By Marilou Halvorsen
“To say nothing is saying something. You must denounce things you are against or one might believe that you support things you really do not.” -- German Kent
This statement resonates with me considering recently, I alerted many hospitality leaders about a planned piece of legislature that would restrict their employee’s work flexibility and instill massive fines on owners if found uncooperative. More importantly, the proposed bill was scheduled to be written and pushed through in a short timeframe.
So, what was the response from some of the restaurant owners? Not much.
Luckily, the bill got pushed back due to the swift and harsh actions of many organizations, including the NJRHA. Still, this moment reminded me that our political climate is so sensitive, and social media so brutal that there’s a general feeling out there that you can’t advocate for yourself or your business because that would make you too self-involved or self-centered, which is a bad thing.
Owners are afraid of being targeted. They consistently share this fear with me and quite often end their sentence with, “that’s why we need you.” While I’m personally honored and flattered to advocate on this industry’s behalf, there is still power in numbers. I need members and non-members to mobilize, complain, reach out, speak up, tell their stories to anyone who will listen, and more importantly, care. We need to remind ourselves: We are the good guys.
The bill I was referring to above is called Predictive Scheduling. Whether or not it’s going to happen depends on if we have a voice in how it’s written and why we need to speak up. Currently, the planned language for the bill does not benefit hospitality employers or their employees.
I say, for every person who criticizes the restaurant industry to remember what industry has always been there for them and their community. We give to charitable causes, sponsor Little League teams, open our doors as a command center in disasters, offer your child his/her first job, reemploy our military and execute training for a re-entry population – you name it!
Stop putting us in the same category as corporate America – not all businesses are created equal.
Let’s be thankful this holiday season that this industry is here, not only for the jobs it creates, but also because we are the only industry that offers this unique gift to our communities.
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By Marilou Halvorsen, NJRHA President
This simple word can now provoke intense reactions in any conversation. No matter how you might feel about immigration, it’s apparent to me that our industry is poised to be a leader in the immigration reform discussion.
New Jersey is unique. Some may chuckle and say “that’s an understatement,” but when it comes to immigration, we deviate slightly from other states. Our state is a melting pot of cultures and different languages and whether people like it or not, immigrants are tightly woven into our business community and towns. In our case, they keep the hospitality industry rolling, especially along our shoreline. With that said, add the nation’s (and NJ’s) low unemployment rate and we now need to rely on the many visa programs even more.
Visas, like HB-1 and J.1 bring people into our state from all over the world. This system provides the seasonal labor we need to service restaurants, hotels and even golf courses throughout the Garden State. Although I’d love to see residents take these jobs, and some do but the fact of the matter is, most locals don’t. Add this situation to the fact NJ’s mass transit system doesn’t support easy statewide commuting, and we all know that living along the shoreline can be costly, especially for a seasonal job.
Responsible immigration reform is essential to the growth of our industry, without it, I fear our restaurant and hotel operations won’t continue to prosper and why it’s essential that leaders from the hospitality industry be at the table when this national, and at times, extremely emotional topic is discussed.
Immigration = A word that stitches the balance between humanity and business in our country.
By Marilou Halvorsen, NJRHA President
Undoubtedly, the month of May begins our shift from inside to outside, with daylight hours increasing we tend to wake up earlier and go to bed later, making our days and weekends feel longer. We also fire up the outdoor grills, walk more, feel happier and without possibly knowing it, appear more hopeful.
The same can be said for the hospitality industry. Outside seating reappears, new crowds gather, wedding celebrations increase, Mother’s Day brunches fill restaurants and then the “big bang” called Memorial Day weekend happens -- launching the start of summer-long shore crowds. How could any northeast hospitality business not feel more hopeful this time of year?
Essentially, the rebirth begins and no matter how extreme winter may have been, all appears forgotten when the grass turns green and the umbrellas come out.
Last weekend, while at a local nursery loading my cart with dozens of beautiful flowers and plants. Okay, I bought WAY too much! I was perusing the aisles thinking about the juxtaposition of spring and the restaurant and hospitality industry: Both flourish at this time. The only difference may be a restaurant owner won’t roll their eyes at you like my husband did seeing my bounty, but rather, they’ll welcome you with open arms!
So gather your friends and go out to dinner. Enjoy this beautiful weather. Grow those herbs or plant those tomatoes that will help you make your favorite dish this summer. Book your shore weekends soon and get ready for a fun and active time. Mostly, be hopeful and happy that warmer, longer days are ahead. Happy Spring!
by Marilou Halvorsen, NJRHA President
Last month, I lost my mother.
