The restaurant industry faced a critical challenge when President John F. Kennedy posed a hike in the federal minimum wage as a patriotic way of combating poverty and a growing disparity in incomes. With input from the National Restaurant Association, the pay floor was raised, but over a two-year stretch, and by a quarter, to $1.25 an hour. During the same period, the still-tight labor supply prompted the Association to convene the National Conference on Manpower and Education.
The industry felt the turmoil of the decade. Leaders of the National Restaurant Association joined with officials of three other trade groups to combat crime, provide employment opportunities for all and counter poverty.
But there was room for some whimsy along with the hard-nosed approach to problems. In 1969, the National Restaurant Association’s “Golden Opportunities” float in the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, Calif., won the prize for best theming.
From 1962 to ’64, new restaurant chains seemed to sprout up daily. Bob Evans, Benihana, Cork ‘N Cleaver and Arby’s all appeared during this stretch.
The Show moves
For the first time, the industry’s convention was held in a new Chicago facility called McCormick Place. The attendance topped the previous most attended conference by 42%.
Attendance hit 60,000 people by the middle of the decade, a reflection of the industry’s head-turning expansion. A second show offered in San Francisco for operators in the Western United States drew 31,000.
In 1967, the crowd had to temporarily switch to a new venue after McCormick Place burned to the ground.