What Restaurant Operators Think About the 2016 Political Election With Foodable Labs Data

By Kerri Adams, Editor-at-Large

As the presidential election approaches, there is a sense of uncertainty that fills the air. 

Consumers are influenced by this, causing them to eat at home more. This evidently has affected restaurant business owners. But how else will this upcoming election impact operators and professionals in the restaurant industry? And which candidate will better benefit our industry?

It’s difficult to really say, since as of right now, they are merely making promises to gain support. 

Nonetheless, this election has ignited strong public opinions. But when we reached out to several chefs and restaurant operators, many of which did not wish to speak on the topic. Why is that? Is it because there seems to be so much dislike geared toward both the Democratic and Republican candidate? 

Fortunately, we were able to interview some restaurant industry professionals who gave us a unique perspective. We asked Executive Director Gwyneth Borden of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association and Victor Albisu, D.C. chef and owner of Del Campo and Taco Bamba about this topic and this is what they had to say.

Why do you think people are so opinionated about this campaign?

Chef Victor: There is a kind of a reality TV quality to the campaign right now and there has been. There is much more of a focus on a character and personalities, and misconceptions and preconceived notions, rather than a focus on actual quality issues that are going to make a difference in people’s lives. This has changed this election, spotlighting how different it is from years past.

Borden: This election is so polarized because of the pervasive nature of social media and blog sites which have allowed everyone, particularly extremely vocal voices to weigh-in. Having spent my career in and around politics, it’s always been the case that those most critical are the loudest. When I worked on Capitol Hill and in local government, there was rarely a time when someone wrote a letter or email saying, "thanks for doing a great job." 

It's not too dissimilar to the issues that some have with Yelp, while it's true that people post positive things about restaurants, it's the extreme nature of negative Yelp reviews that are most troubling and can impact an overall score. Most people don't write to say, my meal was fine and I was satisfied; they either pretty much love a place or hate it.  

Which candidate do you think will benefit the restaurant industry the most?

Chef Victor: As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton promoted a lot of culinary diplomacy. I was named a culinary ambassador, as was Jose Andres and other chefs, and we did a lot of good work around the world. It was quite an honor and I really believe it advanced a lot of relationships and did a lot of good. With that kind of track record and her opinions on immigration and worker’s rights, I think that a Clinton administration would be much more beneficial toward chefs and to restaurant workers. I think there is no reason to believe that she wouldn’t be anything than the superior president in that regard. 

Borden: Hillary Clinton. While there are concerns about some regulatory issues that will impact the bottom line for restaurants, Donald Trump is notoriously not a big restaurant patron and in fact, his rhetoric around immigration would detrimentally impact the restaurant labor force.  

Also, despite regulations, restaurants seem to thrive in those places that welcome diversity and innovation, and Washington, DC's restaurant scene has thrived under the current administration.  

How has the restaurant industry been impacted during the campaign period? 

Chef Victor: In D.C., in particular, the busy season really is now. But, given that there is such a hard campaign season going on and especially on the republican side, you can see that the districts are much more competitive than they expected them to be for Congress, House and the Senate– so you see a lot people actually out of town campaigning, rather than in town dining. It’s been a bit of a negative for us. We’re still busy and bustling and everything is fine, but you can tell D.C. is a little quieter than normal because of the very difficult and highly competitive campaign season. 

Normally you see a lot more of the political “movers and shakers” in the restaurant, but they are campaigning hard right now. I think this is going to lead to a lot of hungry politicians in January. I am hoping in January we see a bit of resurgence because everyone is back in town. 

Borden: Some restaurants have capitalized off of debate watch events, campaign themed food and beverage and more.  In some cases, the campaign has been a boon for restaurants with televisions. 

Even though, Chef Victor and Borden provide some good arguments for Clinton, what about the Republican candidate Donald Trump? 

When we polled our social audience, the majority of the participants believe Donald Trump will benefit the industry the most. So, what does he have to offer the industry?


Well, the appeal of this candidate for a large segment of the population is that he is not the status quo politician. He has always been a business man and many believe this will translate well for the economy.

  • His stance on minimum wage does work in the favor of restaurant owners. "Minimum wage is an issue that should be handled at the state and local level,” according to the “Trump platform.” Meaning that the federal minimum wage law would not be a priority for his administration. With the impending wage increases, which would cause many restaurants to limit staff members and their hours, this has led operators to look into other options like no-tipping.
  • His stance on the franchise industry, matches that of the GOP and would benefit executives at large brands. The party platform thinks that restaurant corporations (Like McDonald’s, which is in a current trial about this topic) shouldn’t be held responsible for its franchisees.
  • Trump will likely put a stop to the federal overtime limit rule, whereas workers making less than $47,476 a year have to be paid time and a half for any hours over 40 hours a week. Again, this is also in more of the favor of business owners.
  • Trump’s tax plan would significantly reduce income taxes, corporate taxes and eliminate the estate tax. Trump’s plan “would boost the economy because businesses would have additional capital to purchase new equipment, make new investments and hire more workers,” according to the Business Journal (Central Valley.) Restaurant business owners would spend less money on tax and hopefully more on staff salaries. 

With all of this in mind, who do you think will be the president to help nurture a thriving restaurant economy? They each have their strengths. Clinton will focus on labor restaurant reform laws that are in favor of the majority of the industry, while Trump will focus on boosting the economy as a whole. 

Besides our poll, we decided to pull social data to see what the industry thought. Foodable Labs evaluated sentiment around the election and the presidential candidates between October 26 and November 6th.

721,009 operators have chimed in on the topic of election and 12,509,423 consumers of the top 100 brands have also voiced their opinions about the 2016 election and the candidates.

We indexed 31,349 chefs and 309,121 in foodservice management– 67% of which are Millennials and 56% are males. 

Based on 112 terms analyzed, all related to hot points for the restaurant industry, we determined the Overall Sentiment for the candidates by operators.

Hillary Clinton scored 67.9 out of 100 and DonaldTrump scored a bit higher with 69.1 out of 100.

Foodable Labs Election Polls by Industry Sector

If Chefs decided the election:
Trump - 42%
Clinton - 31%
Johnson - 4%
Stein - 4%
Undecided - 19%

If foodservice management decided the election:
Trump - 36%
Clinton - 39%
Johnson - 7%
Stein - 5%
Undecided - 13%

If the consumers of Top 100 restaurant brands decided the election:
Trump - 37%
Clinton - 38%
Johnson - 4%
Stein - 3%
Undecided - 18%

*These are the consumers of the top 100 brands during the same period

We want to know what you think. Share your stance below or tweet us at @foodable.