Businesses in areas designated by the federal Small Business Administration can apply for Economic Injury Disaster Loans
Gov. Tony Evers and U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin announced earlier this week that many Wisconsin businesses may be eligible for a federal disaster loan program if they have suffered losses due to this year’s unusually mild winter, which lacked Wisconsin’s typical snowfall in many areas of the state.
The US Small Business Administration (SBA) has confirmed that they will consider business loss from recent low snowfalls over the winter months to be related to the drought and eligible for assistance. The lack of snow has impacted travel and recreation businesses that depend on it for activities such as downhill and cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling.
Many counties in the state are already covered by a pre-existing disaster designation for drought from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This designation allows businesses in counties identified as drought disaster areas to be eligible for emergency loans to offset their business losses in those counties if their business loss is related to the drought.
Impacted businesses in counties with a drought declaration can apply for the U.S. SBA Economic Impact Disaster Loans (EIDL). The loans are designed to help businesses get through emergency situations that have impacted their economic well-being. Under the EIDL program, businesses can borrow up to $2 million to cover their actual losses. Businesses pay no interest on the loan for the first year and a maximum rate of four percent for the rest of the loan period. In order to take advantage of the program, businesses must apply by the application deadline for their county. The list of county deadlines and more information is available by clicking here.
WRA has worked for many years to secure and protect a consistent K-12 school start date in Wisconsin to "Save our Summers" so restaurants can take advantage of late summer tourist spending and to keep valuable teen workers available later into August, when visitor traffic is the highest.
School districts currently have to commence classes on September 1 or later, unless they have an "extraordinary circumstance" such as building construction or weather-related building damage. Schools that are consistently not meeting state education standards may also begin early, so they can add additional instruction time - there are only a few schools in the state where this applies. State law and administrative rule are specifically restricted in order to ensure a uniform school start statewide.
In February, 2024, the WRA submitted testimony opposing the Department of Public Instruction's proposed changes to state administrative rule to increase the number of exceptions that allow school districts to begin earlier in August. Some of these reasons include adding additional breaks to the school year or mitigating summer learning loss. Click here to read the WRA's testimony.
The WRA is opposing the Department's proposed changes to the rules. School districts already have the tools necessary to schedule more breaks in the school calendar or to extend the school year into June to mitigate summer learning loss. Because June weather is not as desirable for vacationing in Wisconsin, keeping kids in school in June is not as harmful to the tourism economy as starting in mid-August. Plus, most schools in Wisconsin do not have air conditioning - June is consistently cooler weather-wise compared to August.
Questions? Contact Susan Quam
The payment card settlement sets aside at least $5.54B for millions of US merchants who for years paid artificially inflated interchange fees.
If your restaurant accepted Visa and Mastercard between Jan. 1, 2004 to Jan. 25, 2019, then you could be entitled to a share of the settlement.
To learn more about the settlement and how to claim your share, watch the National Restaurant Association's webinar.
Restaurant optimism fueled by continued employment growth, technology advancements and expanded consumer use of restaurant apps, off-premises and loyalty programs
Restaurants sales are forecast to exceed $1.1 trillion in sales this year, marking a new milestone for the industry that will employ over 15.7 million people in the United States by the end of 2024. This is all according to the National Restaurant Association 2024 State of the Restaurant Industry Report.
Key findings from this year’s report include:
Operators and Consumers Alike See Value in Technology and Special Deals and Promotions
Consumers’ affinity for technology in restaurants varies and as a result, operators are strategically deciding how to incorporate technology into the experience. For fullservice restaurants, nearly half (46 percent) of adults think technology has a positive impact, and this number weighs heavily towards younger consumers (64 percent of Gen Z and 66 percent of Millennials). Similarly, this group is more likely to want more technology options according to the research.
These preferences can help operators make informed decisions on where and how to invest. In 2023, just under half (48 percent) of operators made technology investments to enhance the customer experience but 60 percent plan to make an investment in 2024. The areas where consumers say technology would have the most positive impact on their personal experience include options that make ordering and paying easier and faster.
If consumers are somewhat split on technology, they can agree on the value of a special deal or discount, with 7 in 10 adults saying they often look for a daily special or discount. Customers (85 percent) are more flexible about when they dine if it comes with a deal and 84 percent said they’d take advantage of deals offered for dining at off-peak times. Further, 75 percent of adults would opt for smaller-sized portions for a lower price—a trend that can help restaurants curb food waste and improve profits.
