News

Illinois Floats Excise Tax for 'High-Sugar Beverages' 

Monday, February 23, 2015 10:23:00 AM

Meanwhile, federal committee recommends nationwide soda tax

Published in CSP Daily News

By Steve Holtz, Online News Director & Beverage Editor

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- Illinois' recently introduced Healthy Eating, Active Living (HEAL) Act would add a 1-cent-per-ounce excise tax on "high-sugar beverages" in its effort to provide tools and resources for families in the state to live healthier lives.

Introduced Thursday by State Sen. Mattie Hunter (D) and Rep. Robyn Gabel (D), the HEAL Act (SB 1584 and HB 2667), if enacted, is expected to generate more than $600 million a year for investment in communities across the state through the tax on sugary-drink distributors.

"This is an important piece of legislation for the health of Illinois communities, especially those most devastated by sky-high rates of chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart disease," Hunter said. "African Americans have the highest heart-disease mortality rates in the state, and Latinos are twice as likely to develop diabetes as Caucasian Americans. Across Illinois, low-income communities of all types face great barriers to being healthy. The HEAL Act provides communities with tools that help children and families live healthier lives by increasing access to more affordable fruits and vegetables, creating safe and accessible opportunities for physical activity and implementing other evidence-based measures to promote health."

The HEAL Act would place the penny-per-ounce excise tax on beverages with more than 5 grams of sugar per 12 ounces. The revenue raised would be earmarks to invest in expanded opportunities for healthy eating and physical activity. This includes more nutrition and physical education in schools, more affordable and accessible foods at farmers markets, and more bike lanes and sidewalks for residents to be active.

"This bill also helps expand prevention services in Medicaid," Gabel said. "Obesity-related health care costs Illinois taxpayers more than $6 billion a year. This legislation will help prevent those costly chronic conditions and reduce the economic drag they cause, while also improving the quality of life for Illinois families."

The bill is supported by more than 25 organizations, including the American Heart Association, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the Illinois African American Coalition for Prevention and the Illinois Alliance to Prevent Obesity.

Not surprisingly, the Illinois Beverage Association opposes the proposed tax.

“Illinois families have the right to make their own choices and simply do not support taxes on their common grocery items,” said executive director Jim Soreng. “Our companies proudly offer families a wide variety of product offerings and portion sizes. In addition, we provide only low-calorie options in schools, and place calorie counts on all the front of our packages.”

Soreng proposed working with legislators to reach a more acceptable solution.

“If we want to get serious about obesity, it starts with education, not laws and regulation” he said. “With approximately 100,000 Illinoisans directly and indirectly employed by the beverage industry, we play an essential role in our state’s economy and its future. We want to work together to find real solutions to address the nation’s health problems while ensuring that important Illinois jobs and the industries that provide them are not hurt by punitive taxes.”

Federal Level

Meanwhile, scientists helping to revamp dietary guidelines as United States concluded that Americans should pay taxes on sugary sodas and snacks as a way to cut down on sweets.

The recommendation came Thursday from the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, according to a Bloomberg report.

“What we’re calling for in the report in terms of innovation and bold new action in health care, in public health, at the community level, is what it’s going to take to try and make a dent on the epidemic of obesity,” committee chairwoman Barbara Millen of Millennium Prevention in Westwood, Mass., told Bloomberg.

“Higher sugar-sweetened beverage taxes may encourage consumers to reduce sugar-sweetened beverage consumption,” according to the advisory panel. “Using the revenues from the higher sugar-sweetened beverage taxes for nutrition health promotion efforts or to subsidize fruits and vegetables could have public health benefits.”

The Department of Health and Human Service, which will lead the writing of the guidelines, and the USDA jointly appointed the committee. It will act on the recommendations after considering public comment for 45 days. Final guidelines are to be released by the end of this year.

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Patent trolls are still coming after restaurants, and yours could be next 

Thursday, February 19, 2015 10:20:00 AM

Source: NRA

February 12, 2015

 

If your restaurant hasn't been on the receiving end of a legal shakedown from a patent troll, your time may be running out.

 

Over the past few years, patent trolls-companies that purchase vague patents and threaten to sue restaurants and other businesses that don't pay licensing fees for their use of common technologies-have cost the economy more than $20 billion a year. The number of lawsuits is on the rise. Patent Freedom, which collects data on patent troll activity, reports that 3,716 companies faced lawsuits from patent trolls in 2013, up from 3,352 the year before.

