Tag: Restaurant

The Bottom Line on the Impact of Minimum Wage Hikes on the Restaurant Industry

Minimum wages are rising across the country, with well over a dozen states, plus many cities increasing minimum wages over the past few years.  As those changes are implemented, restaurant owners are finding that they must make significant adjustments to how they run their businesses in order to stay in business.

 The Bay Area of California was one of the first regions to begin increasing minimum wages, and as of January 1, 2018, the minimum wage increased by 37 cents to $13.23 in Oakland, and in San Francisco it rose from $13.00 to $15.00 effective July 1, 2018.

One impact on the restaurant industry is the change from full service restaurants – with hosts and full waiter service – to counter service.  Some restaurants have actually seen such changes result in significant sales increases – by as much as 20% – after the change from full service to counter service.  And at the same time, being able to reduce menu prices due to the ability to cut staff due to the change to a counter service format.  The downside here is that there are fewer jobs available to restaurant workers with owners focused on a lean labor paradigm.  At some restaurants, cooks serve dual roles – both preparing food and delivering it to customers.  Customers are also finding themselves taking on new ‘responsibilities’ such as being able to text additional orders rather than going back in line it they want more food than they originally ordered at the counter.

Thus, the increase in minimum wage has resulted in more satisfied employees (albeit fewer) earning a better living, increased restaurant industry innovation, and restaurants becoming more accessible to the population as whole as a result of lower menu prices.

Seattle became the first major city in the country to pass a $15.00 minimum wage law in 2014.  Large restaurant groups and franchises were particularly concerned about the increase because employers with more than 501 workers were required to increase wages on a set schedule reaching $15.00 per hour this year.  As a result, large Seattle restaurant groups and chains were forced to look for ways to adjust and innovate.  Many felt that increasing menu prices was not an option because of concerns that such increases would result in lower revenue.  So these restaurants did away with discretionary tipping and, instead, implemented set service charges of fifteen or twenty percent.

To offset rising labor costs, some restaurants add a surcharge of three to five percent to customers’ checks.  In March of last year, the Wall Street Journal even ran an article entitled “New on Your Dinner Tab: A Labor Surcharge.”  Restaurant owners found that raising menu prices lead customers to choose less expensive items than they normally would, and that the surcharge helped mitigate the increased costs of doing business.

In addition to raising prices, in order to deal with increased wages in the restaurant industry, some businesses often cope with minimum wage increases by firing staff.  Earlier this year, Red Robin Gourmet Burgers announced it would eliminate busboy positions at 570 restaurant locations. Many single location restaurants have also had to eliminate busboys and other staff positions.  Others have not been able to adapt and have had to close their doors. Some have turned to technology to compensate for the loss of labor and to reduce expenses. Large chains such as Chili’s, Applebee’s, and Olive Garden have replaced some servers with table-side tablets for placing orders and paying bills. 

Technology has also helped other businesses expand.  For example, popular online service, GrubHub, has reduced the number of customers dining out, as consumers can enjoy a restaurant style meal without getting up off their couch.  

The takeaway for restaurants facing increasing minimum wages and labor costs?  Scrutinize your budget and personnel and determine how to satisfy ever-changing employee and customer demands, and be willing to change.

For further information regarding this topic, please contact:

Jonathan M. Weis at jweis@lgattorneys.com or 312-368-0100.

 

 

 

Predictive Scheduling Legislation: What You Need to Know to Avoid Costly Surprises

In approximately a dozen states and a number of smaller municipalities across the U.S., initiatives have been introduced that would allow state and local governments to dictate how restaurants (and retailers) schedule their employees. Some view this approach as interfering with employers’ rights to control the workplace, while others view it as a necessary tool to protect the rights of food industry and other retail workers.  The impetus for the new rules – often referred to as predictive scheduling laws – emanates from the fact that workers often have very little ability to make adjustments to their work schedules in order to meet their responsibilities outside of work.  Unpredictable and unstable work schedules have been fairly well documented in the food service and preparation industries, as well as in retail and custodial occupations.

Predictive scheduling laws and proposals generally include certain common provisions: (i) advance posting of schedules, (ii) employer penalties for unexpected schedule changes, (iii) record-keeping requirements, and (iv) prohibitions on requiring employees to find replacements for scheduled shifts if they are unable to work. In Congress, the pending Schedules That Work Act would require that schedules be provided in writing two weeks in advance with penalties for changes made with less than 24 hours’ notice.  As those changes are implemented, restaurant owners are finding that they must make significant adjustments to how they run their businesses in order to stay in business.

“On-call” or “predictive scheduling” activists argue that retail employers too often use scheduling practices that directly interfere with employees’ personal lives and ability to plan around their work hours, while others believe government intervention in the scheduling of employees through a one-size-fits-all approach intrudes on the employer-employee relationship and creates unnecessary mandates on how a business should operate.  Many in the food service industry are concerned that predictive scheduling legislation will impede employers’ need to adapt to changing conditions in a store, particularly small, independently owned businesses that have limited staff and resources and may not be able to afford the penalties related to violations.  Some employees have also voiced concern that they could lose some of the flexibility that attracted them to the food service industry in the first place.

There are a variety of common components of predictive scheduling legislation.

