Supreme Court Sides With the Colorado Baker Who Turned Down Gay Couple

Supreme Court Sides With the Colorado Baker Who Turned Down Gay Couple

The Supreme Court has sided with the Colorado baker this week in the case that placed gay rights against claims of religious freedom. Leaving the question of whether or not a business can discriminate against LGBTQ based on rights that’re protected by the First Amendment.

The 7-2 decision stated that state commission violated the Constitution’s protection of religious freedom ruling against the baker, Jack Phillips, who had refused to create a custom wedding cake for a gay couple.

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Washington Report: FDA Postpones Menu Labeling Requirement — Again

Video Produced by Denise Toledo

The seven-year journey to menu labeling is once again hitting another hurdle. Initially proposed in 2010 along with the Affordable Care Act, this federal mandate, which would enforce that all food establishments of 20 locations or more would be required to list calorie information on menu boards and menus, was supposed to take effect this Friday.

However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has postponed it again — for the third time. Original deadlines for 2015 and 2016 were pushed off the plate, but the new deadline for food businesses to be transparent with calorie information is May 7, 2018

Prior to the delay announcement earlier this Monday, the National Restaurant Association encouraged the successful implementation of this law, seeing the federal requirement as the final say among a mix of conflicting regional rules and as a protection to small businesses.

"The National Restaurant Association strongly cautions against any actions that would delay implementation of the menu labeling law. Previously, menu labeling laws were being passed on a state-by-state or city-by-city basis and in some cases, counties were competing with cities to pass similar laws," Cicely Simpson, Executive Vice President of Government Affairs & Policy, said in a release. "If the federal standard is repealed, we will once again return to this patchwork approach that will be even more burdensome for restaurants to implement and will not have the legal safeguards included in the federal law. We must protect small businesses by not delaying implementation of this important rule.” 

While the rule first came about to give consumers more education and information on the nutrition of their meals, allowing them to perhaps make alternative choices if they are able to see their fat, sodium, sugar, cholesterol intake, multiple trade groups criticized the rule, saying it did not provide enough flexibility for food sellers that weren't restaurants.  

"I think the delay happened because...the menu-labeling requirements were burdensome to business owners who owned twenty locations. It would have been very expensive for owners to accomplish and most likely not have been successful. The National Restaurant Association wanted it put in place now to alleviate jurisdiction battles across the country. The FDA has delayed to gather further comments and input from the public. This was a smart decision in my opinion," said William Bender, Rock My Restaurant host and founder of restaurant consulting firm W.H. Bender & Associates.

According to Chicago Tribune, a single menu board can cost anywhere from $500 to $2,000, and those costs add up, depending  on the size of the chain. Naf Naf Grill, for example, paid $17,000 for new menu boards. Bender also noted that poorly designed menu labeling could be a barrier to sales, saying that the data has to be designed and presented in a guest- and brand-friendly way.

"My advice to operators is they should prepare and design their menu ingredients — and recipes — to provide guest information and market to help achieve their brand’s strategic marketing plan. All decisions from menu development, sourcing ingredients, purchasing, distribution to delivery need to be transparent. Training is essential to teach the food culinary team and sales service team the correct information, so that all brand ServPoints™ are delivered to Guest accurately and professionally. Then we are in a win-win situation and relationship with guests," he said.


On the other hand, several national chains have supported the federal rule to remove the complications of adjusting to different city, county, and state regulations. Major brands such as McDonald's, Chipotle, Dunkin Donuts, Panera Bread, and Starbucks have been fulfilling the requirement ahead of the May 2017 deadline, and even movie theaters were preparing to meet the compliance deadline.

This is a movement Jaclyn Morgan, principal of JM Foodservice Consulting, LLC., agrees with. 

"A restaurant, as a food company, has always carried a burden to supply customers with nutritional information. Ingredient and calorie count information could be stored in a recipe book or within a database in the past.  Now, it needs to be readily available on menus for chains with 20 or more locations as a means of full-disclosure. Many chains have been following this practice for years, and others have met the new standard earlier than the deadline. So, why the delay?" she said, and added that it's workable even for grocery stores.

"Chain grocers and chain convenience stores employ dietitians and executive chefs. Commissaries that produce sandwiches, salads, and more en masse for these establishments have the tools to label ingredients accurately. If there is a recipe of ingredients as well as a knowledge of calories for each ingredient, a calorie count per serving can be mathematically derived. This easily translates to food labels, as well as menu boards.  It’s an investment that we have been prepared for since 2010."

Still, she understands that there are valid arguments on several challenges for implementation, especially for pizza brands. The American Pizza Community, which called for more flexible menu labeling, stated that updating menu boards with calorie information could cost an individual pizza store between $3,500 to $5,500 annually. Crusts, sauces, toppings, and sizes vary drastically, but Morgan still believes it is mathematically achievable. She recommends that because pizza chains portion out toppings for standard items, an algorithm could be close.

"This is the new face of food as politics. The labeling requirements were born as part of the ACA with the intent to reduce obesity in America.  The thought was that people would shy away from foods high in calories and saturated fats as we became more conscious of our individual intake. ...It is a push back for large businesses to save money, even if contrary to public health and nutrition disclosure," Morgan said.

