MN Hospitality Advocate

Hospitality Education Foundation Scholarships

Posted in Uncategorized by hospitalityminnesota on October 12, 2015

The Hospitality Minnesota Education Foundation has been providing scholarships for post secondary students studying hospitality or culinary arts since 2008. The whole process became real a few weeks ago on my favorite job duty of the year, which is “sign the checks” day! The checks are possible because of the generosity of our scholarship donors, who see them as an investment in the future of the industry. This year we awarded scholarships to 36 students for a total of $93,500. That brings the total scholarships awarded since the program started in 2008 to $415,000 to 198 students pursuing careers in hospitality, restaurant management, or culinary arts.

The importance of these investments is particularly apparent right now with the growing shortage of well trained professionals in our kitchens and offices.

There is more information about the Foundation online at www.hospitalitymn.org/foundation.

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Non Slip Shoes Make a Difference!

Posted in Uncategorized by hospitalityminnesota on October 12, 2015

Non Slip Shoes

Can an employer require that employees wear non-slip shoes at work as a way to increase safety by preventing slips and falls? If the shoes are required, does the employer have to pay for them? We’ve discussed this issue with two labor attorneys that frequently advise the MRA. The consensus is that an employer can require non-slip shoes to be worn and can also require the employee to pay for them.. In order for non-slip shoes not to be a required uniform which the employer pays for, these procedures are recommended.

  • The employer shouldn’t specify a brand, color or style
  • An employee should be able to buy and wear any non-slip shoe that they like
  • The shoes should be suitable for wear outside of work
  • An employer may offer a shoe program that includes a payroll deduction payment option but the program can’t be required

Members that require non-slip shoes report that employees like them and that they do prevent slips and falls. The shoes are available in a variety of colors, sizes, and prices through many stores and online vendors, including Target, Walmart, Payless, Zappos, and others.

Working Families Agenda in Minneapolis

Posted in Uncategorized by hospitalityminnesota on October 12, 2015

One of the most important public policy debates in a long time is happening now in the City of Minneapolis. The “Working Families Agenda” sprang from a national campaign and from a legislative initiative last session. Mayor Betsy Hodges included the proposal in her State of the City speech in April and City Council members unanimously passed a resolution directing their staff to study the issues and prepare recommendations.

Most of you are very familiar with these ideas because they have gotten a great deal of media attention. Wonderful terms such as “brouhaha” and “kerfuffle” have been used to describe the debate so far. Both business owners and employees have turned out for community meetings, forums and events to express great concerns about the unrealistic and inflexible scheduling and leave mandates. Although this is a Minneapolis proposal today, if these ideas become law, other cities are likely to consider them seriously.

The two main components of the agenda are:

  • A proposed city mandate that all Minneapolis employers publish firm work schedules at least 14 days in advance. The proposal started with a 28-day advance scheduling requirement but was changed by the Mayor after vocal outcry by both business owners and workers. The proposal would require employers to pay one hour of “predictability” pay when schedule changes are made inside the 14-day window. There are also requirements for overtime under some circumstances, a prohibition on scheduling shifts with less than an 11-hour interval from the last shift, and a requirement that employers pay workers who are sent home prior to the end of a scheduled shift.
  • A proposal to require all Minneapolis employers to provide one hour of paid “sick and safe” leave for each 30 hours worked. There is a limit of 40 hours per year from employers with 20 or fewer employees and 72 hours a year for larger employers. Employees are asked to provide notice for predictable uses of leave, such as doctor’s appointments. No medical verification is required for absences of three days or less. The accrued sick time would carry from employer to employer.

The only city that has enacted a scheduling mandate is San Francisco. That ordinance applies to “pattern retail and restaurant businesses” with 40 or more locations worldwide. The Minneapolis proposal is much broader because it applies to all employers regardless of size or industry.

A state law on this topic was considered by the California legislature in 2015 and defeated. The San Francisco ordinance just went into effect this past July so it is too soon to know if the disruption is as serious to workers and employers as the opponents have predicted.

Four states — California, Oregon, Massachusetts and Connecticut — have sick and safe leave mandates. Most of those have exceptions for small employers. There are 17 cities, in addition to San Francisco, that have paid sick and safe leave ordinances. That is a tiny minority of the more than 35,000 cities in the country. None of the mandate cities are in the Midwest.

