Article originally published by NJBIZ on April 23, 2018.
By Gabrielle Saulsbery
Marilou Halvorsen’s resume makes it clear she’s good at getting things done. The president of the New Jersey Restaurant & Hospitality Association has a long track record in event management and advocacy for her industry.
After starting her career working on big-ticket events at Radio City Music Hall, Halvorsen traveled the country with other Radio City expats, running events such as Welcome America, Philadelphia’s weeklong Fourth of July celebration, through their events management outfit Entertainment on Location.
Marriage and child-rearing brought her back to New Jersey, where she became the executive director of the New Jersey Amusement Association. Her connections there led her to a 15-year career at Jenkinson’s Boardwalk in Point Pleasant, a member of what then was known as the New Jersey Restaurant Association. She took over as president of the NJRA in 2012 and changed it to the NJRHA in 2015 to acknowledge its lodging members. There she’s led the charge in advocating for 27,000 food-service businesses in the Garden State.
When she recently spoke to NJBIZ, Halvorsen was in Washington, D.C., for the National Restaurant Association’s Public Affairs Conference, gearing up to talk to lawmakers about important issues in the industry.
NJBIZ: What issues are you addressing in D.C.?
Halvorsen: Immigration is obviously one on our list. A lot of restaurant employees are first-generation immigrants. And the job market is tough. Having the visa program — H-1B visas, or J-1 visas that a lot of our seasonal businesses rely on — it’s important. We’re concerned about making sure the Trump administration understands how important these visa programs are for the restaurant industry.
NJBIZ: What makes these visa programs so important for the restaurant industry?
Halvorsen: The J-1 visa is a work-travel visa. They come here, work for a few months, travel for a month, and go home. A lot of our seasonal businesses rely on that. But the agriculture industry scoops up a lot of those visas, which doesn’t leave a lot for hospitality. So they’re approving an additional 67,000 H-1B visas. Visas help seasonal businesses operate on their shoulder seasons. They’ll open in April before school’s out, and they stay open until September when school is back in session. Having those visas available helps these business operate in a time when the majority of their domestic employees aren’t yet available.
NJBIZ: Is minimum wage going to be part of the conversation?
Halvorsen: We’re not talking about it in Washington, because this is state issue. We’re having our advocacy day in our state May 10 where this will be addressed. Locally, we just went through addressing [the New Jersey Paid Sick Leave Act]. We actually worked really hard having the New Brunswick Ordinance model used, where employees accrue one hour of paid time off for every 30 hours worked, because we understand that you don’t want people coming sick in a restaurant but you still have to allow the businesses to operate. When the New Brunswick ordinance happened [in 2016], we participated in getting some of the language drafted that helped the hospitality industry. We work to make sure that those more business-friendly amendments are present in the legislation. We thought it was a great compromise between business and the people.
NJBIZ: So political advocacy is important.
Halvorsen: Yep. State, local, and national obviously since I’m here [in D.C.] right now. Bills and legislation going through the Legislature, and working with state agencies of Department of Health, Alcoholic Beverage Control. Most regulations affect the restaurants in some way, so we just make sure we keep all the restaurants represented and updated.
NJBIZ: The NJRHA’s official opinion on a minimum wage hike is opposition to an automatic $15, but in support of incremental increases. What would be a good alternative for the industry?
Halvorsen: You need to look at the affordability of the state of New Jersey. Even at $15 an hour, it’s hard to survive. I think people get confused with living wage and minimum wage. Minimum is supposed to be just for young kids starting out. You can look into having other types of wage like youth wage or training wage. Additionally, say all of a sudden the economy is going terribly. Obviously you don’t want to decimate business because it’s already suffering. [Build something into the legislation that will] put the automatic increase on hold so that the industry can catch its breath.
The restaurant hotel industry hires at a 5-10 mile radius within the community. When you hurt restaurants, you hurt the community. That’s where kids get their first jobs; people get jobs to put themselves through school; mom gets a part-time job while kids are in school. Doing things in a slow methodical fashion, so you’re not hurting the businesses and people. That’s the way you have to do it.
NJBIZ: In your previous position of director of marketing at Jenkinson’s, you were the first woman to become chairman of the Legalized Games Chance Control Commission, which regulates raffles and boardwalking. How did you get there?
