A restaurateur’s guide to President Trump’s agenda

donald trump headshot

The breadth of initiatives promised last night by President Trump ranged from establishing a new government agency for victims of immigrant attacks to helping Harley-Davidson sell motorcycles abroad. Included were a number of proposals that could affect restaurants directly, though the intention may be much different.

Here’s a look at the components of the White House’s agenda, as aired during Trump’s speech to Congress, that could have a particularly powerful effect on the industry.

Paid parental leave

As with most of the initiatives aired by Trump, details were sketchy. The president did not say how much paid leave would be granted to parents, who would qualify or even what entity would pick up the bill. Recently, states have tried to soften the blow to restaurateurs and other employers by levying a small tax on payrolls and channeling the revenues into a payroll pool for employees who need time to deal with a newborn or new adoptee.

Before his inauguration, Trump indicated he’d support six weeks of leave and limit the benefit to women, a controversial approach. A very narrow provision would make an adoption of the benefit more palatable to opponents within the president’s party. However, he referred specifically last night to “new parents” rather than new mothers.

A move on the federal level could be redundant to laws recently enacted by a number of states.


The president uttered plenty on immigration reform yesterday, but didn’t tie his comments together into a discernable plan.

Before his speech, he reportedly told a group of TV news anchors he had changed his thinking on immigration reform and would now be open to setting a course for foreign nationals in the country illegally to become legal residents.

Yet there was no mention of that shift during the speech. The only indication of a change in policy was Trump’s reference to a possible “merit-based system” for awarding citizenship. He did not air details, but noted that other countries use such a program, awarding legal status when immigrants meet such requirements as being economically self-sufficient.

On an ominous note for restaurants, Trump said such a plan would discourage the immigration of low-skilled workers, a key component of the industry’s foreign-born workforce.

He later returned to the topic to announce the formation of a relief agency specifically for the victims of crimes committed by immigrants, called VOICE, or Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement.

Import duties

A sizable portion of Trump’s presentation dealt with protecting American businesses from unfair foreign competition. His comments strongly suggested that the White House will seek tariffs and similar charges on imports as a way of giving U.S. suppliers an edge on price—good news for manufacturing, but potentially not so good for businesses that depend on imported foods, as many restaurants do.


The United States is teaming up with Canada “to help ensure that women entrepreneurs have access to the networks, markets and capital they need to start a business,” Trump said. He did not tie those opportunities specifically to the restaurant industry, but women form one of the fastest-growing categories of restaurant ownership.


The president was guarded about the particulars of his initiatives, but he provided several details about what he and his party are eying as a potential replacement for universal healthcare under the Affordable Care Act. His comments suggested that insurance mandates for citizens and employers will be replaced by incentives for Americans to buy their own insurance. Among the ways he specifically proposed for bringing down the cost of coverage was allowing buyers to cross state lines in finding a carrier.

Regulatory reform

The president reviewed his already-adopted policies of setting up a “deregulation task force” within every government agency to review all rules and regulations and recommend ways of easing the burden on businesses. That effort has won enthusiastic endorsements from both the National Restaurant Association and the International Franchise Association.

He also cited the policy promised during the election of sunsetting two regulatory requirements for any new one adopted.

Trump singled out the Food and Drug Administration, one of the federal agencies that regulates food safety. He called for removing some of the restrictions that hamper the FDA, but in the context of fostering faster development of a broader range of drugs.

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