does not seem to be very extensive. First, TTB only tested 450 products according to their 2016 report. It is not widely known which companies or states do testing and for what purpose. In contrast, Ontario, Canada has an extensive testing program. In a 2016 presentation to the National Alcohol Beverage Control Association Board, Dorina Brasoveanu, Manager of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario's Quality Assurance Laboratory, revealed that they tested 24,000 products from their 650 stores. They also have a complaint system which recently resulted in testing of spirit products that had a higher alcohol content than what was stated on the label. The products were quickly pulled and there are no known ill effects from consumers.

 Because alcohol is primarily regulated at the state level, state regulators need to review their systems to determine whether the needs for adequate testing and tracking are being met. Some discussion with the federal TTB may also be warranted. Whenever states change laws, they should determine whether product safety will be impacted. Not only could tainted products harm consumers, but publicity about the product's problems could hurt business.


"LCBO recalls mislabelled vodka with 81% alcohol content," By Peter Edwards, Toronto Star Reporter, Fri., March 3, 2017 

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Commentary: Chicago suburbs buck city on minimum wage 

Wednesday, May 17, 2017 4:36:00 PM

Ed Rensi

What are Chicago's suburbs seeing that the city is not?

Over a dozen suburbs have recently opted out of Cook County's incoming $13 minimum wage and paid sick leave requirements. These include Arlington Heights, Barrington, Bartlett, Elk Grove, Hanover Park, Hoffman Estates, Mount Prospect, Oak Forest, Oak Lawn, Palatine, Palos Park, River Forest, Rolling Meadows, Rosemont, Schaumburg, Streamwood, Tinley Park and Wheeling. Others are considering following suit before the July 1 deadline.

This is welcome news for youth in Chicago suburbs like mine looking for summer jobs. The current youth unemployment rate in Greater Chicago is nearly 20 percent. Putting up additional employment barriers with a 58 percent starter wage increase would only worsen the summer job employment prospects.

Local minimum wage proponents dispute this logic. "These are arguments we have fought for 150 years and every time people say they can't raise pay because it will hurt the businesses and so forth," says Cook County Clerk David Orr. "The truth is, it doesn't."

In the real world, the "truth" isn't on Orr's side. Hundreds of small businesses across the country have had to reduce hours, lay off employees or even close altogether as a result of the costs associated with dramatic starter wage increases at the state and local levels. (Specific stories can be found at

In Chicago, which passed a $13 minimum wage two years before Cook County, restaurants like Cantina 1910 and a Panera Bread have closed partially because of the hike. Home Run Inn pizza cited the wage hike for its decision to cancel the opening of a new location in the city, and Original Rainbow Cone ice cream has had to cut student summer employees by half. Other employees in the city have seen their hours reduced in response to the wage hike.

"If you look at the expenses on the payroll, it's mind-blowing the difference from what it used to be," Aly Udartseva, owner of a cafe in Wicker Park, told the Tribune last summer. She was forced to dramatically raise prices to compensate.

For Chicago's youth, who seem to have no escape from the incoming wage floor, the consequences may be especially pronounced. According to the most recent Census Bureau data, several Chicago neighborhoods, including East Garfield Park, Chatham, Auburn Gresham and Englewood, have youth unemployment rates exceeding 60 percent. It's safe to assume that if these youngsters can't get a summer job at 19, they won't get one at 20.

The consequences of jobless summers extend beyond just the loss of a paycheck. A growing research consensus suggests there may be a connection between Chicago's lack of youth employment and its out-of-control crime.

A recent study published in Science found that Chicago youth who had summer jobs committed violent crime at nearly half the rate of their counterparts. The study assigned teens to jobs at random, suggesting the role employment plays is a causative one rather than just a correlation. Other researchers claim to have identified such a causal link between youth unemployment and crime.