The reaction to the Working Families Agenda has been loud and passionate on both sides. A coalition of labor and advocacy organizations makes their case at the website www.mplsworks.com. A large coalition of business and community organizations that opposes the agenda in its current form makes their case at www.workforcefairnesscoalition.com.

By the time you receive this, there will likely be more than 50 members of the coalition, including the Minnesota Restaurant Association, trade associations representing dozens of industries, local and regional chambers of commerce, neighborhood associations and employers of all sizes. Many employees of restaurants and other businesses share the concerns expressed by business owners over a lack of flexibility in their schedules and in their lives.

A server at a small Lake Street restaurant responded, “That will never work; my son’s soccer schedules aren’t out that far in advance.” Similar concerns have been expressed over schedules and plans for school, other jobs, volunteer work and a wide variety of other life realities.

The Minnesota Restaurant Association and the Workforce Fairness Coalition are committed to working with the Mayor and members of the City Council to better understand their concerns and to explain the complexity of adding more mandates to a complex and competitive industry already dealing with the Affordable Care Act, a tight labor market and rising commodity prices. We support good communication and respectful collaboration between business owners and their valued employees. We don’t think it makes sense for one city to adopt expensive and inflexible policies that will hurt both business owners and workers. Minneapolis is surrounded by competitors in other communities that aren’t considering adding costs or reducing flexibility. Keep in mind that San Francisco is surrounded by the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco bay and thus is isolated from much of its suburban competition.

What can you do in response to the Working Families Agenda? The proposals may have changed by the time this edition of Foodservice News goes to press but the debate isn’t likely to be over. You can get involved! There is a calendar of events and a list of opportunities for both workers and employers to learn more and to get engaged on the Workforce Fairness Coalition website (http://www.workforcefairnesscoalition.com). The City of Minneapolis is accepting comments (even after their deadline) at workingfamilies@minneapolismn.gov. If you live or do business in the City of Minneapolis, please contact your city council member and share your experiences and concerns with them. Contact and ward boundary information is available at http://www.minneapolismn.gov/council/. You can also express your concerns by signing the Work Force Fairness petition online at: http://working.voicehive.com/v2/page/petitionpage.

Minnesota Minimum Wage is Complex

Posted in Uncategorized by hospitalityminnesota on August 3, 2015

The minimum wage for many workers went up to $9.00 an hour on August 1, 2015.  The news isn’t that simple, however.  The adult wage for large employers is the figure that has gotten most of the attention but there are four other provisions in the law.

A youth wage of $7.25 an hour applies to workers that are under 18 years of age.  This provision was included in the 2014 law at the request of many employers and advocates so that young people could better compete for their first job.  The unemployment rate has been much higher for teens than for adults in most parts of the state.

A training wage of $7.25 an hour applies to workers under 20 during their first 90 days of employment.  We have had a training wage for a long time but at a much lower level.  The Federal law also includes a training wage.  This provision recognizes that workers take some time on the job to become productive.

Small employers with annual revenues of $500,000 (not including the sales tax) may pay their employees $7.25 an hour.  There is also a special wage, $7.50 an hour, for international student workers on a J visa who also receive lodging or meals as part of their employment and work at a hotel or a resort.

The one provision that we wish was in the law but isn’t, is recognition that tips are also important and should be considered.  The hospitality industry advocated for a tipped wage of $8.00 an hour for those making $12 an hour or more with tips or wages.  The provision passed in the Minnesota House in 2015 but was blocked by the State Senate.

An example of what may happen with a high minimum wage that doesn’t recognize tips as income is what has happened in Washington and in Oregon.  The average number of employees per restaurant has fallen from about 19 to just over 14.  If Washington and Oregon had the same number of employees per location today that they had a few years ago, there would be 50,000 more restaurant jobs in those two states.  Minnesota has about 19 jobs per restaurant, which is also about the national average.  As the Pioneer Press wrote in an editorial, wages have consequences.

MRA Addresses Tip Credit Discussion

Posted in General Advocacy, Restaurant Issues, Tip Credit by hospitalityminnesota on July 10, 2010

I have been so busy all week addressing the issue Tom Emmer raised with regard to tip credit that I have been remiss in getting the blog post on this very topic constructed.