 

And patent trolls aren't just going after big companies. A 2012 study by Boston University researchers found that most defendants in suits brought by patent trolls were small or medium-sized companies-those that can least afford the often seven-figure costs of defending against patent infringement lawsuits.

 

Patent trolls have come after restaurants for common service-enhancing features like online ordering, in-store WiFi, and digital menu boards.

 

Seeking relief for restaurants

 

The National Restaurant Association recently joined United for Patent Reform, a coalition of businesses and trade groups representing technology, retail, communications, construction and other sectors, to ask Congress to make changes to help end frivolous patent-infringement lawsuits.

 

Among other reforms, the coalition is seeking an end to vague demand letters designed to extract early settlements; clear, specific explanations from patent trolls regarding their interest in the patent; protections for the end users of products and technology; and requirements for patent trolls to pay plaintiffs' legal costs when their infringement lawsuits are unsuccessful.

 

Help could be on the way in the form of the Innovation Act, recently introduced in the House by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.). The bill aims to curb frivolous infringement lawsuits by requiring plaintiffs to disclose the owner of the patent and why they're suing the defendant, as well as allow some of the costs of defense to be shifted to the plaintiff if the lawsuit is unsuccessful. The bill passed the House with bipartisan support in 2013 before stalling in the Senate.

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What will the restaurant of the future look like? 

Thursday, February 19, 2015 10:18:00 AM

Pizza delivered by drone and virtual waiting staff? It may seem like the stuff of sci-fi fantasy, but many of these digital dining innovations are already on their way to a restaurant near you

                            

Source: The Telegraph

By Estella Shardlow

11 Feb 2015

 

Imagine it: you walk into a local restaurant and the maître d greets you by name. So far, so normal - except for the fact they have identified who you are via Google Glass. Equipped with facial recognition software, staff will soon be able to instantly recall diners' personal details, previous orders and even dietary requirements for those who opt in.

 

Once seated, there's little waiting around. Restaurants such as Inamo in London diners already have tabletop tablets for placing food orders. "More recently, we've seen gesture-based tech enter the dining realm - futuristic installed iBeacons that register when visitors sit at the tables, and trigger a menu to appear on the tabletop," says Mandy Saven, head of food, beverage and hospitality at innovation firm Stylus. "In addition, virtual waitresses appear on the ceiling when customers wave their hands over the tables (using Kinect sensors). How long will it be before these virtual waitresses also understand our unique culinary tastes and preferences?"

 

Touchscreen tables are also allowing patrons to watch programmes, check emails or play games, putting to bed any debates over TV dinner versus meal out. Still further ahead, videos may even appear on food packaging itself: energy solutions company Nth Degree Technologies forecasts it will be possible to put television screens on paper in 20 years' time.

 

Try before you buy

 

"As concerns around food safety, sustainability and provenance heightens, consumers will appreciate greater levels of transparency when it comes to ingredients," Saven predicts. For a taste of things to come look to Harney Sushi in California where QR codes are printed on rice paper using edible water-based ink. When scanned, these reveal where the fish was caught, current ocean stocks, and videos of the fishermen.

 

Then there's the development of "electronic tongues", which use sensors to measure taste and smell - an ideal way of trying before you buy. The 'e-delicious machine' unveiled by the Thai government in September 2014 is a good example, intended to safeguard against unwittingly consuming poorly-made Pad Thais and such like.

 

Another assurance of quality control could come from real-time webcams that enable diners to converse with producers, vitners or chefs, as you'll find at Brazilian sushi restaurant Kimitachi and Chef's Pass in New York.

 

Compliments to the chef

 

You might get a fright when you see who's in the kitchen: an evolved robotic workforce is a very real prospect due to the savings in time, cost and food waste that it offers. A robotic hamburger-making machine under development by San Francisco-based start-up Momentum Machines is able to produce 400 burgers an hour, and the creators claim it can save the average restaurant $135,000 annually.

 

Just the way you like it

 

Whether the chef's robot or human, diners are set to have more control over what's on offer than ever before. So-called "co-creational menu" apps will gain ground, following in the footsteps of Tokyo's Logbar, where iPads allow drinkers to create bespoke cocktails from a selection of bases and mixers, then post to a public timeline, earning a commission when someone else orders their concoction.

