There is no industry or government office immune to change this political season, and successful restaurant operators have a deeper understanding of operating with a nimble, flexible mind-set where they know that change is always on the horizon.
As Delaware and the rest of the country readies itself for an exciting political season, our industry continues to operate amongst uneven sales growth, trending customer preferences, regulatory and legislative changes, fluctuations in commodity pricing and a looming shortage of properly trained staff.
This is just a “short-list” of challenges our industry faces.
Although the Delaware Restaurant Association (DRA) was successful at stopping an aggressive, union-led effort to increase Delaware’s minimum wage to $15 an hour, our industry woke up to an executive order “passed” with the swipe of President Obama’s pen to double the federal overtime rate for salaried employees from $23,660 to $47,476!
The DRA aggressively responded and customized an industry workshop sponsored by the law firm Saul Ewing to begin educating members throughout the state on these new regulations. These workshops will continue throughout the state and into the fall and before the December implementation deadline.
No doubt these types of regulations affect how our industry looks at hiring and human resources.
An increasing need by our members to navigate human resource and labor questions has led the DRA to announce the development of the Delaware Restaurant Human Resource Center, set to unveil this fall. It will offer tools and guidance on labor questions for our members, many of which don’t have the resources to navigate complex and constantly-changing regulations. The DRA has also added to its administrative staff in order to improve our ability to research and report on key industry trends and share experiences across the sector.
Labor shortages—especially in the back of the house – are becoming more prevalent across the industry and Delaware.
A new service offered through the DRA website will house job postings and listings. Also, the Association recently hired a new and dedicated Director of Education tasked with identifying and opening up new communities for skilled workers for our members. We take education very seriously by leading the state in Servsafe training and are developing new services to help those already in our restaurants build their skills.
Our first priority, however, is to build and develop our high school ProStart program in 19 schools overflowing with 3,000 students. Restaurants want these students who are committing to careers in our hospitality businesses. Communicating with these students is our first priority, and many of these students have already found homes working in Delaware restaurants.
We are committed to enlisting restaurants across the state to mentor, hire or work with a ProStart student or school – a great win-win for those individuals and our local businesses.
This summer has been packed with local, jurisdictional issues affecting some of our members in local communities. Rehoboth restaurants were involved with an effort by local officials to shorten the time of sale for alcohol in certain restaurants and brewpubs.
Newark police just implemented a “point system” for alcohol related problems in bars and restaurants and some members raised concerns over the new beer garden in Wilmington. The DRA was involved in communicating these local concerns with area members and although our focus is to lobby and advocate on behalf of the restaurant industry on state issues, it is critical that we also support our members at the community level. We give special attention to how these local issues can affect state-wide policy or how they could be “copied” in other communities around the state.
Responding to change, emerging trends, policies and regulations is the work our staff dedicates itself too each day, and we’re proud to communicate with our members the services, policies and tools needed to stay current, relevant and successful.