Halvorsen: Their board is made up of people from the industry, and I was appointed by three governors. They needed a secretary, and of course they looked at me, the woman. But when the board chairman passed away, I automatically became the chairman. I think it was in the bylaws that my position would replace it, or maybe policy. They gave me the role of secretary thinking ‘she’s the female,’ but then I became chairman. It was pretty funny.
NJBIZ: Hurricane Sandy hit the first day you started as president, right?
Halvorsen: My very first call was Chef David Burke, who was in Rumson at the time. He had all this food to feed the first responders, and they needed to keep refrigerators running for it. He needed generators. Everything was crazy with that hurricane.
NJBIZ: Have you ever worked in a restaurant yourself before?
Halvorsen: A few. I’ve been a hostess and a bartender. … Most people, either themselves or someone in their family, have worked in a restaurant. It’s the largest private sector employer in the state. The government is the largest employer in the state, the hospitality industry is the second.
NJBIZ: Does your experience in the restaurant inform you now?
Halvorsen: Well, those kind of jobs do two things. They teach young kids work ethic, showing up on time and also how to deal with the public. Kids learn how to have good customer service. Now, even behind a desk, you still have to deal with people. I don’t care how long you work in one, if you work in a restaurant, the skills you learned there will carry you throughout your career. Whether it’s dealing with your customer or your boss, how to show up on time, accountability ... I think every kid should have that. You learn your eye contact and your ‘please and thank yous.’
NJBIZ: Do you have any favorite restaurants in the state?
Halvorsen: We have so many good ones. In New Jersey, we have every kind of restaurant, so much ethnic food. We have more ethnically diverse restaurants than anyone. And it’s authentic. You know when you walk into a Korean restaurant, if you see Koreans in there, that’s the Korean food you want. And you see Mexicans in a Mexican restaurant. That’s where you want to eat. I am not a picky eater, though. I love all kinds of food. I’ll try anything.
NJBIZ: Sounds like this job is perfect for you then.
Halvorsen: It is. New Jersey is a culinary destination. That’s what makes this state so great.
TRENTON, NJ – Chef Matt Barone of Kearny High School was selected as the New Jersey Restaurant Educational Foundation’s 2018 ProStart “Educator of the Year.” The teaching veteran’s dedication and passion in teaching the ProStart curriculum has made him the perfect choice to represent the Garden State at the National Educator of Excellence Awards in Chicago this May.
Chef Barone has developed an impressive Culinary Program at Kearny High School by expanding Culinary Arts to two years, collaborating with community businesses to introduce an internship program, and cultivating a baking and pastry program. These programs are positioned to thrive within the school’s newly developed Culinary Arts Center.
“Without teachers like Matt, our program wouldn’t be as successful as it has become. He cares for his students long after they complete the ProStart program and quite often will assist them in finding jobs and building careers in the hospitality industry,” said Marilou Halvorsen, president of the New Jersey Restaurant & Hospitality Association.
ProStart National Educator of Excellence Awards recognize, reward, and promote educators who demonstrate excellence in the classroom with passion, commitment, and creativity in all aspects of the ProStart program. Awardees receive a trip to the 2018 Educator of Excellence Awards (EEA) in Chicago, where they will be honored at the EEA Awards Dinner on May 18th. They will participate in special educator programming, including a walking tour of Chicago restaurants, and attend the National Restaurant Association Food Show.
“After over a decade in the hospitality industry and nearly a decade in education, I’ve been fortunate to build a network of professionals who share my passion to engage students so they can maximize the opportunities available to them before, during, and after the ProStart program.” said Chef Barone when asked about the role of a ProStart teacher. “Since earning my master’s in educational leadership, I have focused my efforts in mentoring each student so they can discover their passion and find success by applying it in the right environment,” he added.
The ProStart Program is nationwide, and continuously growing in New Jersey. There are currently 18 schools involved in the program, representing 12 counties.
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By Katherine Landergan - 03/12/2018 07:00 PM EDT
TRENTON — A proposal that would guarantee paid sick leave to nearly all New Jersey workers cleared its first major legislative hurdle on Monday, but not before the primary sponsor negotiated amendments she says will satisfy both business owners and labor advocates.
