Editorial from ORLA's President & CEO Jason Brandt
[as published in the Portland Business Journal, Oct. 4, 2019]
According to a new Gallup poll, Americans say the restaurant industry is the most respected in America. And those of us working for both restaurants and lodging establishments at Oregon’s statewide association are taking a moment to celebrate this milestone.
We hope you join us in celebrating all the reasons why restaurants are vital to the infrastructure of our local economies in Oregon while also learning more about the industry’s expansive business models. For our counterparts operating full-service models with waiters and waitresses in Oregon, the path to sustainability is proving harder to figure out. Nationally, an average of 95 cents of every dollar customers spend goes back into the food, the people, and the place. Operators across our state are working hard to figure out how to maintain that level of reinvestment into the future as the realities of increased regulation take their toll.
As the leader of the Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association (ORLA), you won’t hear me crying wolf. Will there be massive closures of restaurants? No, but will there be an increase in ownership transitions and restaurants on the market for purchase? Yes. Will there be a hoard of server job losses as restaurants look at different business models? Probably not but we are seeing more counter service restaurants that do eliminate the existence of server positions and we expect those trends to continue. Are we seeing growing anxiety amongst our mom and pop restaurant establishments across this state as they attempt to absorb labor increases, additional human resource requirements for mandatory savings accounts for employees, paid sick leave, paid family leave, and the new corporate activity tax? Without question.
If we all take a step back collectively there is so much to celebrate relating to the role of restaurants in our society. Where else can an employee start as a dishwasher and rise to an executive position within a company? We have those stories. Where else can those working hard to get their lives back on track after serving time find jobs that pay a living wage? What industry employs more minorities and women managers than any other industry? You guessed it – that would be restaurants.
As we celebrate the findings of Gallup’s recent poll we also see it as an opportunity to make sure Oregonians better understand the pressures and anxieties facing restaurant operators in Oregon today. And if we love restaurants and their roles as cornerstones of our communities we hope you will join us in protecting their viability across the rural and urban landscapes of our great state.
Too often, our industry deals with headlines focusing on starting wage positions within restaurants and misperceptions about compensation opportunities in the industry. The world of restaurants is a land of opportunity for advancement and industry certifications for restaurant front line staff, supervisors, and managers are available to assist entry level employees with opportunities to advance.
One in three Americans had their first job in a restaurant and in today’s digital age what better way for our youth to develop crucial interpersonal skills than by getting their start professionally in a restaurant setting. Those of us at ORLA would argue there has never been a more important time for the role of restaurants in the lives of our young people.
As our industry continues the process of adjusting to new requirements for operating a business in Oregon we ask you to join us in celebrating the good that comes from embracing restaurant businesses across our state and we thank you for taking some time to better understand their triumphs and challenges. Remember, on average, 95 cents of every dollar spent goes back into the restaurant experience. We look forward to seeing you again soon for your next celebration. | Jason Brandt, President & CEO, Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association