Dining, Politics and Restaurants in America

Given the political season and the fact that the Republicans just held a debate in my home state of Arizona, I thought I would share some thoughts on how dining in restaurants impacts our country and times with a few facts and myths.

Fact

The restaurant industry is the largest employing private industry in America. Only Governments create more jobs but those jobs are funded by tax dollars. Restaurant jobs cannot be outsourced to India or China. When you support a restaurant you are supporting a vital part of the American workforce. There has bee no bailout to help keep restaurant jobs; on the contrary there has been a tremendous amount of legislation and government pressure on this vital industry. The restaurant industry is growing its workforce. Add in the supplier chain needed to support of 500,000 restaurants nationwide and the auto industry is a fragment of this industry. 43% of restaurants surveyed planning on adding jobs in 2012.

Myth

“Restaurants do not create the type of jobs America needs.” This one strikes home because I have had a restaurant job in one way or another since 1984. This argument is offensive to the millions of dedicated restaurant professionals. But, more globally let’s imagine there were not millions of restaurant jobs in America, what would we workers do? Get a job at a hedge fund? Maybe a weatherman? I think not. Restaurants provide opportunity for work and advancement to a large section of American workers, many of whom have fewer options and many are college grads. I was one with fewer options, and like many I know, this industry gave us pride, a career and a life. How many other industries can offer a “C” student with only a 2 year degree a potential for a six figure income in well less than a decade. The restaurant industry offers exactly the kind of jobs a melting pot of 300 million citizens needs.

Fact

Restaurants are among the greatest tax generators and drivers of the economy. Here is one small example. We are opening a restaurant soon in Schaumburg, IL. (creating 85 jobs) The total sales tax rate in Schaumburg is 11%. There are hundreds of restaurants in Schaumburg generating tens of millions in state and local tax dollars in just this one Village. Add in social security and payroll taxes and once again the restaurant industry does some very heavy lifting. If not for the restaurant industry Americans may very well pay sales tax at the grocery store. Some large chains will buy $50,000 a month in glass from the Libbey factories in Ohio and Louisiana. How about the amount of lettuce coming out of California for restaurants? We rarely make salads at home anymore. Local suppliers of produce, meat, linen and cleaning supplies plus repair workers for HVAC and plumbing all rely on restaurants to survive.

Myth

“Restaurants pay people under the table.” Since 1984 I have been involved with nearly 40 restaurants across this country and interacted with hundreds of operators. I met one group who did this. They were in Toronto, Canada. The types of restaurants that try this are the same types you do not want to eat at in the first place. Sure with 500,000 restaurants there are some problems but what institution is perfect? How has the total miss-management of the restaurant industry affected America compared to other industries; who with great revenues and obscene executive compensation nearly drove their shareholders and this nation into bankruptcy?

If many other industries and even governments were run as the majority of restaurants are run, this nation would be stronger. The average restaurant cannot survive without revenue and a budget that at least breaks even. A restaurant cannot outsource the vast majority of its needs and people. A restaurant must manage inventory or it spoils. Posting a loss or running a deficit can only work for a few months at the maximum. And if a restaurant does not perform it goes out of business, quickly.

So whether you are a Republican, Democrat or Independent, please know that dining is a vital part of your life well after the check comes. Please consider how the person you are voting for cares for the restaurant industry and especially those with fewer options who are using this industry to support their families with pride. 500,000 restaurants means 500,000 tax generators, economy builders, bank borrowers, landlord tenants and, most importantly, millions of important jobs.

Thank you for dining in America.

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