  • Employee Scheduling Requests.  Giving employees the right to make scheduling requests without employer retaliation.  Employers would be required to consider scheduling requests from all employees and provide a response. In some instances (for healthcare issues for example), the employer would be required to grant the request unless there is a bona fide business reason not to do so—e.g., an inability to reorganize work among existing staff or the insufficiency of work during the periods the employee proposes to work. The right to request provision can be found in laws recently enacted in Vermont, New Hampshire, Seattle, Washington, and San Francisco and Emeryville, California.  (Similar laws have been in place for more than a decade in the United Kingdom.)
  • Shift Scheduling Changes.  Requiring employers to be pay employees for a minimum of four hours of work or the minimum number of hours in the scheduled shifts, whichever is fewer, when an employee is sent home from work early without being permitted to work his or her scheduled shift.  In addition, if an employee is required to call in less than 24 hours before the start of a potential shift to learn whether he or she is scheduled to work, an employer could be required to pay the employee a premium, equivalent to one hour of pay. This provision is found in eight states and the District of Columbia.
  • Split shift pay. If an employee is required to work a shift with nonconsecutive hours with a break of more than one hour between work periods, an employer could be required to pay the employee a premium for that shift, equivalent to one hour of pay. Provisions like this exist in District of Columbia and California.
  • Advance notice of schedules. When an employee is hired, an employer could be required to disclose the minimum number of hours an employee will be scheduled to work. If that minimum number changes, the employer could be required to give the employee two weeks’ notice of the new minimum hours before the change goes into effect. In addition, employers can be required to give employees their work schedules two weeks in advance and, if an employer makes changes to this work schedule with notice of only 24 hours or less, the employer could be required to pay the employee a premium, equivalent to one hour of pay. San Francisco, Seattle, New York City, and Emeryville, California have enacted laws to require employers to provide two weeks’ advance notice of schedules to employees in certain large retail and/or food service establishments.

In order to handle predictive scheduling mandates, business owners should explore software options and even retaining outside vendors that provide scheduling and labor management solutions.  A lack of training or understanding of predictive scheduling can be detrimental to a business’ bottom line, and scheduling practices can have a dramatic impact on labor costs.  As with most new legal developments in the food service industry (or any industry for that matter), training and education is key.

 For more information on this and other issues, contact our office at 312-368-0100 or Jon Weis at jweis@lgattorneys.com

 

Restaurant Nutrition Labeling Provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010

More than two-thirds of adults in the U.S. are overweight or obese.  Approximately one-third of consumers’ total caloric intake comes from foods consumed outside the home in restaurants and other retail food businesses.  In order to provide consumers with easily accessible nutrition information, pursuant to the nutrition labeling provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) now requires the disclosure of certain nutrition information for standard menu items in restaurants.

FDA is now requiring disclosure of certain nutrition information for standard menu items in restaurants and similar retail food establishments that are part of a chain with 20 or more locations doing business under the same name and offering for sale substantially the same menu items.  These businesses will be required to provide calorie and other nutrition information for standard menu items, including food on display and self-service food.  This rule was originally to become effective on December 1, 2015, but the compliance date for the rule was extended to May 5, 2017.

To be covered by this rule, a business must satisfy several criteria.  Primarily, it must be a restaurant or similar retail food establishment.  Restaurants and similar retail food establishments include bakeries, cafeterias, coffee shops, food service facilities located within entertainment venues (such as amusement parks, bowling alleys, and movie theaters), food service vendors such as ice cream shops and mall cookie counters, food take-out and/or delivery establishments, such as pizza take-out and delivery businesses, quick service restaurants, and table service restaurants.

These new rules will require food service operators to revamp their menus, but presumably these changes will lead to healthier public.

For further information regarding this topic, please contact:

Jonathan M. Weis at:

jweis@lgattorneys.com or 312-368-0100.

If You Sell Stock In Your Start-Up Business Can You Exclude the Gain From Income?

You started your business and it grew beyond your wildest dreams. Now, a potential purchaser has approached you to acquire your business. Your first thought after, “I’m going to be rich!”, is “How much of my money will the IRS want from me?”

If your stock qualifies as “qualified small business stock” (QSBS) then that big payoff could escape income tax. Prior to 2015, Internal Revenue Code Section 1202 provided a tax free benefit in certain situations for stock acquired after September 27, 2010, but before 2015. The “Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015” (PATH Act) restored the QSBS provisions for stock acquired in 2015 and thereafter.

Now, subject to certain limits, you may exclude from gross income 100% of any gain realized on the sale or exchange of QSBS held for more than five years. Also, the excluded portion of the gain from eligible QSBS is not treated as an alternative minimum tax preference item.

Stock qualifies as QSBS only if it meets all of the following tests:

  1. it must be stock originally issued after Aug. 10, 1993;
  2. as of the date the stock was issued, the corporation was a domestic C corporation with total gross assets of $50 million or less (a) at all times after Aug. 9, 1993 and before the stock was issued, and (b) immediately after the stock was issued;
  3. in general, you must have acquired the stock from the corporation, either in exchange for money or other property or as pay for services to the corporation; and,
  4. during substantially all the time you held the stock:  the corporation was a C corporation; at least 80% (by value) of the corporation’s assets are used in the active conduct of one or more qualified businesses; and the corporation was not a foreign corporation, or certain other types of companies.

A qualified business cannot be: a business involving services performed in the fields of health, law, engineering, architecture, accounting, actuarial science, performing arts, consulting, athletics, financial services, or brokerage services or a business whose principal asset is the reputation or skill of one or more employees; a banking, insurance, financing, leasing, investing, or similar business; a farming business (including the raising or harvesting of trees); a business involving the production of products for which percentage depletion can be claimed; or a business of operating a hotel, motel, restaurant, or similar business.

For each tax year, the amount of gain eligible for the exclusion is limited to the greater of: $10 million ($5 million for married persons filing separately), or 10 times your total adjusted basis in QSBS of the corporation disposed of by you in the tax year.

The above is a brief synopsis of the rules regarding QSBS. If you’d like to discuss these rules or any other business issue you might have, please contact:

Morris R. Saunders at:

msaunders@lgattorneys.com or (312)368-0100

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