Infrastructure Bill Will Terminate Employee Retention Credit Retroactively
It is anticipated that the President will sign the bill soon. Once enacted, employers may not claim the credit with respect to wages paid after September 30, 2021. The employee retention credit was adopted as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act in April 2020, and was modeled on a similar credit that had been adopted following natural disasters. The credit was enhanced and extended through June 30, 2021, in December 2020 as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act. The credit was then further extended through the end of 2021 and codified in Section 3134 of the Code as part of the American Rescue Plan Act, adopted earlier this year. The retroactive nature of the suspension creates potential issues for employers who remained eligible for the credit in October and early November. Employers were permitted to reduce their employment tax deposits (including all withheld federal employment taxes) to take advantage of? the credit. Accordingly, employers claiming the credit for wages paid in October and November likely did not deposit amounts to reflect the credit. Those amounts must now be paid. Because the employer withheld those taxes from its employees (or reduced the deposit of its own share of FICA taxes), the employer could potentially be subject to a late deposit penalty under Section 6656 of the Code.”
Why it’s a Retention Crisis as Much as a Hiring One for Restaurants
How can operators keep employees from leaving once they sign up? In a recent report from messaging platform Medallia Zingle, 68 percent of U.S. hospitality workers said their organization was working with fewer staff today than pre-COVID. The study also found 38 percent of hospitality workers were considering, or already have plans to, leave the industry within the next two months. Harri, a workplace management company, put together a Hospitality Compensation Expectations Report from a pool of 7,000-plus hospitality workers and 100-plus enterprise-grade operators. Some points to emerge:
- 52 [percent of employers raised employee pay between two and three times in 2021 (not related to minimum wage increases)
- 52 percent of employees were planning to change jobs to achieve a pay raise
- 20 percent more hourly workers were paid more than $15 per house at the end of 2021 compared to the start of the year
- 61 percent of salaried workers were paid between $51,000–$61,000-plus annually (a 5.1 percent increase from the beginning of the year).
No matter where the data flows from, though, sentiments ring familiar. It remains massively difficult to staff up today, especially with higher volumes, and restaurants are churning employees even faster than they were pre-crisis.
The Dine-In Experience: Still the Heart of the Restaurant Industry
Will the pandemic kill dine-in as we know it? In the current day and age, how do we define what is or isn’t a restaurant? It is a straightforward question, yet difficult to answer. Industry professionals and consumers alike could debate this for days and never arrive at a consensus; a point proven by looking at definitions from several dictionaries. When I turn to my old-school yet trusty 2001 edition of Webster’s Desk Dictionary, I find a very simple entry: an establishment where meals are served to customers. Fast-forward to a contemporary resource at Dictionary.com, and the definition is identical. The most recent Webster’s definition found online says: Business establishment where meals or refreshments may be purchased. Cambridge? A place where meals are prepared and served to customers. What of Oxford? A place where people pay to sit and eat meals that are cooked and served on the premises. I could cite additional sources, and the result would be a compilation of nuances that add fodder for the debate. If the most general textbook definitions were applied, the list of establishments qualifying as a restaurant would extend deep into the world of retailing. Virtually every convenience store, grocery store, and cafeteria would make the list, as would every store that sells food within their four walls. Every food truck, snack stand, and kiosk earn a spot. Why does any of this matter? Because to answer the question of whether dine-in is “dead,” we must consider the universe within which the dine-in experience resides.
Court Extends Postponement of Biden’s Vaccine Mandate
The federal appeals court called it “staggeringly overbroad.” A federal appeals court has extended its suspension of the Biden administration’s mandate that all companies with at least 100 employees require each one to either be vaccinated against COVID-19 or submit to weekly tests for the viral disease. On a practical basis, the stay will have little immediate effect on restaurants and most private-sector employers since their full compliance is not required until Jan. 5. Nor does it declare the mandate—technically an emergency order from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)—a violation of the U.S. Constitution and hence void. Rather, it notes the companies that petitioned the court for a stay have enough at stake to be spared the difficulties of adoption until the constitutionality can be established or disproved. A temporary stay was issued immediately after the U.S. Department of Labor aired OSHA’s Emergency Technical Standard. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth District, located in Louisiana, said at that time that it would hold expedited deliberations to determine if the suspension should be lifted or extended.
Balance Between Customer Relations and Restaurant Employee Support
No, the customer is not always right. Over the summer, a small rural restaurant in Brewster, Mass. called Apt Cape Cod made headlines for temporarily shutting down for a “day of kindness” after its staff was subjected to verbal abuse from customers over time. The pattern of mistreatment culminated in an employee being berated for not taking a customer’s order before the restaurant had opened. During the day of kindness, Apt Cape Cod shuttered but still paid its employees to relax and recoup. “The cliché ‘the customer is always right’ is not true because they can’t be all the time,” Apt Cape Cod owner Brandi Felt said. “If the customer wants to bring in outside food and they get sick from that outside food, then I’m responsible, or they think they should have 14- or 20-person parties that we can’t accommodate. It becomes a safety issue.” It’s not just an issue of safety or legal culpability; not setting appropriate boundaries is bad for employee morale, Felt said. And she’s not the only one who feels this way. As the pandemic inches closer to the two-year mark, the definition of hospitality is changing for both independent restaurants and chains, in favor of supporting employees over blindly saying “yes” to all customer demands, especially as the labor crisis continues industry wide.