 

Surroundings are set to be equally responsive and customisable - like at Kitchen 67 in Michigan, where customers control a digital jukebox and LED ceiling tiles on-demand. "Technology will be in the form of forever changing environments," says Christopher Lees, creative director of London architects d-raw. "Restaurants are slowly becoming immersive environments, a sonic and visual theatre -cape where the consumer is part of the production."

 

'Neurogastronomy' - how the brain creates flavour and triggers our perception of it - is another key buzzword in future restaurant design, with high-tech settings able to dramatically enhance mood and flavour. There a lots of cutting-edge research happening in this field. A 2014 study by drinks company Diageo, for instance, found that curved furnishings and red lighting makes single malts taste sweeter. The restaurant Ultraviolet in Shanghai pairs each dish on the 20-course menu with kaleidoscopic wall projections, computerised lighting, scent diffusions and surround sound - all to intensify the taste of the food.

 

Tucking in and paying up

 

Once you've fine-tuned the ambience and customised your cricket stir-fry to your liking (oh yes, insects are bound to factor on our future menus), you may find the dish arrives courtesy of a helpful drone waiter. Yo Sushi! has trialled these devices in its restaurants, while in Russia Dodo Pizza began delivering pizzas by 'domicopter' last year. Able to cut fuel and labour costs for companies, airborne deliveries could become standard.

 

Finally, virtual wallets on our smartphones will let us pay seamlessly in a second. It looks like the days of the awkward "please could I have the bill" mime act are numbered.

 

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/11405308/What-will-the-restaurant-of-the-future-look-like.html

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MADD joins fight against 'drugged driving' 

Thursday, February 19, 2015 10:17:00 AM

Source: WPRI

By Shaun Towne

February 10, 2015

 

With the state of Rhode Island decriminalizing marijuana and pot prescriptions being available for medical reasons - police say more people are getting behind the wheel of a car while impaired. The problem has gotten so bad, in fact, that a local advocacy group is making a big change in how they operate.

 

Just like drunk driving, driving while high is 100% preventable - which is why the group Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) says they've changed their mission statement to include the fight against "drugged driving."

 

"It was the right thing to do. It's something that is becoming a growing problem," said Eric Creamer, executive director of MADD's Rhode Island chapter. "We don't know the magnitude of the issue, so it's something that we need to try to do a little bit more research on."

 

As more states decriminalize or legalize marijuana, or allow pot prescriptions for pain, MADD says more police officers are being trained as drug recognition experts, or D.R.E.'s.

 

"Those individuals are trained extensively to be able to recognize the different types of impairments that are done by different types of drugs," Creamer added. "They're really kind of the next step after field sobriety tests."

 

Creamer says 63 Rhode Island police officers are currently trained as drug recognition experts, including Officer John Rocchio of the Cranston Police Department.

 

"There's seven categories for drugs that we're trained to detect," said Rocchio. "Marijuana and narcotics are normally the two biggest, but we have stimulants and depressants."

 

D.R.E.'s like Rocchio can charge an alleged drugged driver with DUI based on their observations. However, the only way to know for sure that a driver is under the influence of drugs is with a blood test, which requires a warrant.

 

On Monday, Rocchio gave Eyewitness News anchor Mike Montecalvo a firsthand look at the procedures to spot an impaired driver.

 

MADD Rhode Island says they'll be monitoring court records for serious crashes to get a better sense about the scope of the problem.

 

"We're looking here to support law enforcement in their activities in trying to prevent, as we call it, substance impaired driving," said Creamer.

 

Alongside MADD, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has also been tracking impaired driving. A study released last week found that over the past seven years, the number of nighttime drivers on the weekend with marijuana in their system has increased by nearly 50%.

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NHTSA Releases Two New Studies on Impaired Driving on U.S. Roads 

Thursday, February 19, 2015 10:16:00 AM

Source: NHTSA

February 6, 2015

 

Drunk driving declines, while drug use behind the wheel rises

 

The nation's decades-long campaign to combat drunk driving continues to make our roads safer, but use of marijuana and prescription drugs is increasingly prominent on the highways, creating new safety questions, according to a pair of ground-breaking studies released today by the Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

 

One study, the latest version of NHTSA's Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drug Use by Drivers, found that the number of drivers with alcohol in their system has declined by nearly one-third since 2007, and by more than three-quarters since the first Roadside Survey in 1973. But that same survey found a large increase in the number of drivers using marijuana or other illegal drugs. In the 2014 survey, nearly one in four drivers tested positive for at least one drug that could affect safety.