One union official and a key lawmaker, however, weren’t happy.
“I feel good about where we are, and where we’ve landed,” Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt (D-Camden) said after the Assembly Labor Committee voted 6-2 to advance the measure.
The original legislation allowed both full- and part-time workers up 72 hours that could be used as paid sick leave or personal time off. Under the amended bill, all workers will be able to earn 40 hours of paid leave.
Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen), the sponsor in the upper house, said she planned to push back on that amendment.
“I would have preferred to see a stronger bill,” Weinberg said in a phone interview Monday afternoon.
Passage of the bill would, for the first time, guarantee paid sick time for upwards of 1 million private sector workers and would make New Jersey the 10th state, along with the District of Columbia, to implement such a law.
It would also be a victory for Gov. Phil Murphy and Senate President Steve Sweeney, at a time when the two men are clashing over major policy issues like taxes. Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin has not yet weighed in publicly on the bill.
Lampitt said the amendments she negotiated over the weekend will allow employers to “black out” certain dates, such as some holidays, under which employees could not take personal time. The amended version would also exempt per diem hospital employees, and seasonal workers who work fewer than 120 days, and supersede existing paid sick leave laws in 13 municipalities.
The changes were welcomed by some members of the business community, many of whom had opposed the original legislation.
Marilou Halvorsen, president of the New Jersey Restaurant & Hospitality Association, said that with some additional changes, her group might publicly back the proposal.
“If we can find an agreeable employer and employee compromise, that’s the right thing to do,” she said.
But Kevin Brown, New Jersey state director for 32BJ SEIU, was angered by the amendments, and called the change from 72 hours to 40 hours of leave time “extremely disappointing.”
Brown, whose union represents 12,000 property service workers in New Jersey, said the new legislation will prevent union workers who don’t currently have earned sick time, from gaining it until their next contracted is negotiated.
“That’s ridiculous,” Brown said.
On the issue of per diem hospital workers, Analilia Mejia, executive director of the New Jersey Working Families Alliance, told the labor committee she understands the reasoning for excluding nurses, who earn high hourly rates. But, she said, it should not exclude other lower wage per diem hospital workers.
“We hope you to look at this issue with a scalpel and not a hatchet,” she said.
One change that both the New Jersey Business & Industry Association and the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce are lobbying for is an exemption for small businesses with fewer than five employees. It’s an idea that Lampitt says is not on the table right now.
Assemblyman Harold Wirths (R-Sussex), who served as labor commissioner under former Gov. Chris Christie, said the state needs to stand up for the small businesses and give them more flexibility.
“As a former labor commissioner I cannot see why anyone would want to grow their business in New Jersey right now,” he said.
The limited amount of data available indicates that providing paid sick leave has not had a negative impact on businesses. A 2015 study by Rutgers University’s Center for Women and Work examined how Jersey City’s law worked during its first year. According to the study, most employers did not report problems and about a third who had to change their policies reported increased productivity.
Op-ed by NJRHA President Marilou Halvorsen for ROI-NJ. Read the original op-ed here.
The recent ROI-NJ editorial, “Why tip sharing really is tip stealing,” paints the restaurant and hospitality industry as a conglomerate of unscrupulous business owners. The editorial is factually incorrect and prejudicial to the industry. On the contrary, we are an industry of philanthropy; our businesses are the go-to resource for many community organizations looking for sponsorships and benevolent contributions.
First, let’s address the fact that the proposed federal regulation on tip sharing by the Department of Labor is still in the comment stage of administrative procedure — the response by some has been strident, amid accusations of wage theft and worse.
It should be understood, however, that the sharing of tips has been permitted long before these regulations were proposed. While it is an established principle of wage and hour policy that tips are the property of the employee, it is also well-established law in most jurisdictions that employers may take a “tip credit” against the payment of minimum wage to tipped employees. Under this system, the tip credit is normally shared with others in the chain of service, such as front-of-house employees, servers, busers and bartenders — not managers, supervisors and owners.
