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.

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

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

Can Hospitality Escape this Session Without a Tax Increase?

Posted in Elections, General Advocacy, Restaurant Issues, State Laws, Uncategorized by hospitalityminnesota on May 14, 2010

Given the tremendous budget pressure the legislature has faced throughout the session, now amplified by the unallotment ruling of the Supreme Court, to escape this legislative session without a tax increase would be a major industry accomplishment. With just days to go and a major gap before them, several legislative leaders brought forward the idea of a liquor tax.

Our folks on the inside suggest that this is not likely to happen this year for a couple of reasons. First because Governor Pawlenty has been resolute in his opposition to tax increases. Second, because we believe DFL leadership has liquor in its sights for the coming legislative session next year, when the state faces again a huge budget shortfall and a new governor sits at the State house.

So, though it’s still too early to bring out the cheering squad, we are cautiously optimistic that we escape this session without any statewide lodging, liquor, food or beverage taxes. If we do avoid a tax consider that a tremendous victory for our industry.

What about the impact of this session regarding other areas of operation? Thus far, we’ve managed to fend off virtually all harmful legislation, and to modify those we haven’t defeated, such as ignition interlocks. We’ll be sure to provide an industry wrap up outlining the impacts of the session overall.

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

What the Unallotment Ruling Means

Posted in Uncategorized by hospitalityminnesota on May 5, 2010

The Minnesota Supreme Court in a 4-3 decision today ruled that Governor Pawlenty crossed a constitutional line into legislative turf when he used his unallotment authority to unilaterally cut spending by $2.7 billion last July to balance the state’s budget. While the court ruled on only one specific instance of unallotment, the general consensus is that the application of the ruling is much broader, calling into the question all of the Governor’s unallotment decisions.

With just a few weeks left in the session, the legislature and Governor must now agree on a course of action. The legislature could simply ratify the cuts Pawlenty made, thereby making “legal” his previous action. The legislature could ratify some of the Governor’s unallotments, such as the $1.5 billion education shift, and then argue over other cuts to achieve a balanced budget as mandated by law. The legislature could reject all of the Governor’s actions, creating a situation in which the full deficit must be addressed with new cuts or revenue streams (and it seems unlikely that Pawlenty would support any tax increase). This ruling will likely throw this session into many late nights over the next few weeks.

To read more about the unallotments, check out the Minnesota Public Radio NewsCut Blog or MPR NewsQ.

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

Vikings Day at the Minnesota Legislature

Posted in Uncategorized by hospitalityminnesota on May 5, 2010

We began today with an early morning hearing on the Minnesota Vikings multi-purpose stadium before Chairman Rep. Gene Pelowski and the House State and Local Government Operations Reform, Technology and Elections Committee (known as Gov Ops). Last night, the stadium bill passed out of the Gov Ops Local Government Division, but with substantial changes.

The new taxes that were initially proposed to fund the stadium were removed from the bill, and an alternative version that captured revenue from existing Minneapolis taxes instead became the focus of the funding. The bill under consideration this morning takes entertainment, lodging and sales taxes that were first applied in Minneapolis to pay off the Minneapolis Convention Center (MCC) bonds, which generate approximately $50 million per year, and shifts a portion of them to pay off football stadium bonds ten years from now, when the MCC debt is retired. For the first 10 years, the Minnesota Vikings contribution to the project would be used to pay the debt service.

The vote was close, but ultimately it failed in Gov Ops by a 10-9 vote. The bill thus remains in the Gov Ops Committee and it appears unlikely it will get another hearing this session. At the same time, a similiar bill was heard before the Senate State and Local Government Operations and Oversight Committee, chaired by Senator Ann Rest.

John Luke, General Manager of the Hilton Hotel Minneapolis, was among those to testify in support of the bill on behalf  of Hospitality Minnesota and its three Associations. The City of Minneapolis expressed concerns with the bill, as it has designs on the funds that will become available once the MCC bonds are retired. The city would like to use the money for convention center renovation, capital improvements, the Target Center and perhaps other projects.

With the stadium action over the past few days, it appears the issue will not be resolved this session. It will have to be resolved next session as the Vikings lease at the Metrodome expires and they will not re-sign there.

As these two hearings were being conducted, the Minnesota Supreme Court handed down a ruling regarding Governor Palwenty’s unallottment last year of $2.7 billion. The court ruled 4-3 that the Governor had overstepped his authority with regard to one particular unallotment, which calls into question the legality of the remaining unallottments. More in my next post.

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