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Op-Eds and Letters to the Editor on behalf of the Industry

Missouri Restaurant Association regularly communicates with the media on behalf of the restaurant industry.  Such was the case around the holidays this year.  To keep you better informed, MRA is including two recent submissions for your consideration.


Restaurants Serve Up Success for Missourians of All Experiences

By Robert Bonney, CEO
Missouri Restaurant Association

The holiday season is a special time to be a part of the restaurant industry. I love seeing families and friends gather together at their local restaurant to catch up or take a break from Christmas shopping. More than that, I love seeing new restaurant employees grow and thrive through their first busy holiday season, becoming members of our restaurant family.

It is this kind of training that make restaurants the place where one-in-three Americans come to get their first job. That includes me. I worked in restaurants during high school and college and learned much from the experience that continued to help me long after graduation. So when I say that restaurants open doors to opportunity for Missourians and Americans of all experiences, I know it firsthand.

I would like to share some information about restaurants.  130 million Americans will dine in a restaurant today.  The industry is the second largest private sector employer in the nation and our state.  In 2015, the industry created an average of 1,000 jobs a day, each and every day.  Historical data informs us that from this group that begins in an entry-level, hourly position will come 90% of tomorrow’s restaurant managers, and 80% of future owners.  That is an extraordinary measure of upward mobility.

In Missouri, restaurants employ 12% of the state’s workforce.  We are an industry where a person can begin with no experience, and no formal education, and reach the middle class –   and beyond.  When you visit a restaurant, note what you see there.  Our people and our foods are a direct reflection of the melting pot that makes this nation so great.  We are a diverse and inclusive industry – perhaps more so than any other.

Over the last five years, when the overall number of restaurants in the nation increased by 12%, the number of minority-owned restaurants grew at a rate over four times greater.  In my nearly 20 years with Missouri Restaurant Association, I have met some terrific people who found a ladder to success while working in a restaurant.

Recently, there have been some headlines questioning the experience of restaurant workers and renewing the conversation about the minimum wage. Just as we always have, Missouri Restaurant Association welcomes discussions on the minimum wage and is working to be a part of a long-term solution. But the dialogue must include all the facts – not just cherry-picked claims.

First, it is important to understand that only two percent of restaurant employees across the country earn the federal minimum wage. Those who do earn minimum wage are predominantly working part-time jobs, and nearly half of those workers are teenagers who are gaining valuable skills that will serve them well throughout their career.

Our goal in restaurants is to serve everyone who walks through the door – patrons and team members alike. We are an industry that prides itself on welcoming everyone, valuing anyone who is willing to work hard and learn on the job, regardless of their background. You don’t have to have an expensive four-year degree and a mountain of student debt to succeed in restaurants. And I am proud to say that our supportive family atmosphere keeps folks excited about staying in the industry. Research from the National Restaurant Association’s “Who Works in the U.S. Restaurant Industry” report shows that 75 percent of restaurant employees believe they have the opportunity for career advancement in the industry.

Here in Missouri, restaurants employ over 295,600 state residents. I know that every one of our nearly 11,000 restaurants and foodservice establishments across the state wants to be able to keep providing Missourians with this kind of opportunity for advancement. Most of these restaurants are not national chains, but small, independently-owned businesses that will struggle under the financial and regulatory burden of a dramatic minimum wage increase. We know this because wage increases across the country are forcing restaurateurs to make significant changes, including higher menu prices, decreased employee hours and worse — job cuts.

I know times are tough for some Missourians, and there is no doubt that we need to address income inequality in our state. But drastic increases to the minimum wage is not a silver bullet. The Missouri Restaurant Association remains committed to working with community leaders, elected officials, and others to advance long-term solutions to the challenges facing our state.

This holiday season, I am taking some extra time to give thanks for our Missouri restaurant family. We’re grateful to serve up great food for our communities while we serve up opportunity for thousands of Missourians.


Seasonal hiring provides boost to employers and workers alike

By Vic Allred
Jazz, A Louisiana Kitchen
KC Star: Special to The Star 

Although this year’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday saw record-breaking sales, they are only the beginning of the holiday consumer blitz. In the coming weeks, malls will be filled, restaurants will be buzzing and shipping carriers will take on their heaviest burden of the year.

According to the National Retail Federation, retailers are expected to hire between 640,000 and 690,000 seasonal workers over this holiday season. Eighty-four percent of restaurants polled in a 2015 survey reported that they hire additional staff to handle the crowds associated with holiday shoppers.

The benefits of the service sector’s holiday hiring season on the economy are evident. But more than numbers, the season offers people from all walks of life with opportunities to work and strengthen skills, such as customer service, team building and organization. The holidays are also a valuable chance for senior employees to gain management skills as they onboard and train new hires.

Restaurants and retailers are a place for people to start their careers. That’s true any time of the year, but the holiday season in particular provides a chance for a greater number of young people to get ahead on developing skills and building out their resumes after school or while on school break. Employers see value in onboarding individuals during the holidays in order to ensure a new generation has the training, basic skills and experience to help out when they’re ready to start working year-round. Oftentimes, due to high traffic levels, holiday hires will gain extra experience handling various job functions within the business.

After getting a taste of working part-time at Toys R Us during the holidays while studying to become a radiologist, Liz Stump told the Palm Beach Post that she decided the health care path wasn’t for her anymore, and instead that the retail path was a better fit for her. “I love working in retail. I love working with customers. I love interacting with people,” she said. Stump was later offered a full-time job. She started in customer service, transitioned into logistics and eventually made her way into human resources. Now she runs the front of the store, dealing in customer service and managing cashiers.

This influx of hiring also provides a place for more people to learn skills that can lead to long-term jobs and advancement within the service sector. Chris Pyrah is a human resources leader at Scheels and says one of the keys to seasonal hiring success is to find associates who want to stay on long-term and grow with the company.

Young people aren’t the only ones who benefit from the seasonal hiring. The flexibility to work part-time is attractive to older Americans, whose years of work experience can provide an at-ease shopping experience for customers, as they look to keep busy during retirement without committing to a full-time gig. Take it from retired Fire Chief Charlie Maurais, a 78-year-old who told the Naples Daily News that he looks forward to working a seasonal part-time job at a hardware store that he’s held for seven years. “I don’t have too many hobbies, so this keeps me busy. I just like seeing people and helping them out. It’s a joy to go to work,” he said.

The holiday season is a special time for many, as we come together with families and friends across the country to celebrate with meals and gifts. But for millions of Americans, the holidays are also a critical time to take on work in retail and restaurants. This provides workers of all ages with not only a chance to keep busy and earn a paycheck, but also to gain valuable skills and training toward fulfilling, successful careers.

Vic Allred is the owner of several New Orleans-themed French Quarter cafés branded as Jazz, A Louisiana Kitchen, with two restaurants in the Kansas City area. He began his career as a dishwasher and was hired as kitchen manager and eventually general manager of the first Jazz restaurant while finishing his degree.

Author: MRA
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