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The National Restaurant Association voiced its support for the Republican plan to reform the Affordable Care Act on Wednesday, calling it an “important first step” in reducing employers’ health care costs.
“Costly compliance issues, a shrinking risk pool and higher healthcare costs have made the current structure of ACA untenable for restaurants,” Cicely Simpson, executive vice president of policy and government for the association, wrote in a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan. “We support passage of the American Health Care Act as a way to move us forward in reforming the employer mandate and encourage members of Congress to support this bill through Congress.”
The Republicans’ American Health Care Act, or AHCA, would repeal the tax penalty on large employers that do not provide coverage, and would make the repeal retroactive to Jan. 1, 2016. The bill would also repeal tax credits for low-wage, small employers with 25 of fewer employees that credit up to 50 percent of the employer’s premium contribution.
Details of the changes the Republicans’ plan would make to the ACA can be found on the Kaiser Family Foundation website.
The AHCA has run into difficulties in Congress, among Democrats who strongly oppose it and from some Republicans.
But employers, eager to ease regulations increased under the Affordable Care Act, have been pushing to get the law passed. And earlier this week, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce lent its backing to the reform proposal. The National Retail Federation also supports the AHCA.
Restaurants have been a vocal opponent of the ACA, particularly the employer coverage mandate and the definition of full-time work as 30 hours per week.
The industry is one of the largest private employers, with nearly 15 million workers. Many of the jobs it provides are low-wage, low-skill and often part time. Health insurance requirements have driven up costs for operators, complicating efforts to keep prices down.
“Restaurant operators who can provide health insurance benefits to their employees often find these benefits to be critical tools in recruiting and retaining employees,” Simpson wrote. “However, since the enactment of the ACA and the law’s employer mandate, restaurants have spent hundreds of additional administrative hours managing and delivering these benefits. The added time, money and resources have not improved the quality of health insurance benefits restaurants offer their employees.”
Simpson wrote that the percentage of restaurant employees covered by health insurance increased from 59 percent in 2010 to 76 percent in 2015. But she said that much of the coverage had come from sources other than the restaurants themselves. The percentage of workers covered through an employment-based plan fell from 67 percent in 2010 to 59 percent in 2015.
In addition, health care costs have risen “much faster than restaurant sales in recent years.”
Between 2006 and 2016, employer contributions for health insurance rose 51 percent, Simpson said, quoting Kaiser Family Foundation statistics. At the same time, average sales per restaurant increased 33 percent.
“This indicates that health insurance costs are taking up a larger share of the restaurant dollar,” Simpson said.
While the association is backing the AHCA, it made clear that it wants further steps taken down the line.
“Once this initial phase is complete, we look forward to working with you on additional fixes that are needed, including repealing the 30-hour rule, streamlining the employer insurance reporting requirements and repealing the seasonal worker definition,” Simpson wrote.
Contact Jonathan Maze at email@example.com
Follow him on Twitter: @jonathanmaze
Maria Topken is director of client leadership for Sunrise Advertising in Cincinnati. She has previously served as marketing director at Long John Silver’s, and has worked with Wendy’s and Steak ’n Shake. This article does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors or management of Nation’s Restaurant News.
As a savvy franchise owner, you understand the importance of Local Store Marketing, or LSM.
There have likely been many times when you've implemented local marketing plans that were solid hits. But there probably were strikeouts, too.
In today’s world of tight margins, leaner marketing budgets and increased competition, the need to improve your LSM batting average is imperative to overall success. That’s true whether you have one unit or manage a down-trending location in a large national chain.
So, how can you improve your LSM success rate?
First, an LSM program should never interfere with your operations. The last thing you want is to negatively affect the customer’s experience. When developing ideas and objectives, be sure to get your operations team involved. They are best suited to know if the marketing program could affect speed of service or any other element of customer satisfaction. Also, involving them in the process helps ensure that they will be all in, which is important to success.
Next, establish clear goals and objectives. Are you looking to gain trial? Increase frequency? Fight off new or enhanced competition? The goal will help determine your strategy. For example:
You'll note that these suggestions are rather simple. This is important: If you can’t explain the program succinctly to your target audience, the chances of success are slim. Life is complicated: Don’t make it hard for me to be your customer.
In addition to being clear and simple, it's critical that you consider your trade area and those who live in it. Is your customer base mostly families? Create a program that caters to convenience for time-starved moms, or sponsor the Little League team. One day, these young ballplayers may be your customers, or even part of your team.
Do you have a lot of Millennial customers? They look for places to hang out, so Wi-Fi and snacks make for a win, because Millennials are clockless eaters. Three square meals a day isn’t really in their vocabulary.
Don't be discouraged if your marketing budget is small. There are creative ways around that. For example, we recommended to one of our restaurant clients that they become the “Unofficial Pizza Provider” for a local radio station. We approached a popular radio station in the market and made a deal for our client's pizza to be available for all station events in exchange for the station mentioning the restaurant location when promoting the event on air. The restaurant was able to get numerous radio mentions for free, while boosting food-in-mouth opportunities at the events.
Be sure to connect with your guests through social media, not only to keep them posted on what’s happening at your restaurant, but also to engage and reward by asking them to share what they like best about your establishment. Randomly choose a winner to dine with you so you can learn even more. Customers will respond to brands they like.
Social media can also amplify your efforts. For example, you can invite people to sign up to win tickets to a VIP event. In addition to generating awareness and traffic, this will get you email addresses that you can use at a later time. At a minimum, post pictures while the event is taking place, and consider posting live for better engagement. Provide relevant hashtags and Snapchat filters. Ask people to write reviews on Facebook, which gives you an opportunity to engage and also gain consumer insight. You might want to partner with a local radio station and ask them to promote your LSM on the station's social channels, as well as on air.
Speaking of partnering, consider teaming up with another brand in the community. But ask yourself: What do our brands have in common? Do we have the same values? The same target audience? Do we complement each other?
If the answer is “no” to any of these questions, pass, and pass quickly!
Lastly, don’t be shy about asking for support from the corporate office. They may have a tool kit with existing marketing tools that can be used or customized to meet your needs. Don’t recreate the wheel if you don't need to. Ask your corporate partner to review your program with an eye toward making suggestions on how it can be more effective.
Local Store Marketing programs start with a strategy and require focused discipline. Start small, understand what’s working and what’s not, and apply that insight to your next program.
Done correctly, LSM will not only grow sales, but can also create brand influencers who can turn LSM into a long-running success story.
Maria Topken is director of client leadership at Sunrise Advertising in Cincinnati. Before joining Sunrise in May 2015, she was SVP/partner, client leadership, at Empower MediaMarketing. She also served for four years as marketing director at Long John Silver’s, where she oversaw communications for more than 500 restaurants. Topken has additionally worked with Wendy’s and Steak ‘n Shake. Her work for Wendy's included serving as the strategic lead for more than a third of Wendy’s local markets, collaborating with more than 50 franchise groups. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.