To further fuel customer retention, the data suggests focusing on loyalty and rewards programs. Customers prefer to see this type of program on a smartphone app, further enforcing the need for technological innovation and creating additional touchpoints between customers and restaurants.
Restaurant Employment to Reach 15.7 Million in 2024
The restaurant and foodservice industry is projected to add 200,000 jobs in 2024, bringing total industry employment to 15.7 million. Between 2024 and 2032, the industry is projected to add 150,000 jobs per year on average, with total staffing levels reaching 16.9 million by 2032.
Despite this expansion, 45 percent of operators say their restaurant doesn’t have enough employees to support existing customer demand. Operators looking for the necessary support are turning to the gig economy and technology. One in four operators say using gig workers to fill in staffing will become more common in their segment in 2024 and nearly half (47 percent) of operators say the use of technology and automation to help with the current labor shortage will become more common.
Food Cost and Availability Influence Menus the Most
If consumers notice menu changes on a more frequent basis, it’s often the result of increased food costs. In the past year, operators report needing to find new suppliers, removing items from their menus, adjusting portion sizes or substituting lower cost items all in response to elevated food prices. The availability of food items impacted menu composition as well, with more than three quarters (77 percent) of operators saying their restaurant experienced supply delays or shortages of key food or beverage items in 2023. These changes will present a challenge for operators, especially with most adults (86 percent) saying they like ample choices on menus.
Further directing menu choices are social media trends. As the National Restaurant Association’s 2024 What’s Hot Culinary Forecast shows, savvy operators are turning to TikTok and other social media platforms to be inspired and to fire up viral trends. Operators will need to be strategic in how they balance thoughtfully streamlined, food-cost-effective menus and enough variety to satisfy demand and lead the latest trends.
For those offering it, off-premises remains a key area of opportunity, and customers agree, with a vast majority (88 percent) reporting being satisfied with the variety of local food options for takeout and delivery. Customers are viewing take-out in new ways, with two thirds (67 percent) of adults saying they’d be interested in subscriptions that offer a specified number of meals each month and half (53 percent) saying they’re open to supplementing home-cooked meals with restaurant-prepared items.
“This is an historic and exciting year for the restaurant industry,” added Hudson Riehle, Senior Vice President of the Research and Knowledge Group for the National Restaurant Association. “While challenges remain—including inflation, recruitment, higher operating costs and profitability—restaurant operators will continue to innovate and evolve to meet customer demands.”
The 2024 State of the Restaurant Industry report is free to Wisconsin Restaurant Association restaurateur members ($349 for non-members). WRA members wishing to access the report, need to log into the National Restaurant Association Store before downloading the report. There’s a login link in the bar at the top. If you experience difficulties accessing the report for free, email Membership@Restaurant.org to request to be linked to your company's membership record.
In case you haven’t heard, there have been some big legislative wins for restaurants that you need to know about.
Your WRA advocacy team lobbied for these 4 new laws that positively impact restaurants.
We have all the details on the new laws including the dates they go into effect and what it means for restaurants.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has extended the comment deadline regarding their sweeping proposal that would ban service fees and surcharges at restaurants of all sizes. Restaurant operators will have until February 7, 2024 to provide input.
As the FTC’s proposed rule is written it would prevent operators from including common, accepted surcharges on a customer’s bill. It would even ban delivery, large party, and credit card processing surcharges. Instead, the proposed rule would force operators to overhaul menu prices so that the listed price is the total price a customer must pay. Higher menu prices will reduce customer traffic, reducing income for restaurant employees and operators.
The FTC admits its plan will cost restaurant operators $3.5 billion to implement.
The National Restaurant Association will lead the industry effort in Washington to change this rule, but the FTC needs to hear your voice and your perspective.
Please take two minutes to help us fight this unaffordable regulatory overreach by sharing your views here.
To learn more, see the National Restaurant Association's new fact sheet on the FTC proposal and view the recording of their webinar on how the proposal would negatively effect restaurants.
Governor Signs Two of WRA's High Priority Bills
The WRA's Third Party Delivery Consent bill (Act 75), and the Omnibus Alcohol Bill (Act 73) were signed by Governor Evers on Wednesday, December 6. Both of these bills have been a high priority for WRA in 2023.
