MN Hospitality Advocate

Association Designs Allergen Poster

Posted in City Council, General Advocacy, Health Care Reform, Restaurant Issues by hospitalityminnesota on December 20, 2009

After months of negotiations, the St. Paul City Council passed a food allergy ordinance requiring every foodservice establishment in the city to display a poster regarding allergens. The Minnesota Restaurant Association and the St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce spearheaded a coalition that negotiated throughout the process on behalf of the industry. After pushing back an Allergen Information Handbook and an Allergen Action Plan, we agreed on a poster as long as we could have substantial say as to its content. The ordinance as passed called for the poster to be determined by the St. Paul Department of Safety and Inspections.

Because of our extensive involvement in the process, we ultimately designed the poster in cooperation with the Association of Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Minnesota and the St. Paul Area Chamber. Through these efforts, the poster enhances awareness of the most common allergens and cross-contact, but does not increase restaurant liability.

While we modeled the poster on one developed by the national organization Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) and a flier created by the Anaphylaxis and Food Allergy Association of Minnesota (AFAA), we worked with AFAA to remove imperative language that we felt would increase restaurant liability. The poster now includes pictures of the eight major U.S. allergens and common items (cutting boards, utensils, etc.) that can cause cross-contact with allergens.  It is available for free download here.

Once we gained the support of the council to create the poster, the process was swift and was absent of contention, since all parties agreed to the poster’s content. This was in contrast to earlier stages of the political process when we had concerns about poster language that could be construed to increase liability for restaurants.

“Thanks to the work of AFAA, we were able to show how seemingly at-odds organizations can work together on a solution that meets everyone’s needs,” said Molly Grove of the St. Paul Chamber of Commerce.  “Everyone came to the table ready to solve the problem, making this a very good experience for us all.”

The second ordinance, which passed 5-1 provides a 7% license fee discount for restaurants that view a training video provided by the City, and develop in-house procedures when an allergic customer orders food. Although we did not oppose this ordinance, we indicated that few restaurants would engage and wanted to go on record with concerns that the voluntary program could some day become mandatory.

We agreed during the process that allergens are a serious issue in the industry (the new FDA model food code just released in early November has a great deal more about allergens and more inclusion in the Certified Food Manager curriculum is anticipated). We also suggested that we would most support a voluntary effort to educate the industry on the issue. While we did eventually agree to this limited poster mandate, we also remain committed to voluntary efforts to raise the level of awareness in the industry.

Our plan now is to make this poster available to restaurants across the state through our publications and communications and the many entities we work with, such as Convention and Visitors Bureaus, Health Departments, Chambers of Commerce, AFAA and foodservice distributors. In addition, we will be talking to food safety instructors about incorporating the poster and information in their Certified Food Manager training and re-certification training.

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


Charlie Cook Provides 2010 Election Insights

Posted in Elections, General Advocacy, Uncategorized by hospitalityminnesota on November 20, 2009

I’m at a conference for state restaurant association executives (Council of State Restaurant Association Execuives – CSRA) and we had the privilege of kicking off the event with remarks by well-known political pundit Charlie Cook.

Cook said the 2008 election presented the perfect situation for Democrats. Key in the election, independent voters swung Democratic by an 18 point margin. He likened the environment to that of a well-cared for greenhouse in that election. But in 2010, Cook points out that the greenhouse has blown away and winter is arriving for the Democrats. The question is how powerful will that winter storm be?

Conditions favoring Republican gains in Congress include the following:

  • a terrible economy (most Americans still don’t believe we are out of the recession)
  • high unemployment that is likely to remain so (we’ve lost 50% more jobs in this recession than in a ‘normal’ recession). It will likely remain in double digits through the year and 12 consecutive months of double-digit unemployment is bad for any party.
  • 4.3% of homes are in foreclosure and 8% are delinquent and for 32% of homeowners their loan is upside down (loan is greater than the value of the home).

While Americans aren’t likely to blame President O’Bama solely, each day that goes by he owns more of the problem and people wonder why the President’s policies aren’t working, Cook said.

Those key independent voters who were strongly Democrat are now moving Republican. “They are wondering if this is the cruise they signed up for,” said Cook. They continue to like O’Bama but not Democratic leadership in Congress.

The signs are there for major issues in the coming election for Democrats. “Danger Will Robinson,” said Cook.

Despite reading these tea leaves, Cook said it’s unlikely that Republicans will take the majority in the Senate. In the U.S. House, a 12 to 25 seat flip is possible, but it will be a challenge to swap enough seats for Republicans to take control.

The Republican party still has a high unfavorable rating and brand identity problems. Of course, much can happen in 12 months.

Cook predicts that health care reform will ultimately pass, but that the Democrats have used a great deal of political capital in passing the bill. “I think they read too many of their own clips,” Cook said, and suggested that O’Bama’s decision to pursue health care reform in this economic environment was a major strategic blunder.

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

Taxes and Fees Anticipated in Coming Session

Posted in General Advocacy, Lodging Issues, Restaurant Issues, State Laws, State Rules by hospitalityminnesota on November 9, 2009

I just finished a meeting with several Minnesota trade association executive directors earlier today. As we went around the table to discuss issues of key significance we anticipate in the coming session, it is clear that taxes are at the forefront.

It could be property taxes; expansion of the sales tax; a tax on restaurants and lodging to fund the Vikings Stadium; protection of local option lodging tax or a liquor tax. If not a tax, then an increase in fees is anticipated. It is the consensus of the trade associations’ chief staff officers that business will face an onslaught of revenue raisers that could amount to job killers.

Equally as sobering, many industries anticipate additional regulatory burdens, at precisely the time when regulatory oversight needs to be reasonable to allow for growth and job creation. “It amazes me how legislators can talk about job growth and its importance one instant and then immediately talk about taxes, fees and regulations that kill jobs,” said one Association executive.

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

What is Our Kitchen Cabinet?

Posted in General Advocacy, Restaurant Issues by hospitalityminnesota on September 3, 2009

The Minnesota Restaurant Association is embarking on the creation of a grasstops Kitchen Cabinet. The Cabinet will consist of 67 leading restaurateurs – one in each of the 67 Minnesota senate districts. Those 67 restaurant leaders will then find colleagues in their respective House A and B sides.

With this in place, the Minnesota Restaurant Association will have a powerful tool to positively influence state legislative activity, to tell the story of our industry in each district and to bring feedback on vital issues back to the Jt. Legislative Committee of the Minnesota Restaurant, Lodging and Resort & Campground Associations.

To date, we have successfully recruited some 40 of our Kitchen Cabinet members, and they are passionate about their mission. Our thanks to Dowell Stute & Associates for their assistance in launching the Kitchen Cabinet.

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