 

"America made drunk driving a national issue and while there is no victory as long as a single American dies in an alcohol-related crash, a one-third reduction in alcohol use over just seven years shows how a focused effort and cooperation among the federal government, states and communities, law enforcement, safety advocates and industry can make an enormous difference," said NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind. "At the same time, the latest Roadside Survey raises significant questions about drug use and highway safety. The rising prevalence of marijuana and other drugs is a challenge to everyone who is dedicated to saving lives and reducing crashes."

 

The National Roadside Survey, conducted five times over the last 40 years, is a completely voluntary, anonymous survey that gathers data in dozens of locations across the country from drivers who agree to participate. Drivers are alerted by multiple roadside signs that a voluntary survey site is ahead, and researchers gather data from those who volunteer. Drivers are notified that the survey is completely voluntary and that collected information is entirely anonymous. NHTSA has worked with research experts, law enforcement agencies and privacy advocates to refine procedures and address any potential concerns.

 

The latest edition of the survey shows that the prevalence of alcohol use by drivers continues to drop. About 8 percent of drivers during weekend nighttime hours were found to have alcohol in their system, and just over 1 percent were found with 0.08 percent or higher breath alcohol content - the legal limit in every state. This is down by about 30 percent from the previous survey in 2007 and down 80 percent from the first survey in 1973.

 

But even as drinking and driving continues to fall, use of illegal drugs or medicines that can affect road safety is climbing. The number of weekend nighttime drivers with evidence of drugs in their system climbed from 16.3 percent in 2007 to 20 percent in 2014. The number of drivers with marijuana in their system grew by nearly 50 percent.

 

A second survey, the largest of its kind ever conducted, assessed whether marijuana use by drivers is associated with greater risk of crashes. The survey found that marijuana users are more likely to be involved in accidents, but that the increased risk may be due in part because marijuana users are more likely to be in groups at higher risk of crashes. In particular, marijuana users are more likely to be young men - a group already at high risk.

 

This was the most precisely controlled study of its kind yet conducted, but it measured the risk associated with marijuana at the levels found among drivers in a large community. Other studies using driving simulators and test tracks have found that marijuana at sufficient dosage levels will affect driver risk.

 

"Drivers should never get behind the wheel impaired, and we know that marijuana impairs judgment, reaction times and awareness," said Jeff Michael, NHTSA's associate administrator for research and program development. "These findings highlight the importance of research to better understand how marijuana use affects drivers so states and communities can craft the best safety policies."

 

The study, conducted in Virginia Beach, Va., gathered data over a 20-month period from more than 3,000 drivers who were involved in crashes, as well as a comparison group of 6,000 drivers who did not crash. The study found that drivers who had been drinking above the 0.08 percent legal limit had about 4 times the risk of crashing as sober drivers and those with blood alcohol levels at 0.15 percent or higher had 12 times the risk.

 

NHTSA plans a series of additional studies to further understand the risk of drugged driving, including the Washington State Roadside Survey, which will assess risk in a state where marijuana has recently been legalized, and a simulator study with the National Institute on Drug Abuse to assess how drivers under the influence of drugs behave behind the wheel.

 

"Researchers have developed a deep body of knowledge about the link between drinking, driving and risk. We know drunk driving kills," Rosekind said. "The combined message of these two surveys is that our work to understand and combat drunk driving is paying off, but that we have much to learn about how illegal drugs and prescription medicines affect highway safety - and that developing that knowledge is urgent, because more and more drivers have these drugs in their systems."

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GuestMetrics: On-Premise Started out with Strong Growth in January 

Thursday, February 19, 2015 10:12:00 AM

Source: GuestMetrics

February 9th

 

On-Premise trends for 4-week ending 1/25/15:

 

The on-premise channel started out 2015 with strong growth; traffic was up 2.6% and food and beverage sales were up 2.6%.  This is the single best month we have seen in years.  Casual dining traffic was up a solid 3.6%, Bars/clubs were up 2.7% and Fine Dining was up 2.6%.  The industry had an extremely easy comp from a year ago but nonetheless, underlying growth was solid.  Comps will get sequentially tougher with each passing quarter of '15.

