The trump impact—where are we now?

A year after the public put a businessman in the White House for the first time,restaurateurs are still judging the effects. They’ve heard ample reassurances from Donald Trump that government would be less of a piano on their backs, but many of the industry’s key issues have yet to be sorted.

On the positive side: The Trump administration all but guaranteed that restaurants would not be walloped by a sharp increase in overtime pay for managers and assistant managers. When a judge overturned an Obama administration directive that dramatically broadened who qualifies for time-and-a-half pay, Trump’s Department of Labor decided not to appeal, in effect letting the measure fizzle.

The White House was more assertive in delaying enforcement of complicated calorie disclosure rules for chain restaurants, pushing back the start date by a full year. 

But those and other blessings have been mixed. The DOL is still expected to issue new rules for overtime pay, which will certainly increase restaurants’ labor costs. And most chains did not welcome the timeout on menu labeling, preferring to meet one set of federal rules rather than a patchwork of local requirements.

The unqualified victory has been Trump’s defense of franchising. Restaurant chains said they would 

hit the brakes on development because of a DOL policy change under Obama that held franchisors liable for franchisees’ employment practices—in effect, making the two parties “joint employers.” Trump’s DOL has rescinded that definition of the term. 

Yet many of the regulatory issues of key importance to restaurants remain unresolved. Here are the main ones:

Immigration reform

Trump is pushing for new immigration rules that would be more restrictive than the industry would like, given its struggles to find employees. The administration wants to limit the number of passes that are granted to job seekers, and wants to return the children of illegal immigrants to their parents’ homelands. The National Restaurant Association would prefer the overhaul be guided more by economics and less by emotion. It would like development of an alternate system described by the group as matching “willing workers with willing employers.” 

Healthcare reform

Trump has blasted Congress for failing to hammer through something he could sign into law as a replacement for Obamacare. But he did hand the industry a major win with an executive order that permits associations such as the NRA to offer members healthcare coverage. By pooling restaurants’ insurance purposes, the group could negotiate better rates, according to proponents. 

Tax reform

With multiple reform plans in circulation, the chances of tax laws being rewritten by Christmas—Trump’s informal deadline—appear slim. All of the schemes seek to decrease the number of tax brackets and generally reduce rates, including the levies for corporations and small companies like restaurants. The industry seems open to any plan, provided it delivers real relief. 

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