Truth is I started losing her to her disease months before she passed away, after all treatments were exhausted and we settled into hospice care; or should I say after all treatments to which she was exhausted. My mom was a tough woman and unsurprisingly decided to leave on her own terms. She was my only remaining parent, and I her only child, so the pain felt amplified.
Experiencing a loss of this magnitude whether suddenly or through sickness is emotionally debilitating. There’s no saying how anyone will fare. Luckily for me, I found myself surrounded by family – but, I’m not referring to my household. Yes, my son, daughter, husband, brothers and friends were amazing beyond words, but we were all aboard the same rudderless ship navigating through the stages of her death.
I’m referring to my work family.
Little did I comprehend how much they cared and the actions they took to help me during this time, some not appearing until long after the situation was over, in fact, I’m still discovering gems. Without me knowing, my staff, board and business friends continually picked up the slack and solved issues normally tossed on my desk. When word got out, someone would call or walk in my office daily and ask how I was doing and if they could help. You know who you are; many of you didn’t listen to my brave response and still enveloped me with food, drinks, advice, gifts and hugs. (smile)
Never before has the word “hospitality” meant so much. I’ve uttered these words in speeches and dozens of meetings with NJ legislators, but the next time I do, it will carry more enunciation. Because it’s true -- this industry is a true community that practices what they preach.
It’s been a little over six years since I took the helm of the NJRHA, the day Sandy destroyed our shoreline and the first time I witnessed the generosity of this industry: Endless restaurants and hotels along the coast opening their doors, no strings attached, to become the corner stone of their neighborhoods; a place for the community to gather whether it was to charge cellphones and laptops, break bread, or just to hug each other and cry.
This was my second tragedy and although I’m still floating in the boat, I’ve come to realize I’ve had oars the entire time. For this, I am thankful.
by Marilou Halvorsen, NJRHA President
330 legislative bills. That’s the daunting number: From liquor license reform and marijuana legalization, to sexual harassment and eliminating the tipped wage, we track each and every proposed bill in New Jersey that could affect, and in some cases, very seriously impact the hospitality industry’s future.
Every day I’m flabbergasted by the amount of proposed changes our government submits without any regard to our unique, labor-intensive industry.
Many times a potential member will ask me or one of my employees, what’s the benefit to joining the association? We’re fast to educate them on our vendor partnerships that provide discounts in all areas of their business, or the networking events where they’ll have fun while making valuable business connections. However, joining the association means more than that:
There’s power in numbers.
Not only are new members joining their peers in having a chance to share their concerns, but they are also joining a battle without ever having to pick up a sword.
We provide platforms where my members can speak out if they want but, more importantly, their dues allow me to produce materials to educate key audiences and to continually meet one-on-one with legislative members to remind them that the hospitality industry is the largest private sector employer in New Jersey.
What’s more important is having our members join in our grassroots meetings to provide legislators with the facts about how their sponsored legislation will impact local businesses and employees.
Often, we see on social media the political extremes spouting false information. Our association, through our grassroots meetings and industry engagement, has become a credible resource for legislators.
With over 25,000 restaurants and hotels, we have the numbers—we just need to rally those numbers to make policymakers listen. Join us in our efforts to help protect our industry.
Are you a restaurant or hospitality member looking to learn more about the benefits our vendor members offer? Then check out this quarter's Digital Allied Mailer where you can learn about some of our awesome vendors and what they can do for your business!
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We would like to give a special shout-out to our Super Allied Vendors who invest substantial dollars and time each year to support the work we do. Their partnerships with the association allow us to fulfill our mission of supporting, educating, and advocating for our members.
Heartland Payment Systems • Sea Breeze Syrups • Scarinci Hollenbeck • Performance Foodservice, Metro NY • UnitedHealthcare • Allied Beverage Group • Opici Family Distributing • Fedway Associates • Delaware Valley Purchasing Group • Ecolab • MICROS Retail Systems • Casino Association of New Jersey • South Jersey Energy • New Century Health Solutions • MacLean Agency • Asian American Hotel Owners Association • True & Associates
The Edison township council is considering an ordinance that would require restaurants and caterers to identify certain food allergens on their menus. You can read more about the ordinance here.
The ordinance, which would require all foodservice operators to label every menu item for 10 allergens, will be heard on Wednesday, August 22nd at 7:00 PM during the Edison Council Meeting at the municipal complex located on the second floor (100 Municipal Blvd., Edison, NJ).
