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3 milestone developments restaurants shouldn’t miss

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McDonald’s, Starbucks and the parent of Taco Bell began collaborating in earnest on a major industry problem. A new responsibility was dropped on New York City eateries in what’s seen as a preview for widespread adoption. And full-service restaurants dodged a bullet.

If those recent developments are unfamiliar, read on for a fuller account of what happened and why restaurateurs should care.

Chain giants plan to midwife a better cup

A push to come up with a recyclable single-use cup officially kicked off Oct. 9 with the start of the NextGen Challenge, a competition with $1 million in prize money. Anyone with an idea for making the foodservice staple more eco-friendly, without a sacrifice in performance, can submit their suggestion to the partnership, a collaboration of McDonald’s, Starbucks and Yum Brands, the parent of Taco Bell, KFC and Pizza Hut. 

With $1 million in prize money, the rules of the competition are firm. The suggested replacement cup must be made of fibers, which in turn must be coverable. The finished product has to be able to accommodate both hot and cold beverages. 

NextGen will provide practical support, including supplies and a “toolkit” of how-to information on prototyping, designing a product and conducting research. Mentors will also be provided. 

The prize money will be split among contestants who float a viable idea. Apparently there’s no expiration date on the contest, which suggests it will continue until a workable replacement cup is found. 

New York City requires anti-harassment training

As of Oct. 9, restaurants and other businesses in New York City are required to provide every employee with training aimed at halting sexual harassment, with an update provided every year. Current staff members need to be provided with the instruction between now and Oct. 9, 2019. New hires must undergo the training within 90 days of their start date. 

The requirement was enacted by the City Council in a fit of anti-harassment lawmaking in April, after such high-profile figures as restaurateur Mario Batali and movie mogul Harvey Weinstein were accused of attacking and pressuring women for sex. The legislation also obliges restaurants to inform their staffs of their legal protections from sexual harassment and the company’s processes for reporting and addressing suspected improprieties. The scope of new and existing legislation was also expanded to virtually every employer, without the exemption that formerly stood for companies with four or fewer staff members.

The mandates are expected to be duplicated in other areas in response to the #MeToo movement. All of California already requires such anti-sexual harassment training.

Business meal deduction is reaffirmed

Dining places with a large expense-account clientele were spared possible erosion of that business when the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) came to their rescue on Oct. 3.  

The feared agency allayed concerns that companies are no longer permitted to write off the charges for meals where a salesperson or other employee is courting a client. For roughly 20 years, a business could write off 50% of the charge, a break that worked strongly in restaurants’ favor. But the tax reform legislation passed last year killed the write-offs for most forms of customer entertainment, from golf to watching a big game from a company’s skybox. 

The law was less clear on whether business meals were also no longer deductible. 

The IRS cleared up the matter by issuing a clarification last week: A 50% write-off can still be taken on expense-account meals with a client, provided “the food or beverages are not considered lavish or extravagant,” the agency wrote. 

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