Even under regulations from President Barack Obama’s administration, tip pooling was expressly permitted, provided that all front-of-house staff received the federal tipped employee minimum wage of $2.13. Additional tip money would bring them up to or above the overall federal minimum wage. According to the Wage and Hour Division’s fact sheet on tipped employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act, although an employee must retain all tips earned, a valid tip pooling or sharing arrangement among customarily tipped employees (e.g., waiters, bellhops, bartenders) is permitted. A valid tip pool may not include those employees who do not customarily receive tips (e.g., dishwashers, cooks, chefs, janitors).
In the Fourth and Tenth Circuit cases, these courts went even further by ruling that tips could be shared among all workers, provided that the employer paid the full minimum wage to its employees before tips were shared.
Again, it should be repeated that all New Jersey tipped employees must make the mandated $8.60 minimum wage. If a tipped employee doesn’t make enough in tips, the restaurant owner makes up the difference.
(READ MORE from ROI-NJ on the proposed regulation.)
Arguably, a state law may “nullify” federal law if the state law is considered more generous. I believe that, although the current state law concerning tip sharing may be challenged in court, it will prevail.
No one wants to allow employers to take tips from their staff. Tips should not go to owners, managers and the like. That’s an unethical business practice, and not what the DOL ruling is trying to accomplish. The aim is to allow a percentage of tips to be given to dishwashers and kitchen staff to acknowledge their contribution to guests’ dining experiences. Tips belong to the hourly employees that provide the guest dining experience. This should be included in the final regulation of the DOL ruling.
To suggest that tip sharing is tip stealing is off-base and prejudicial.
By Marilou Halvorsen, NJRHA President
The beginning of every new year brings hope and promise. Resolutions are made, diets are started, and commitments to ourselves and others are promised. It is a time to reflect on the previous year and what lessons can be learned.
This year, New Jersey has a new Governor and new legislature. This new beginning brings concern to our industry and small business. The Governor’s new progressive agenda will have an impact on us: a $15 minimum wage, paid sick leave, a restrictive scheduling bill, and the legalization of marijuana are topics of concern, to name a few. While some may have more of an impact than others, the culmination of it all is what really has the potential to devastate us.
As I reflect on the past year and lessons I have learned, I am considering how I can better advocate for my industry. Do I keep yelling into the wind about business closings, slim profit margins, and companies moving out of state? Or, do I try and find a middle ground so that I can educate our elected officials in a way they can understand? To simply say that a $15 minimum wage will force businesses to close or cut into profit margins doesn’t resonate with legislators, especially those who have more progressive policies. So… what can we do?
We can tell the story about job loss or loss of hours—the unintended consequences of these bills. We can talk about how many “first jobs” were in the restaurant industry and how a $15 wage doesn’t make sense for a 16-year-old. We can talk about how people work in this industry because of the flexibility it offers and how a restrictive scheduling mandate would hurt employees who have children, those working while in school, or those who simply enjoy flexibility in their jobs. Regardless of the issue, we need to be prepared to advocate for ourselves and our employees in a way that our elected representatives will understand—and a way that will make them listen.
The table is set, and everyone is seated. Now, we need to be present at the table to tell the hospitality industry’s story. We are the economic engine of the state. We are the industry of opportunity. We hire local residents, serve the local community, and contribute to local organizations. Our New Year’s resolution is to continue to build the bridge between New Jersey’s businesses and policymakers in a way that ensures that the hospitality industry will be heard, considered, and invited back to the table for the next discussion.
My very best for a happy and healthy New Year.
It's no surprise that baking is often associated with comfort food. Taking the time to make homemade scones, breads, chocolate brownies, macaroons, or cupcakes, has become a bit of a trend lately. Amazingly, recent science shows that baking can even brighten your mood if you're feeling down. What better way for the NJREF and ProStart teachers to have a blast while learning something new?!
The NJREF held its Annual Professional Development Summit for ProStart Teachers on November 8th at Hudson County Community College. The day consisted of learning the art and science behind sourdough breads. Teachers made sourdough rye, sourdough wheat, sourdough multigrain, and sourdough Asiago breads.
A fabulous lunch display was presented by Hudson County Community College culinary arts and pastry students. The day finished with an informative talk with teachers about building connections in the industry.
For more information on how to hire ProStart students or get involved in the program contact Leslie Steele, at LeslieS@njrha.org.