This ordinance pertains to any menu item (food or beverage) that contains: shellfish, fish, wheat, MSG, sulfites, eggs, milk, tree nuts, peanuts, and/or soy. This mandate would also require that establishments that do not currently have menus at all begin offering them with compliant labeling. If you are found not to be in compliance, you will face significant penalties and fines.
If this ordinance were to pass, it would be the strictest in the country. We encourage all foodservice operators to attend the council meeting on Wednesday to discuss your concerns.
We also encourage you to contact the members of council and the mayor. (Contact info is listed below.)
For talking points and further information, please contact NJRHA President Marilou Halvorsen at 609.599.3316.
New Jersey plans to loosen a new rule that restricts what drug makers can spend on meals for doctors, dentists, nurses, and other prescribers.
To recap, the rule went in to effect this past January and put a $10,000 yearly cap on what prescribers can earn from pharmaceutical companies. The perceived intent of this legislation was to reduce opioid prescriptions. Unfortunately, the vehicle that was used to carry out this intent was a rule that required meals given to prescribers be “modest” at no more than $15 a person (including tip, which leaves little room for the employees in our industry to be compensated appropriately). Being that these meals between pharmaceutical reps and prescribers act as the meeting in which a rep has the opportunity to educate prescribers on the medicine in question (which is not limited to opioids), the unintended consequences have caused confusion from the pharmaceutical industry as they attempt to find new ways to meet with and educate prescribers.
Additionally, this new limitation has caused severe revenue loss for restaurants (the longtime hosts of these events). After surveying and discussing with our members, we reached out to the Governor’s Office and Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal about the impact the regulation has on our industry.
We are pleased to announce the proposed amendments to N.J.A.C. 13:45J concerning the limitation on meals. The proposed amendments indicate that the fair market value limitation of these meals in 2018 is $15 for breakfast and lunch and $30 for dinner, excluding tip and gratuity, and will be adjusted annually according to the Consumer Price Index.
Additionally, the Attorney General recognizes the value of education, and understands that it enhances patient care. The proposed amendments remove limitations on the value of meals served at educational events provided by pharmaceutical manufacturers to prescribers.
The proposed amendments have been posted in the August 6th New Jersey Register allowing for a public comment period.
We will keep you posted on its progress.
TRENTON, NJ – In seven decades, only a few women have won the New Jersey Restaurant & Hospitality Association’s (NJRHA) “Restaurateur of the Year” award. In 2018, another will be added to the roster.
Recently, the NJRHA announced Jeanne Cretella of Landmark Hospitality as one of the few female recipients of its prestigious, “Restaurateur of the Year” award. The annual Gala to celebrate Jeanne and three other deserving recipients will be held on Monday, December 3, 2018 at Caesars Atlantic City.
“It’s been a male-dominated industry, but the tide is changing,” said Marilou Halvorsen, president of the NJRHA. “Only the past recipients of this prestigious award are allowed to vote and that says even more about how deserving Jeanne is of this award. Not only does she manage eight impressive properties, but Jeanne spends endless hours advocating behalf of our industry in Trenton and DC every year.”
2018 award winners are:
The Annual Awards Gala, which hosts approximately 350 people, is a formal event created to honor the winners and celebrate the restaurant and hospitality industry. This year, the event will break tradition and take place two Mondays after Thanksgiving (instead of the Monday immediately after).
For more information on the awards, the recipients, or how to sponsor or attend the Gala, please contact Karen Geisel, Special Events Manager at (518) 421-3435 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
In preparation for a possible state government shutdown, we wanted to update you on where things stand and what to expect.
Yesterday (Thursday, June 28th), both the Senate and Assembly cancelled their voting sessions for Thursday and Friday. They do have one scheduled for Saturday and Monday. A budget must be signed by the Governor no later than midnight on Saturday, June 30th or the state government will close. This happened last year.
Both the governor and legislature are firm in what they would like to see from a state budget that will include a record number in additional spending, but the discourse surrounds where will the revenue come from.
Governor Murphy would like a $37.4 billion budget that would include a $1.5 billion hike in taxes. A millionaire’s tax would be added, and sales tax would be restored to 7%. The Senate President and Speaker oppose a millionaire’s tax and increasing the sales tax but support an increase in the CBT tax on larger corporations. There are other differences as well, including short-term rental tax on shore properties.
What to Expect If/When State Government Closes
What Will Remain Open?
We hope this information is informative and we will update you as we know more.