As of today, the FDA is opening another public discussion on the regulations, asking particularly for "approaches to reduce regulatory burden or increase flexibility," as well as recommendations on providing calorie information outside of a menu. Clearly, the reactions to this regulation delay are mixed, and according to the Times-Picayune, the studies on the effectiveness of menu labeling is mixed, as well. Calorie information may reduce purchase in some areas and have minimal impact on others.

Will menu labeling have true real-world behavior change? And how effectively will consumers apply this vast wealth of nutrition information, along with a more transparent restaurant industry that shares its sourcing and food preparation? How much will purchasing habits really transform?

"We all have wondered how much fat, sugar, or calories a dish has at some point during our adulthood. The reason for calorie menu labeling might be the increase in health issues linked with the amount of dining out. The government stepping in is a bit much, as they might seek even more regulations and even taxing for fatty or salty food, much like the sugar tax," Salar Sheik, founder of Savory Hospitality, said.

"All forms of restaurant have increasing challenges on the daily with food cost, labor, marketing, and the list goes on. When will they draw the line with all the hurdles for the operator is the real question that no one can answer. We all have to be prepare, and many are with smaller portions and lighter items, which are lower in fat and calories. The upside will be the restaurants that have been aware of the calorie count can now have a better selling and marketing platform."

Washington Report: The Stakes for American Agriculture as Trump Moves Toward Building the Wall

In his first 14 days in office, President Trump has signed seven executive orders, many of which have come under fire like the "7-Nation Ban." Despite the continued protests have continued, Trump seems to be following the platform he set during his campaign.

One of President Trump’s campaign promises was to build a border wall between the United States and Mexico. In line with that platform, he signed an executive order on January 25 that directed the immediate construction of a border wall using federal funds. Thus far, no construction has taken place.

Mexico-American relations have been strained since Trump first proposed the border wall idea. He insisted that Mexico would pay for the wall however, Mexican officials have repeatedly stated they would not.

What effect could this strained relationship with Mexico have on our agriculture industry and food costs?

Imports coming into the U.S. from Mexico have been a hot topic because of proposed methods of paying for the border wall. Mexico is the United States' second largest supplier of agricultural imports, with U.S. agricultural imports totalling $21 billion in 2015.

Not many people have considered America’s exports to Mexico and how they may be affected. Mexico is United States' third largest agricultural export market, with the U.S. sending $17.7 billion dollars of agricultural goods to Mexico in 2016. These goods include corn, soybeans, dairy, pork, and beef.

Keep up with On Foodable Weekly’s Washington Reports to stay informed on political happenings surrounding the restaurant industry.

Washington Report: Legislation Impacting the Restaurant Industry

In an effort to keep you up-to-date on industry issues, Foodable has created the Washington Report, an "On Foodable Weekly" edition dedicated to discussing legislation facing restaurant owners and operators. This week, we talk about at the Affordable Care Act, the New Joint Employer Standard, and the Department of Labor’s recently updated overtime regulations. Guests Fred LeFranc and Larry Reinstein give us insights on what is being seen inside restaurants in reaction to these issues.

Affordable Care Act

The Affordable Care act has been lauded for providing health care benefits to many employees who otherwise would not have those benefits. However, the definitions within the legislation are causing an upset among restaurant owners. As it is currently written, the ACA says that large companies are legally required to provide all full-time employees with health care benefits. The legislation defines a large company as one with 50 or more employees and defines a “full-time” employee as an employee working an average of 30 hours per week for any given month.

According to the National Restaurant Association, this is a major issue for restaurants because they are labor-intensive, have low profits per employee, and have a significant number of “part-time” employees.

Joint Employer Status and Franchising

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) updated the Joint Employer standard in response to a case involving Browning-Ferris Industries and a subcontracted company. The NLRB transformed the joint employer standard into a two-part test that now considers whether a common law employment relationship exists and whether the potential “joint employer” possesses control over employees’ essential terms and conditions of employment. The critical distinction is that “control” can now be direct, indirect, or even a reserved right to control, whether or not that right is ever exercised.

"[Franchisors] need to provide some form of assistance. The question is, does that violate that separation of church and state and the Chinese wall?" asks Chaos strategist Fred LeFranc. "This ruling, if it threatens that, then it essentially dissolves the benefit of having intellectual capital of a franchise program."

Previously, the Joint Employer Standard had said joint employer status only existed when two separate entities shared direct and immediate control over essential terms and conditions of employment like hiring, firing, discipline, supervision, and direction. This new standard could make franchisors liable for employment law violations committed by their franchisees and as such has caused many franchisors to provide less assistance.

Department of Labor Overtime Rule

On May 18, the Department of Labor finalized their rule updating overtime regulations, increasing the salary threshold below which most white-collar, salaried workers are entitled to overtime. Currently, those non-exempt employees making $455 per week or less are entitled to be paid time and a half for overtime work. Starting December 1, those employees making $913 or less will also be entitled to overtime pay.

This means operators will either need to:

  1. Pay time-an- a-half for overtime work
  2. Raise workers’ salaries above the new threshold ($913/week)
  3. Limit workers to 40 hours per week

Future automatic updates based on wage growth are also in place to update those thresholds every three years beginning in 2020.