Campaigns are by nature unpredictable, with issues and candidates thrust into the spotlight seemingly without notice. Earlier this week, Minnesota’s hospitality industry found itself in the middle of the race to replace Gov. Tim Pawlenty. By now I am sure that many, if not all, of you know that during a campaign stop in St. Paul, GOP-endorsed candidate Tom Emmer found himself discussing the issue of tip credit. (Click here for a July 5 article from the Star Tribune and here for a July 6 article from Minnesota Public Radio which depict how the issue has been covered by Twin Cities media). Although as an industry we appreciate the opportunity and attention being paid to the slim-margins we operate on each and every day, the manner in which the issue has been presented has caused the general public to be inundated with a great deal of misinformation.

I spent a great deal of time this week fielding calls from restaurateurs around the state seeking clarification on the required wages for servers and other employees. We have also, through conversations with the media and policymakers, sought to clarify the facts and tell the tip credit story.

As part of a broader discussion of how to best grow Minnesota’s economy, we welcome the opportunity to discuss the issue of tip credit. Our approach has always been to find a “go-forward” solution that does not incorporate take-backs or reductions. Instead, as demonstrated in our Super Wage proposal in 2009, we have sought legislation to level the playing field for all restaurant employees through the creation of a super wage for tipped employees. Click here for our Super Wage issue briefing provided to lawmakers during the 2010 legislative session.

In the midst of the hotly contested race for Governor, it is likely that this issue will gather attention for some time to come. Gubernatorial Candidate Margaret Anderson Kelliher has now seized on this issue and is proposing an increase in the state’s minimum wage. Read her proposal here. Emmer has arranged for a meeting with servers to discuss the issue, covered here.

The Association issued this minimum wage / tip credit statement to help clarify the issue:

WE DO NOT ADVOCATE A PAY CUT
First, we want to make it clear that the industry has never advocated for pay cuts. Our position for more than two decades of seeking to accomplish a tip credit has always been a going forward position. In other words, when the minimum wage increases in the future, Minnesota law should allow servers to continue to make what they are presently making, and not subject them to the increase. To be clear, our industry has not advocated reducing server pay at all.

INTERPLAY BETWEEN FEDERAL AND STATE LAW
Second, there is a great deal of confusion as to the present rate of pay for servers. In the interplay between state and federal law, the statute that most benefits the employee applies. Federal law says that any restaurant that is grossing above $500,000 per year annually is subject to federal standards. Today, while Minnesota’s minimum wage is $6.15 per hour, the federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. Thus, any restaurant grossing more than $500,000 per year annually or whose employees are engaged in interstate commerce is required to pay its servers $7.25 per hour. This covers the vast majority of servers in our state. For those restaurants performing at less than $500,000 per year and whose employees are not engaged in interstate commerce, the Minnesota minimum wage for smaller operations applies, which is $5.25 per hour. Most restaurants in Minnesota gross at least $500,000 per year or have employees engaged in interstate commerce, thus the higher $7.25 wage applies to the vast majority of servers in Minnesota.

WHY IS THIS SUCH A BIG ISSUE WITH RESTAURANTS?
There are a few key reasons why this is such a passionate issue for restaurant owners. Because Minnesota statute does not allow for a tip credit (the use of tip income to offset minimum wage), when either the federal or state government mandates a minimum wage increase, the restaurateur is forced to pay what are often the highest paid employees in her or his establishment a higher base wage. This uses up whatever available capital the restaurant has that might pay raises for back-of-the-house cooks, bussers and dishwashers. It does so without even providing an opportunity for the owner and his or her staff to have a conversation about compensation. Thus, minimum wage increases without tip credit create huge disparity between front-of-the-house and back-of-the-house.

Second, tipped employees work for tips and have the opportunity to function as their own entrepreneurs. The restaurant operator provides the facility, the cooks and support staff, designs the menu, provides the ambiance, advertises the business, pays for the light and heat, buys the point of sale system. This creates the opportunity for servers to make substantial income. For the restaurateur to continue to provide this opportunity, reinvest in the facility, offer benefits, and grow, he or she needs economics that work.