As the former president of McDonald's, I've seen firsthand how entry-level jobs socialize young people — especially those whose families and schools have failed them — by providing them with teamwork and customer service skills. This is especially important in Chicago, where a disproportionate number of children are raised in single-parent homes and attend failing schools. At a recent speech in Washington, D.C., Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen highlighted research that demonstrates how entry-level jobs improve attitudes toward communities.

Yet despite efforts by suburbs to avoid the employment and social consequences that seem to be exacerbated by the city's minimum wage increase, the state may force their hand. A bill before the state legislature proposes to raise the state's minimum wage to $15. This would only compound the damage that suburbs are trying to alleviate.

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Fast-food chains have discovered what will bring customers back: alcohol 

Wednesday, May 17, 2017 1:05:00 PM

Source: Quartz

Chase Purdy

May 16, 2017


Burger King wants to serve booze alongside its Whopper cheeseburgers at another of its locations in New York City-a bold move for the burger chain and a clear sign that your favorite fast food joints are increasingly looking to add alcohol to their menus.


Fast food companies are trying to reinvent themselves in order to compete more effectively against fast-casual restaurants such as Panera Bread Company, which generally offer more choices and customization in ordering. Same-store sales at McDonald's, in particular, have been shrinking for several quarters in a row now.


But aside from Chipotle Mexican Grill and their margaritas, most fast food is a dry affair. The industry needs new ideas to stay competitive, and alcohol offers a unique opportunity to stay ahead of the curve.


More and more, fast food giants such as Burger King and Taco Bell are testing how consumers respond to the option of buying beer with their burgers. Burger King already offers beer at one of its downtown Manhattan locations, and in a few in the United Kingdom.


Burger King isn't the only fast food chain flirting with putting alcohol on its menu. Several new Taco Bell restaurants in Canada will offer beer this summer when they open as a way to test consumer interest in the sudsy beverage. The concept is akin to the few "cantina" style Taco Bells in the United States, which already offer alcoholic drinks. The hope is that adding booze to the menu will encourage people to sit in the restaurants longer and, of course, spend more money. There's even been talk of serving margaritas at a Canadian location.


Adding liquor to the menu is no easy task, due to the many legal restrictions. No underage employees are allowed to handle the alcohol, creating an extra layer of in-store regulation that managers are responsible for. Such drinks also must be consumed on the premise of the restaurants and in clear cups only. Customers are not permitted to take the drinks to-go. (Though there are some areas of the US, including New Orleans, where customers can take open alcohol containers onto the street.)


Even if individual restaurants are prepared to oversee and manage the complications of having a liquor license, obtaining one remains a hurdle. In New York City, for instance, Burger King's request will fall to a state liquor authority board, which processes many requests at any given time.


Whether the new Burger King request will be approved remains to be seen. But if booze is added to more fast food menus, expect your favorite quick-serve burger joint to become a new happy hour contender.

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Impaired lawmaking 

Thursday, May 11, 2017 8:49:00 AM

Common sense goes tipsy with a new Utah drunken-driving statute


Source: The Washington Times

By Richard Berman

May 8, 2017




The federal government is coming after your right to have a couple of beers at a ball game or split a bottle of wine at dinner. The first state to fall: Utah.


To recount, a major dust-up over drunk driving took place in the Utah state legislature several weeks ago. The instigator was the federal National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).


One sympathetic side included the governor and a junior House member, Rep. Norman Thurston, who endorsed arresting and ruining the lives of people for driving with low amounts of alcohol - just a .05 blood alcohol content (BAC). Many people can reach that level after a little more than one standard glass of wine.


Why should you care about what happens in Utah with their known bias against alcohol consumption? Because in 1983, Utah became the first state to lower its BAC arrest level to .08. After many years and contentious fights surrounding drinking and relative impairment, all 49 other states followed suit. Admittedly, this copycat phenomenon was helped by the threat of losing federal money for a law that was aimed at the wrong people. As is often the case in politics, the desire to say "me too" - not informed judgment - was the impetus behind the momentum. That's why it's important to pay attention, even if it's to Utah's weird alcohol laws. (The state just repealed the ban on watching a bartender mix your drink.)