 

Alcohol beverage volume was up 1.5% in January vs a decline of 1.8% for full year 2014.  Spirits led the way with 3.1% volume growth (vs down 0.3% for '14) while Wine was up 0.9% (vs -0.8% for '14) and Beer was up 0.3% (vs down 3.4% for '14).   Beer had the biggest improvement relative to 2014 trends and wine had the least improvement. 

 

Beer lost 0.2% share of alcohol beverage dollars vs losing 0.3% for '14.  Wine slowed, losing 0.3% share of dollars vs losing 0.1% of dollars for '14.  Spirits gained 0.5% share of dollars vs gaining 0.4% share of dollars for '14.  On a volume basis, beer improved its volume share losses relative to wine while spirits volume share gains remained steady.

 

The slowdown in wine trends mirrors what is happening in the off-premise; cider could be having an impact as cider volume share continues to gain 0.4% share of the beer category but its share was up at least that in '14 and wine has slowed relative to overall beer despite the consistent cider share gains

 

Craft beer volume share was up 0.9% in January vs up 1.9% for '14, a clear slowdown.  Craft beer has over a 30% share of the on-premise beer category so appears to be slowing with the law of large numbers; the number of new craft offerings continues to grow strong as the overall segment is slowing, raising issues about the sustainability of this growth; Premium Light share was down 1.2% vs down 1.9% for '14, so a clear improvement in trends; Import share was down 0.3%.

 

Within the spirits category, Bourbons/Blends gained 0.8% volume share, Tequila gained 0.4% share and Irish Whisky gained 0.4% share, while Vodka lost 0.4% share and Rum lost 0.4% share.

 

Craft spirits gained 2.4% share vs 1.9% for '14 so is accelerating; domestic craft now holds a 6.6% share of the on-premise spirits segment.

 

Within wine, Luxury, Ultra Premium and Super Premium price segments continued to take aggressive share from the Popular Premium and Economy segments.  The fastest growing wine segments were Sauvignon Blanc, Prosecco and Moscato. The fastest growing wine regions/countries were Italy, Oregon/Washington and France while Australia, Argentina and California lost share.

 

Food sales were up 6.6% (vs 2.8% for '14) with food volume up 3.7% (vs up 0.6% for '14). 

 

Price/mix was up 2.6% for total food and beverage, with price/mix up 3.2% for beer, 2% for wine, 2.3% for spirits, 2% for soft drinks and 2.8% for food.

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Illinois legislator wants to ban powdered alcohol 

Monday, February 02, 2015 1:05:00 PM

Source: The Southern

Jordan Maddox

January 23, 2015

 

Legislation filed in the Illinois Senate earlier this month would ban the sale and distribution of powdered alcohol.

 

The move comes as Palcohol, a company that makes a powdered form of alcohol, is trying to get regulatory approval to bring its product to market.

 

State Sen. Ira Silverstein, D-Chicago, said he wants to ban the product before it has a chance to hit stores.

 

The legislation amends the Liquor Control Act of 1934 and defines powdered alcohol as "any powder or crystalline substance containing alcohol produced for human consumption."

 

Palcohol's founder, Mark Phillips, enjoys the outdoors and likes to have an adult beverage at the end of his hikes, according to the company's website.

 

Phillips believes alcohol is too inconvenient to carry while doing physical activities so he created the lightweight option. Five ounces of water added to the Palcohol pouch creates a drink, or the powder can be sprinkled on food.

 

Freeze-dried vodka and rum along with cocktails are among the options offered by Palcohol.

 

Illinois would not be the first state to pass legislation to ban the dry booze. Delaware and Alaska have had bans for the past two decades or longer.

 

In 2014, Louisiana, South Carolina, Vermont, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York and Ohio all enacted some kind of ban on powdered alcohol.

 

Similar legislation is pending in Indiana. Iowa also is studying the matter.

 

"It's more of a public safety bill," Silverstein said. "We don't need people spiking beverages."

 

The company did not immediately respond to requests for information.

 

Palcohol's website said the ban will create a black market for the product. Also, Palcohol's website said it would be hard to spike a drink because the powder must be continuously stirred for about one minute to dissolve.

 

The legislation is Senate Bill 67.

