Hey, we hear you: The last thing anyone needs this week is more political coverage. But even with nonstop reporting from the presidential cage match, developments with a two-aspirin head-spin rating were little noticed by restaurateurs, the group most likely to need the neck pain relief. Who knew the industry had come within a Trump hair of having one of its own on the ballot? Or that one of the industry’s biggest fears will likely be a non-issue after the election, regardless of who wins?
Here are the revelations with the greatest interest to the restaurant business, along with some developments that could have an effect on the industry long after a new president is chosen on Nov. 8.
1. The restaurateur eyed as Clinton's running mate
The Hillary Clinton campaign might’ve saved a bundle on coffee if the Democratic candidate had opted for one of the other names on her list of possible running mates. Among the business leaders she considered for the vice president’s slot was Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks and enough of a political enthusiast to merit talk about someday running at the top of the Democratic ticket.
According to an email that was hacked from Clinton’s campaign and published this week by Wikileaks, the former secretary of state considered more than three dozen people before deciding on Tim Kaine, the U.S. senator and former governor of Virginia. Many of the also-rans hailed from business rather than politics, an indication that Donald Trump’s background is feared to be an advantage at the polls.
In addition to Schultz, who has publicly endorsed Clinton, the list included Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple; Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft; and Muhtar Kent, the CEO of Coca-Cola.
2. Waffling on a $15 wage?
Among the emails released by Wikileaks are several that indicate Clinton and her handlers are far from convinced a hike in the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour would be a good thing for working people. The communications include warnings from outside experts that an increase of such magnitude would kill jobs, as the restaurant industry has repeatedly argued in lobbying against the so-called living wage.
Aides noted that Clinton would prefer an increase to $12, as she attested until she won her party’s nomination for the presidency. She has since said that she would sign a $15 wage into law if Congress managed to pass the legislation.
Some aides are so upset with the position that they referred to pro-hike members of the team as the “red army” in the leaked emails.
3. Whom the industry is backing
An analysis this week by Eater.com revealed a definite polarity in the restaurant industry’s campaign contributions this election cycle. The website discovered that restaurant corporations are giving far more dollars to Donald Trump’s campaign, while their workers are contributing larger sums to Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid.
The report shows that most of the Democratic backers are unit-level employees, but it notes that at least one high-level executive is within the camp. Eater.com discovered that Liz Smith, the CEO of Outback Steakhouse parent Bloomin’ Brands, had contributed $5,400 to Clinton’s campaign.
In contrast, Bloomin’ and its entire workforce contributed $360,000 to Republicans.
The only brands that contributed more to Clinton than Trump were Chipotle, Starbucks, Dunkin’ Brands and Panera Bread Co., Eater.com found. It cited those chains after combining the contributions of their political action committees, CEOs and employees.
4. A lucrative new restaurant job: Food taster
Not all of the week’s restaurant-related political bombshells trace back to the presidential election. In the suburbs of New York City, heads have been spun by allegations that a county official was getting a nice bump in his household income through the unusual job his wife landed at a local restaurant.
Linda Mangano, the wife of Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, was reportedly earning $150,000 per year as a food taster for a well-known establishment called Water’s Edge. The revelation might have fostered more envy than outrage if federal authorities hadn’t contended that Mangano never even showed up for the job.
The Manganos were arrested Thursday by the FBI for accepting the alleged no-show job and other high-ticket perks from Water’s Edge owner Harendra Singh. They noted that Singh had landed contracts from Mangano to provide Nassau County jails with baked goods and to feed first responders after a hurricane struck.
Singh has yet to indicate whether he intends to fill the vacant food taster post.
5. Political fallout of a different sort
The presidential candidates have both claimed their administration would be the one most likely to foster economic growth, help small businesses and create jobs.
Both will have a hard time convincing BJ’s Restaurants, which announced this week that it will slow expansion next year because of concerns about the macroeconomic environment.
Among the factors cited by CEO Greg Trojan as negatives: the public’s distraction by what’s happening in politics. “Hopefully post-election, people will get into a more normal rhythm and mindset,” said Trojan. “We look forward to that happening.”