Restaurant aid failure exposes a growing lobbying rift

The National Restaurant Association and the Independent Restaurant Coalition both pushed for more aid to help the industry during the pandemic. But differing styles and disagreements between the two may have hampered the effort.


Are fast casuals going through a mid-life crisis?

They’re adding drive-thrus, taking away dining rooms, letting customers order at the table and more; blurring the lines between their segment, quick service, and even casual dining.

The first Portillo’s Pick Up location, with a triple drive-thru, is slated to open Feb. 1 in Joliet, at a time in which the newly public fast casual is looking for ways to trim its labor usage and its geographic footprint.

The coffee giant will “strongly encourage” its employees to get vaccinated by Feb. 9. Those that don’t will have to pay for their own tests.

The fast casual, which submitted its go-public plans this week, said it is having trouble getting workers to submit proof of vaccination, which could lead to layoffs, staffing shortages and potential restaurant closures.

The fast-casual chain said it plans to expand a test of deploying workers with tablets to its drive-thrus to take orders and payments as it looks to move cars through the line more quickly.

“Our brand is back and we are stronger than ever,” the eatertainment chain’s CEO said Thursday, noting the company has emerged from the pandemic hitting new high watermarks on nearly all financial metrics.

Jonathan Neman, whose fast-casual salad chain filed to go public in June, said his earlier statement that called for a tax on processed foods, among other things, was “insensitive and oversimplified.”

The fast casual had lauded the experiment as a valuable recruitment and retention tool, but blamed COVID for the need to put the program on hold.

In a now-deleted LinkedIn post, Jonathan Neman, whose salad chain filed to go public in June, linked the pandemic to obesity and called for a ban on “food that is making us sick.”

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