Third, tips ARE wages. One of the injustices of present law is that even though their customers give tips to servers, employers must still pay FICA (social security tax) and unemployment compensation taxes on these gratuities. Tips are considered wages for purposes of Social Security (FICA), Federal Department of Labor, Federal Unemployment Taxes (FUTA), Internal Revenue Service, Minnesota Workers’ Compensation, Minnesota Unemployment Compensation (SUTA) and the Minnesota Department of Revenue. The only instance in which tips are not considered wages is by the state when determining minimum wage compensation

MINNESOTA RESTAURANTS WANT TO CREATE JOBS
Minnesota restaurant owners want nothing more than to create quality jobs and grow their operations, while serving their customers well. These are extraordinarily difficult times and it appears it will be years before restaurant traffic returns to previous highs. Restaurant owners need the flexibility to work with their employees to create productive work environments. Going forward, as the minimum wage increases, restaurant operators seek the reasonable provision to continue paying servers what they presently make, while ensuring that they make the minimum wage at all times.

David Siegel, CAE, IOM
Minnesota Restaurant, Lodging and Resort & Campground Associations and Hospitality Minnesota

Senator Kelash Visits Peer to Peer Mixer

Posted in Restaurant Issues by hospitalityminnesota on July 5, 2010
Sen Kelash and Eric Sandrock

Sen. Ken Kelash and Eric Sandrock, American Burger Bar, Visit on Issues

We wanted to recognize and thank Senator Ken Kelash, DFL-Minneapolis, for stopping by our Minnesota Restaurant Association Peer to Peer mixer at Woolley’s Restaurant in Bloomington. The event was an informal gathering of area restaurant operators, and Senator Kelash took the opportunity to visit with members of the industry.

Several restaurant operators shared with the Senator the challenges they continue to face in this economy and their hopes for more positive signs in the future.

David Siegel, CAE, IOM
Minnesota Restaurant, Lodging and Resort & Campground Associations and Hospitality Minnesota

Star Tribune Columnist Highlights Vacation Homes

Posted in Lodging Issues, Resort Issues, State Laws, State Rules, Tourism Issues, Uncategorized, Vacation Home Rentals by hospitalityminnesota on July 4, 2010

In today’s Star Tribune Metro Section, columnist John Ewoldt touts vacation homes as an opportunity to enjoy the lake without the mortgage. He mentions http://www.VRBO.com, http://www.homeaway.com, http://www.greatrentals.com, http://www.vacationrentals.com and http://www.vacationrentals411.com.

I have seen several other recent references to vacation home rentals. Here’s what Ewoldt suggests: “Thanks to the recession, more second home owners have discovered that renting our their cabins, lake homes, condos and townhouses can make a second mortgage pay for itself.”

We argue the same and it is for this reason that the Minnesota Resort & Campground Association and Minnesota Lodging Association have for several years now pushed to have these properties regulated in the same manner as resorts, hotels and other licensed lodging facilities. The Minnesota Department of Health does have basic authority to license such facilities, but clarity in language would be helpful.

In the meantime, if you know of a vacation home being rented to the general public on a fairly consistent basis, please tell Gary Edwards, Minnesota Department of Health, (651) 201-4513, gary.edwards@state.mn.us.

David Siegel, CAE, IOM
Minnesota Restaurant, Lodging and Resort & Campground Associations and Hospitality Minnesota

Restaurant Association Attends Kline Fundraiser

Posted in Uncategorized by hospitalityminnesota on June 22, 2010

Rep. John Kline at Burnsville Fundraiser

Rep. John Kline describes the mood of the electorate as he campaigns

The Minnesota Restaurant Association attended a fundraising event for Congressman John Kline yesterday.  Kline said Republican candidates across the country are working very hard at getting elected in the upcoming fall elections.

Kline talked about key current issues such as the war in Afghanistan, health care reform, immigration reform and the gulf oil spill.

The Minnesota Restaurant Association and National Restaurant Association have long supported Congressman Kline and are appreciative of his pro-business views and track record.

