Joe Kefauver and Peter Romeo discuss issues and policy changes affecting operators during Morning with Joe at TDn2K's 2019 Global Best Practices Conference Key highlights from Morning with Joe, a #GlobalBPC Q&A Session

At TDn2K’s 2019 Global Best Practices Conference, Joe Kefauver, managing partner of Align Public Strategies discussed some of the tough public policy issues impacting the restaurant industry leading into 2019. Facilitated by Peter Romeo, director of digital content of Winsight media, the duo covered a variety of topics, with highlights surrounding the government shutdown, the role of the CEO and business community and policy changes coming through the pipeline.

How did the government shutdown affect the restaurant industry?

As the longest US government shutdown came to a close without a resolution, the future remains uncertain. Joe informed that the determining factor in how the situation pans out will fall to Senate Republicans facing tough re-election cycles. The pressure they face at home as they look at their re-elect chances could tip the scales.

There is not much hope for a breakthrough on either side, however, at least at the federal level. A resurgence due to inactivity in Washington has led to more action at the state level. Operators could see more changes in immigration policy around topics like e-verify and regulatory engagement.

The need to evolve the restaurant CEO

Consumer trust has shifted, as noted by the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer. Consumers are now looking to the business community to fix things because the institutions of governments are perceived as hopelessly broken. CEOs and companies are now expected to solve problems such as healthcare or immigration reform. To solve some of these infrastructure problems, the business community will need to get more involved, which may be a particular challenge for the restaurant industry as leaders often don’t see themselves in that role compared to other industries such as tech or retail.

“We are a unique industry – the CEO of United Airlines is not out flying planes and slinging bags. But our CEOs are in the kitchen… a lot,” said Joe Kefauver. “It’s a challenge for us to figure out the ways our CEOs can get out there and be a bigger voice for the industry.”

Policy changes looming ahead and the role of HR professionals

Joe postulated 2019 as the “year that paid leave goes mainstream.” As a result of the 2018 election, Republicans are as active as Democrats regarding paid leave issues. Minimum wage will play out in state and city legislations, including pending proposals to raise state minimum wage to $15 per hour in Maryland, New Jersey, Virginia and Chicago. The restaurant industry needs to act quickly to have the conversation about what it can collectively live with, and go to congress with a national standard.

The definition of an employee will evolve in five to ten years, especially as the business model continues to change. The Ubers and Amazons of the world are not only disrupting the industry, but also the labor market and how workers are classified. This puts the HR professional in a unique position, as the issues and changes the industry navigates will intersect and cross on their desks. Joe urges HR professionals to keep a pulse on what is going on politically and within their communities. Opening up an internal dialogue with the c-suite and the decision makers enables those within this role to act as a change agent not only within their companies, but for the industry overall.

Align Public Strategies produces the monthly Public Policy Update in conjunction with People Report™. This report provides a monthly rundown of the latest political and regulatory news directly impacting your restaurant business. Topics include wages, scheduling, paid time off, pay equity and activism, among others. This report is available to all People Report members.