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American Beverage Licensees Announces 2015 Annual Conference 

Friday, January 30, 2015 12:42:00 PM

 

June conference will include informational sessions, product demonstrations and networking opportunities

 

Bethesda, MD - January 29, 2015 - American Beverage Licensees (ABL) announced today that it will return for the third consecutive year to Washington, DC for the 2015 ABL Conference, June 7-9, 2015. The June conference will include informational sessions, product demonstrations, and networking opportunities for attendees.

 

The 2015 conference will mark ABL's 13th anniversary and bring together beer, wine and spirits retailers from across the country as well as representatives from all three tiers of the beverage alcohol industry.

 

"ABL is excited to host our annual conference in Washington, DC again this year," said ABL Executive Director John Bodnovich. "For the last two years, this conference has been an opportunity for ABL members to strengthen their grassroots presence on Capitol Hill while also connecting with fellow retailers whose businesses face similar issues. There is tremendous power in the network of the association and this Conference solidifies those connections."

 

The 2015 ABL Conference is open to ABL members and non-members who are interested in learning more about issues facing beverage alcohol licensees. It will be held at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, DC. Registration is $250 per person, and will include access to general sessions, industry experts, and social events. ABL has secured a discounted hotel rate of $229++ per night for conference attendees at the Omni Shoreham Hotel. Rooms are limited and must be booked by May 15 to receive the ABL rate.

 

Program and speaker announcements for the 2015 ABL Conference will be made in the coming months, but sessions will focus on the most pressing issues facing independent beverage alcohol licensees. These include the evolving regulatory landscape for beverage alcohol; emerging policy initiatives on drunk driving including proposals to lower the BAC to 0.05% or lower; small business policy; and an update on the movement for legalized recreational marijuana.

 

"Unlike other retail trade shows, the ABL Conference is a unique opportunity for retail beverage licensees. It gives attendees a chance to act as citizen lobbyists by providing a chance to meet with Members of Congress to discuss the issues that matter to them," said Bodnovich.

 

CONNECT: Stay up-to-date on 2015 ABL Conference announcements. Attendees can sign-up to receive conference information, follow the ABL Conference on Twitter at @ABLConference or on post suggestions on Facebook.

 

Click here to visit the Conference Webpage 

Click here to download the 2015 logo 

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Restaurant industry finished 2014 strong 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015 5:52:00 PM

Source: NRA

January 14, 2015

 

The restaurant industry wrapped up 2014 on a positive note, as both sales and employment registered solid gains in December.  While challenges remain, the restaurant industry enters 2015 with a generally positive business environment, due in large part to the tailwinds of an improving labor market and dampened gas prices, according to the NRA's Chief Economist Bruce Grindy.  His Economist's Notebook commentary and analysis appears regularly on Restaurant.org and Restaurant TrendMapper.

 

Restaurant sales continued to trend higher in December, as consumers took their savings at the pump and reallocated spending toward restaurants.  According to preliminary figures from the U.S. Census Bureau, eating-and-drinking-place sales totaled $49.6 billion on a seasonally-adjusted basis in December, the eighth consecutive monthly increase and strongest volume on record.

 

In contrast, overall retail sales (excluding foodservice) fell 1.1 percent in December, due in large part to a 6.5 percent plunge in spending at gas stations.

 

The recent run of strong restaurant sales gains coincided with the sharp decline in gas prices, which fell more than $1.40 during the last six months of 2014.  December's restaurant sales volume of $49.6 billion was more than $2.3 billion above June's seasonally-adjusted volume, an increase of 5 percent.

 

On the jobs front, the restaurant industry continued to expand payrolls at a strong pace in December, according to preliminary figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  Eating and drinking places added a net 43,600 jobs in December on a seasonally-adjusted basis, their 58th consecutive monthly increase and strongest gain in two years.

 

In total for 2014, restaurants added jobs at a solid 3.1 percent rate, more than a full percentage point above the 1.9 percent gain in total U.S. employment. It also represented the 15th consecutive year in which restaurant job growth outpaced the overall economy.

 

The 2014 gain marked the third consecutive year in which eating and drinking place job growth topped 3 percent, the first such occurrence since the 1993 to 1995 period.  Meanwhile, the overall economy hasn't posted job growth of 3 percent since 1994.

