The new White House is making a number of changes that affect the restaurant industry. What will this mean to restaurant sales? Here are key areas where the restaurant brokers see impact for the industry.
New Labor Secretary was In and now he's Out
If you haven't been living under a rock, you've heard that Andy Puzder, the CEO of CKE Restaurants was nominated to the Trump cabinet as Labor Secretary. As of yesterday, that nomination was withdrawn. That's a shame since having someone from the industry was seen as a win for those of us in the restaurant business.
At a recent apeparance at the Restaurant Finance & Development Conference Puzder told the crowd, “We have a government-mandated restaurant recession." He went on to say, “The government did not intend this result. But it shows what happens when government tries to manipulate the economy. You cannot mandate the benefits of economic growth without actual growth.”
The overall concensus from the industry was that his nomination was a powerful one and most were cheering the decision to bring him onto the cabinet. Now we'll take a "wait and see" approach to see what background the next nominee has and hope that will bring good news for restaurant sales. There are several "hot button" restaurant issues in the pipeline for this administration including: joint employer issues for franchisors, minimum wage laws and of course, Obamacare.
Supreme Court Pick
President Donald Trump recently nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch to fill the vacant seat on the U.S. Supreme Court. If approved, Gorsuch, who has served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit since 2006, would replace Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February 2016.
The nomination was applauded by the National Restaurant Association, which recently asked the Supreme Court to hear a challenge to existing laws that prevent cooks and dishwashers from sharing in tip pools.
Angelo Amador, executive director of the NRA’s Restaurant Law Center, described Gorsuch as “an experienced and knowledgeable judge who had extensive bipartisan support when he was confirmed to the 10th Circuit unanimously. We look forward to again having a full bench in the U.S. Supreme Court to decide cases of critical importance to our industry and the economy in general.”
Hospitality attorneys see the choice of Gorsuch, if confirmed by the Senate, as generally positive for employers. Since this pick is pending approval by the House and Senate, we'll sit back and see if he's able to make it through an increasingly divided Washington.
Corporate Tax Rate
All signs point to reduced corporate taxes under President Trump. If he keeps his word on this promise, which was reiterated last week, we could be looking at serious growth in bottom lines for corporations which are mostly, small businesses like your local restaurant owner. The stock market has moved into uncharted territories on the strength of this committment from the commander in chief. With more money in the pockets of Americans, we are sure to see higher restaurant sales.
Those fighting the new administration and its resolve to protect the borders are trying to bring the fight direct to the restaurant scene. Today there is a nationwide "sick out" called for with illegals failing to come to work aimed at closing the doors of restaurants. There are several celebrity chefs who are voluntarily shuttering today in solidarity (Rick Bayless for example). This hot button issue seems to have reached a fevered pitch for a President most Americans elected based on a law and order approach. The complextities of this one and its ultimate affect on restaurant sales is yet to be seen.
President Trump has already advised the IRS not to levy the Obama Care imposed $2500 fines against those filing 2016 returns that don't include health insurance. The Congress will be addressing a repeal (according to some) or a revision (according to others). Either way, the industry is in critical need of a new look at legislation that brought tremendous new costs onto their books and into the households of most Americans over the course of its implementation.
Small Business Optimism
Optimism on Main Street has soared in the President Trump's election. The National Federation of Independent Business' survey said small-business sentiment for December hit its highest level since 2004. That was an increase of 7.4 points in December to 105.8, up from November's 98.4. That was the largest month-over-month index change since it began in 1986.
How will the same index look today? That's an unknown with President Trump facing an intrangient Democratic party and collusion among some long time government employees and hold-overs from the Obama administration. Let's hope the good news from this report continues since members' perceptions were that business conditions would improve and that accounted for 48 percent of the month's increase.
What about restaurant sales? The same survey said sales expectations also increased by 20 percentage points, as did the percentage of owners who believe now is a good time to expand, which is up 12 points. The National Restaurant Association also reported optimism in December's Restaurant Performance Index. The industry expanded in December, albeit at a slower rate than in November. The association said that the index, a monthly measure of the state of the industry, closed out 2016 at 100.5, down slightly from 100.7 in November. The association considers the industry to be in expansion mode when the index reaches above 100.
Operators are also “cautiously optimistic” about business conditions, with 33 percent saying they expect conditions to improve in the next six months. Only 15 percent expect conditions to worsen.
What will restaurant sales look like under a Trump economy? We have to see how much of his agenda is actually permitted to proceed and if he can truly get through the impasse being created in Washington. It's clear that America sent him to Washington to make changes to the status quo. At only three weeks in office (really just three weeks?), heads are spinning from his attempt to move forward on an aggressive agenda that includes all these points affecting restaurant sales.
All of these items will have implications for buying and selling a restaurant but if January and early February are any indication, the number of buyers in the market ready to get into the business are hitting record numbers and transaction counts for restaurants sold will hit record heights. The restaurant brokers are setting new records with transactions for this year more than 65% ahead of last year.