A Welcome Return to Fancy (But Not Fussy) Dining
At Francie, the Italian-accented restaurant in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Most all of us, I suspect, will always remember our first real restaurant meal of the Covid era — not the time we sat in the street next to a potted palm, blinking at the sun like some cave-dwelling animal, but the time we stepped inside a dining room and took off the mask. After all we’d been through, the pleasure of an indoor meal mixed with our fear of airborne pathogens to create a very particular cocktail of giddiness and nervousness, just the kind of psychological state that tends to put down roots in our heads. For me, it happened at Francie, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, on the March Day I got my first dose of vaccine. Very few of a restaurant critic’s working meals have a sense of occasion, but this one did, and Francie fit the moment like a pair of Lululemon ABC pants. Eating indoors was the only option there; Francie’s sober neo-Renaissance building, designed as a bank in 1888, has no street or sidewalk frontage that can be used for outdoor tables. But having to wait until last December to open gave the contractors time to fit virus-zapping ultraviolet lights and filters into the air ducts.
How to Feed the Hungry While Helping Struggling Restaurants Survive
A New Jersey program that partners nonprofit organizations with restaurants. After lining a kitchen utility table with rows of food trays, the team members of MadeMeals, a meal prep service in Kearny, N.J., take their next steps with caution and speed. They carefully place sliced blackened chicken breasts and herb-roasted chicken thighs onto trays with salads, roasted vegetables or string beans, and brown rice pilaf. Once all the trays have a protein, they are covered, bagged and boxed. Then the meals, about 300 in all, are refrigerated overnight, ready to be delivered to New Jersey residents the next day. MadeMeals is one of hundreds of restaurants and meal delivery services across New Jersey that are paid by local nonprofit organizations through a new state program called Sustain and Serve. The program has granted millions of dollars to nonprofit organizations to partner with restaurants to feed New Jersey residents who struggle to have food on a regular basis.
Understaffed Restaurants are Pushing Customers to Order at Digital Kiosks
As well as alleviating the labor shortage, the kiosks bring in bigger revenues. More restaurants are turning to digital kiosks to overcome their staffing shortages. Sam Zietz, CEO of digital-kiosk maker GRUBBRR, told Insider that demand for its products had boomed during the labor shortage. “Our phones are ringing off the hook,” he said. Record numbers of Americans are quitting their jobs in search of better wages, benefits, and working conditions. Restaurants have been especially affected, and it’s hitting their bottom line. Restaurants have been boosting wages to attract more staff, cutting their hours, and closing their dining rooms — all of which are costing them money. Restaurant owners say employees are overworked and service is getting slower, too. Zietz told Insider there’s only one solution to the labor shortage, “and that’s automation.” Digital kiosks are large touch-screen devices where diners can order and pay without needing assistance from staff.
Redefine Meat Brings 3D Printed Vegan Cuts to Restaurants
Start-up says it has cracked the secret of juiciness in meat. An Israeli start-up has launched a 3D printed plant-based meat, making whole “cuts” of the vegan product available for the first time in restaurants in Europe and Israel. Redefine Meat, which produced its first 3D printed plant-based steak in 2018, can “print” 10kg of plant-based meat an hour. Its beef cuts aim for the fibrous texture of real meat and are made from soy and pea protein, chickpeas, beetroot, yeast and coconut fat. The company, which raised $29m in early-stage funding in February, has a partnership with food flavoring company Givaudan and claims to have cracked the secret of juiciness in meat. Dishes made from its products, including beef and lamb flank cuts as well as minced beef and pork, will be available in restaurants such as Marco Pierre White’s steak houses and Indian restaurant Brigadiers in the UK, and Michelin starred restaurants Ron Gastrobar in the Netherlands and Facil in Germany. The launch comes as the plant-based protein market becomes increasingly crowded and multinational food companies such as Nestlé get in on the act. Beyond Meat in the US paved the way with its plant-based burgers but until now, offerings from the plant-based meat industry have largely been alternatives to minced meat products such as beef patties and chicken nuggets.
Did You Know?
These 4 North Jersey spots named best restaurants outside of New York City. he popular food and wine website discovered what we in New Jersey have known for quite some time: good eating, make that great eating, can be had outside of New York City. Yes, in New Jersey! In a recent post naming “20 Best Suburban Restaurants Outside of NYC.” Thrillist noted that “suburban dining outside of NYC is better than ever.” (Michelin, are you listening?) The “suburbs” covered are New Jersey, Connecticut, Upstate New York, Long Island and Westchester. So which New Jersey restaurants has the giant food website declared to be the best? It names four — all in North Jersey: Sushi Aoki in Fort Lee, Razza in Jersey City, Bread & Salt in Jersey City and Jack’s Lobster Shack, which has multiple locations.
Tipped employees: know your rights. There are specific federal and state laws governing tipped wages—how much your employer must pay you, what can be counted as a tip under the law, and the practice of tip pooling, among other things. Employers sometimes try to get around these laws, so it’s important to know your rights as a tipped employee. Most employers are subject to federal and state minimum wage laws. However, employers whose employees earn tips don’t necessarily have to pay minimum wage. In Pennsylvania, your employer can pay you as little as $2.83 an hour, and you are expected to make up the rest toward the minimum wage through tips. If your earnings add up to less than the minimum wage, the employer must make up the difference.
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