 

While challenges remain - most notably elevated food costs - the restaurant industry enters 2015 with a generally positive business environment.  The tailwinds of an improving labor market and dampened gas prices should continue to reinvigorate consumers and help them break out of their recession mindset. To be sure, if the economic fundamentals continue to improve, 2015 has the potential to be a breakout year for consumers.

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Restaurant groups seek to change definition of 'full time' 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015 11:17:00 AM

Source: NRN

Jan 7, 2015

 

A coalition of restaurant, retail and franchise groups has expressed confidence that they could push changes in the Affordable Care Act's definition of full-time workers in the new Republican-led House and Senate.

 

Industry groups seek to revise the ACA's definition of a full-time workweek from the current 30 hours to "the more historic standard of 40 hours per week," said the National Restaurant Association, which noted that there are 7.5 million hourly workers at U.S. restaurants and bars.

 

The workweek definition has been a longstanding priority for industry groups. The ACA's current "employer-mandate provision" requires certain companies with 50 or more full-time equivalent employees to provide healthcare coverage to their full-time employees and dependents, or potentially be penalized. The ACA defines an employee working 30 hours a week as full time.

 

"It is a good sign to the industry that one of our issues is among the first issues that this Congress will address," said Scott DeFife, the NRA's executive vice president for policy and government affairs, in an interview Tuesday. "That's an important signal to the industry that there is hope we can make some changes to mitigate the impact of the law on restaurant operations."

 

The NRA is working with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Hotel & Lodging Association, the International Franchise Association and a number of other retail groups to affect the ACA changes in an umbrella campaign called "More Time for Full Time." Link: MoreTimeForFullTime.org

 

House members are scheduled to vote Thursday on an ACA workweek bill, H.R. 30, to raise the definition to 40 hours. The House passed the bill, introduced by Rep. Todd Young, R-Ind., and Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Ill., twice last year, but it was not considered in the Senate.

 

This year, however, a companion bill in the Senate, sponsored by Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., was reintroduced Wednesday.

 

Jack Crawford, the NRA's new chairman, and president and CEO of the Ground Round Independent Owners Cooperative, appeared with Collins and Donnelly at a press conference in Washington, D.C.

 

"With a workforce of over 13.5 million, restoring the definition of a full-time workweek to the traditional 40-hour model is critical now more than ever," Crawford said in prepared remarks. "As it stands, the 30-hour definition under the current healthcare law forces employers to restructure our workforce and unwantedly reduce employee hours."

 

Robert J. Green, executive director of the National Council of Chain Restaurants, a division of the National Retail Federation, on Wednesday expressed his group's "strong support" of the House legislation.

 

"H.R. 30 aligns the Affordable Care Act's current definition of full-time work - 30 hours per week - with the definition found in most other workplace rules - 40 hours," Green said. "The 40-hour workweek is a time-honored American tradition ingrained in our laws and culture; the ACA's 30-hour per week threshold is a peculiar, restrictive and detrimental provision of the law."

 

Green said the 30-hour definition led to "difficult and complicated calculations required for chain restaurant businesses to be in compliance" with the act's requirements.

 

"The 40-hour full-time workweek definition in H.R. 30 will allow business owners to make rational decisions about staffing levels in their restaurants and will provide employees additional and needed opportunities to work additional hours," Green said.

 

The timetable for the Senate's companion bill remains unclear, the NRA's DeFife said. "There are more procedural issues in the Senate that have to be worked out, but we hope those will be worked out shortly," he said. "It's more a matter of when and how, not if, in the Senate. It will happen."

 

DeFife said restaurant operators have made changes in the workweek definition a top priority for their industry representatives in the capital.

 

"The 30-hour definition is so contrary to other parts of their operations in terms of workforce planning," DeFife said. "And there is no other labor law that gears anyone toward 30 hours a week as full time. This arbitrary limit on hours for part-time to full-time is a barrier to management's operation of the restaurant and to workers' earnings."

 

While President Barack Obama's administration has indicated it would veto any ACA workweek changes, DeFife said bipartisan support in Congress would strengthen the industry's arguments.

 

"The signal to look for is if we have enough Democratic support that the administration should take this issue seriously and work with us on making this change," DeFife said. "This is not a fundamental thread to the core of the administration's purpose for providing healthcare. This is a definition of full time that has had a lot of unintended consequences on workplace management and hiring that don't have anything to do with healthcare."

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