Before the kick-off to this year's NRA Show, we caught up with Joe Kadow, 2016 chairman of board of directors of the National Restaurant Association, for his take on how the current election cycle and other industry issues will affect restaurants in the future.
Q: We’re in the midst of a pretty wild election cycle. Do you have any predictions for November and how a new administration and Congress may affect restaurants?
Right now it looks as though Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will be the nominees. One interesting question is how far left Bernie Sanders will be able to push Hillary and the Democratic platform. The only certainty is that government will continue to have a major impact on our industry.
We must continue our focus on congressional races and the make-up of the next Congress. We need representatives in Congress who understand business and will consider how new legislation may impact us and, in turn, the national economy. We need a White House that understands that the onslaught of federal regulations we’ve seen recently is imposing substantial costs on businesses. We also need to focus on state and local races: Some of the biggest threats to job creation are coming from our statehouses and city councils.
The people we elect at every level of government need to understand that when our businesses are strong, we hire more people, create a stronger supply and distribution network and feed more revenue back into the local and national economies.
Q: You’re very concerned with the industry’s role in the national economy. What do you see as the main challenge?
The dominant theme in this country is the fragility of the middle class. There is a great fear that the pathways to the middle class for many people are being eliminated or are shrinking—particularly for people who don’t have the advantage of the right kind of college degree.
We are one of the few industries that continue to provide a path to the middle class for people who don't have the advantage of advanced degrees. Over the next decade, I think that's going to be the real issue for our industry: trying to get government to rethink its policies rather than continuing to impose costs on industries like ours.
We need to get to the point where people in government—whether Republican or Democrat—who share a desire to help the working poor move into the middle class understand that government needs to support those industries that are able to move the most disadvantaged into the middle class.
Q: How do you see the labor force evolving?
Recruitment and retention of employees is a top challenge for restaurant operators, as a tighter national labor market means greater competition from other industries. Workforce demographics are also shifting. We’re projecting a greater proportion of older workers and a shrinking pool of younger workers in the years ahead.
The percentage of 16- to 19-year-olds in this country who have any kind of job is down from 55 percent in 1985 to under 35 percent in 2015. There are 5 million young people in this country aged 16 to 24 who are disconnected—not working and not in school.
We need to promote ourselves as the industry of opportunity. Ultimately, we train America’s workforce. We offer economic mobility. We provide jobs and careers to anyone willing to work hard.
This post is sponsored by The National Restaurant Association®