The NTSB - which has been looking to justify its budget since there are fewer train and airline disasters to investigate - spoke of dangerous impairment levels at the new .05 BAC arrest threshold.


For the uninitiated in the arcane world of blood alcohol levels, impairment is a term too loosely defined. Research indicates a .05 BAC while driving is considered less dangerous than talking on a hands-free cellphone or speeding. Research also shows .05 causes less impairment than being over the age of 65 - aka DWO (driving while older). Seniors beware. In the real world where most of us live, driving with a .05 BAC is not drunk driving at all.

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Wednesday, May 03, 2017 8:54:00 AM

But health experts warn to drink moderately

Source: The Independent


April 28, 2017

Your head is pounding, the room's spinning and your stomach is lurching - when you're hungover, reaching for painkillers can often seem like a good idea.

But according to a new study, hair of the dog really could do the trick.

And not just for dealing with a hangover - according to new research, drinking two beers is more effective at relieving pain than taking painkillers.

Over the course of 18 studies, researchers from the University of Greenwich found that consuming two pints of beer can cut discomfort by a quarter.

By elevating your blood alcohol content to approximately 0.08 per cent, you'll give your body "a small elevation of pain threshold" and thus a "moderate to large reduction in pain intensity ratings".

The researchers explained: "Findings suggest that alcohol is an effective analgesic that delivers clinically-relevant reductions in ratings of pain intensity, which could explain alcohol misuse in those with persistent pain, despite its potential consequences for long-term health."

It's not clear, however, whether alcohol reduces feelings of pain because it affects brain receptors or because it just lowers anxiety, which then makes us think the pain isn't as bad.

Dr Trevor Thompson, who led the study at London's Greenwich University, told The Sun: "[Alcohol] can be compared to opioid drugs such as codeine and the effect is more powerful than paracetamol.

"If we can make a drug without the harmful side-effects, then we could have something that is potentially better than what is out there at the moment."

However experts are also speaking out to clarify that the results of the new study don't mean alcohol is good for us.

Rosanna O'Connor, director of Alcohol and Drugs at Public Health England, said: "Drinking too much will cause you more problems in the long run. It's better to see your GP."

Government guidelines recommend no more than 14 units of alcohol a week for both men and women, which equates to six pints of beer, or six 175ml glasses of wine.

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FDA delays menu labeling rule 

Wednesday, May 03, 2017 8:52:00 AM

The regulation was set to go into effect on May 5


Source: NRN

Dan Orlando

Apr 27, 2017


The Food and Drug Administration is pushing back the deadline in implementing menu labeling regulations.


The FDA submitted an interim final rule to the White House Office of Management and Budget on Thursday that signals a delay in the agency's final menu labeling rule, set to take effect on May 5, according to a release issued by The Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing (NACS).


The move comes after NACS and the National Grocers Association formally requested that the FDA intervene prior to the deadline.


The impending regulation had been headed toward next week's scheduled launch since Nov. 25, 2014, when a ruling was released that outlined updated menu-labeling requirements for restaurant chains and "similar retail food establishments."


Those falling under the new law's jurisdiction would be required to post calorie counts for food items on standard menus or menu boards. Other transparency measures also would apply should the law come into effect unhindered.


NACS said in a statement that "the menu-labeling regulations established by the FDA do not account for the varying approaches to foodservice between big-chain restaurants, convenience stores, grocery stores and delivery operations such as pizza chains."


But the National Restaurant Association disagrees with the delay.


"The National Restaurant Association strongly cautions against any actions that would delay implementation of the menu labeling law," Cicely Simpson, the NRA's executive vice president of government affairs and policy, said in a statement.


Menu labeling laws had previously been passed at the city, state and sometimes county levels.


"If the federal standard is repealed, we will once again return to this patchwork approach that will be even more burdensome for restaurants to implement and will not have the legal safeguards included in the federal law," Simpson said.

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