Third Party Delivery Consent
Wisconsin is the 14th state to enact measures relating to how Third Party Delivery Companies interact with restaurants. At the request of the WRA, Senator Pat Testin and Representative Alex Dallman introduced this new law to curb third party delivery company business practices that emerged during the pandemic that are harmful and costly to restaurants.
This law ensures:
This law goes into effect on July 1, 2024. WRA will work with the Consumer Protection Division at DATCP as it enacts the law and creates resources on its website.
Alcohol Laws Reform
Act 73 (the Omnibus Alcohol Bill) brings many needed updates to Wisconsin's alcohol statutes. It clarifies what is now considered policy interpretations, makes some common industry practices legal and provides a more prominent place for alcohol law interpretation and enforcement at the state agency level.
Here are the main provisions of the bill that triggered WRA support:
This year’s What’s Hot Culinary Forecast draws on the expertise of more than 1,500 culinary professionals who were asked to rank 120 items in 7 categories:
The What’s Hot Culinary Forecast presents the top 10 Hot Trends overall, the top trends in each category, trends the pros see as emerging in each category and macro trends shaping menus, operations and marketing.
Is your menu trending? Download your free copy of the report today!
It is the time of year we all count on to promote our businesses, particularly our spirits, wine, and beer sales. As people start feeling more festive, they want to consume, and we want to be the first to offer them a drink. As we prepare for the Holiday rush this year, let’s not forget that we want to keep are guests safe and prevent over-service. When you serve alcohol, you know the risks. Risk lawsuits if you over-serve. Risk lives if you serve a drunk driver. Risk your livelihood if you sell to a minor.
That’s why there's ServSafe Alcohol training which focuses on important issues like gauging intoxication levels, measuring drinks, checking proper identification, dealing with difficult situations and more.
With ServSafe Alcohol training, your team can let the good times roll while practicing responsible alcohol service.
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has released its final joint employer rule, broadening the conditions under which two businesses might be considered jointly liable for legal issues or organizing campaigns. This rule does not only impact the franchise restaurant model but will also impact all restaurants that contract for services like cleaning or lawn care. The National Restaurant Association and the Wisconsin Restaurant Association strongly oppose the NLRB’s final rule.
NOTE: In late November, the effective date was changed from December 26, 2023 to February 26, 2024. Click here for more info on the date change.
Previously, joint employer status was largely contingent on an entity's “direct and immediate control” over the key terms of another organization's employees. The 2020 Final Rule provided clear boundaries, granting certainty to industry participants.
The NLRB's latest update expands the joint employer standard. Now, entities can be jointly classified by "sharing or co-determining" essential aspects of employment terms. This change encompasses both indirect influences and reserved controls. Entities identified as joint employers are obligated to participate in collective bargaining with the union representing their shared employees. Furthermore, they're potentially liable for each other's unfair labor practices and become vulnerable to union pressures in the event of labor disputes.
Expanding the Scope
The implications of the rule aren't confined to explicit, direct relationships. Circumstances where an entity impacts another’s employees through intermediaries or merely possesses (but does not exercise) control over employment conditions can now indicate a joint employer dynamic.
The franchise business model is squarely in the crosshairs. While the 2020 Final Rule, under the "direct and immediate" standard, provided a conducive environment for the industry to flourish, the current iteration neglects the industry's concerns. In the National Restaurant Association and Restaurant Law Center’s (RLC) comments to the proposed rule, they emphasized that, at the very least, the rule should clarify that it does not encompass franchise agreements or other clauses tied to legitimate business reasons, such as brand maintenance and product quality. Regrettably, our suggestions weren't heeded.
This is not just a minor regulatory adjustment; it's a foundational change. The rule's lack of clarity could spur extensive legal challenges and increased liability risks. Amid these unprecedented challenges, the National Restaurant Association and RLC are exploring all avenues, including potential legislative and legal actions, to restore a practical standard.
Littler-Mendelsohn Assessment of Final Rule
National Restaurant Association Statement on the 2023 Joint Employer Final Rule
NLRB Final Rule: Standard for Determining Joint Employer Status
NLRB FACT SHEET Joint-Employer Standard Final Rule