David Siegel, CAE, IOM
Minnesota Restaurant, Lodging and Resort & Campground Associations and Hospitality Minnesota

Dayton Leads the DFL Field, Emmer tops Republicans

Posted in Elections by hospitalityminnesota on June 20, 2010

KSTP released a statewide poll taken last week showing Mark Dayton with a 39 percent to 26 percent lead over  the DFL endorsed candidate, Margaret Anderson Kelliher. DFLer Matt Entenza, who is also running in the primary, has 22 percent support.

Voters were asked that if the primary election were held today, which DFL candidate they would support to face Republican Tom Emmer and the endorsed Independence Party candidate, Tom Horner. The same poll showed Dayton as the only DFL candidate capable of beating Tom Emmer, the Republican candidate. The poll had a 500 sample size and a 4.5 percent margin of error.

I have been saying for more than a month that likely to win the DFL primary. Here are my reasons: First, Dayton knows how to craft a simple and effective message and stay on task. Second, he appeals to the senior voters. This is important because we’ve moved the primary one month earlier to August, and seniors will be among the most likely to vote. Senior also like Dayton for his earlier work on the cost of prescription drugs. Third, he brings tremendous personal resources to the campaign. Money isn’t everything, but it means a great deal in politics these days, and Dayton has the money to get out his message.

Of course, I thought R. T. Rybak would gain the DFL endorsement and Marty Seiffert would win the Republican endorsement, so what do I know?

On the other side of the aisle, it seems almost assured that Rep. Tom Emmer will take the Republican primary. He is a formidable candidate with tremendous passion and a strong vision for change in Minnesota. While Dayton, Kelliher and Entenza have all publicly supported tax increases as a major piece of solving our state’s budget shortfall, Emmer has not. He has talked much more about reforming government and restructuring the delivery of our services.

For political watchers, this is quite a time.

David Siegel, CAE, IOM
Minnesota Restaurant, Lodging and Resort & Campground Associations and Hospitality Minnesota

Minneapolis City Council Deals with Fire Inspection Issues

Posted in City Council, Restaurant Issues, Uncategorized by hospitalityminnesota on May 24, 2010

I just returned from a meeting at Minneapolis City Hall in which the city’s Fire Department was grilled about inspection procedures and in which a new system sharing the inspection duty with the Department of Regulatory Services is the recommended model. I was at the hearing because about six months ago, the City of Minneapolis Fire Department instituted a new hood cleaning permit fee. The fee, a minimum of $130 each time a hood is cleaned, is charged to the hood cleaning company, which then passes along the fee to the restaurant operator.

The issue, as raised by the Fire Department, is that some of the cleaning companies aren’t doing an adequate job. The inspection fee was established to require the cleaning companies to take digital pictures of each cleaning job and provide those in order for the permit to be validated. We understand the issue. Our problem is that restaurants are now facing a minimum $130 cleaning permit fee in Minneapolis each time they have a hood cleaned. This amounts to a disincentive to hood cleaning.

Our approach would suggest a different strategy – have the fire department conduct periodic inspections of work done by the cleaning companies (they license them and know who they are, after all). Eliminate the $130 per cleaning fee and instead, charge a penalty of the cleaning company if the work completed is inadequate.

We have been working behind the scenes with various Minneapolis City Council members to try and achieve these changes, or at least, gain a reconsideration of the current ordinance. But in the midst of this effort, Heidi’s Restaurant in Minneapolis went up in flames due to what is reported as a hood fire, and in another tragic incident, members of a family were killed when the apartment in which they were staying went up in flames, also destroying a bar below. These two incidents have cast huge attention on the work of the Fire Department and getting changes to our hood cleaning permit fees, which are a projected $200,000 or more revenue generator for the department, is proving difficult.

Nonetheless, we continue to work the system. It appears there will be a more comprehensive review of the city’s fire codes in 2011. That might provide an opportunity for change. But we can’t wait that long. The hood cleaning permit fee is slated for review after one year of implementation, and we’ll be on hand seeking to eliminate (or at a minimum reduce) the fees.

We express our appreciation with the Minneapolis Area Chamber of Commerce for working with us on this important issue. If you have a relationship with any Minneapolis council members, now is the time to talk to them about this onerous fee and its impact on your business.

David Siegel, CAE, IOM
Minnesota Restaurant, Lodging and Resort & Campground Associations and Hospitality Minnesota