Restau­ra­teurs of­fer full serv­ing of dis­gust over Oba­macare cost

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY TIM DE­VANEY

In the lat­est em­ployer back­lash against the high costs of Pres­i­dent Obama’s sig­na­ture health­care plan, a ma­jor Denny’s and Dairy Queen fran­chise owner says he is con­sid­er­ing adding an “Oba­macare” sur­charge that would raise his res­tau­rant’s prices by 5 per­cent.

John Metz, a Florida busi­ness­man who owns about 40 Denny’s and sev­eral Dairy Queen fran­chises, told the Huff­in­g­ton Post he also is con­sid­er­ing cut­ting em­ploy­ees’ hours so as to avoid the man­date to pro­vide health in­sur­ance to full-time work­ers.

“If I leave prices the same, but say on the menu that there is a 5 per­cent sur­charge for Oba­macare, cus­tomers have two choices,” Mr. Metz said. “They can ei­ther pay it and tip 15 per­cent or 20 per­cent, or if they re­ally feel so in­clined, they can re­duce the amount of tip they give their server, who is the pri­mary ben­e­fi­ciary of Oba­macare. Al­though it may sound ter­ri­ble that I’m do­ing this, it’s the only al­ter­na­tive. I’ve got to pass the cost on to the con­sumer.”

Mr. Metz, who also runs sev­eral Hur­ri­cane Grill & Wings lo­ca­tions, is the lat­est restau­ra­teur to re­act harshly to Mr. Obama’s health-care plan since the pres­i­dent’s elec­tion vic­tory made it cer­tain that the law would not be re­pealed by a hy­po­thet­i­cal Pres­i­dent Mitt Rom­ney.

Such ma­jor chains as Ap­ple­bee’s, Papa John’s, Red Lob­ster and Olive Gar­den have an­nounced sim­i­lar lay­offs and hour re­duc­tions. Many also are fac­ing back­lash from the pres­i­dent’s sup­port­ers who are threat­en­ing to boy­cott these com­pa­nies.

The health-care law, once it goes into ef­fect, will re­quire com­pa­nies with more than 50 full­time em­ploy­ees to pro­vide health in­sur­ance for them or be fined. In re­sponse, many com­pa­nies are lay­ing off work­ers, cut­ting back their hours, and rais­ing prices.

Neil Trautwein, a vice pres­i­dent at the Na­tional Re­tail Fed­er­a­tion, said he’s not sur­prised by the ac­tions these com­pa­nies are tak­ing.

“We warned Congress,” Mr. Trautwein said. “Ob­vi­ously, the see.”

Mr. Metz said his “Oba­macare” sur­charge, which at this point is only un­der con­sid­er­a­tion, could take ef­fect in Jan­uary 2014, but re­duc­tions in hours may hap­pen sooner. He plans to meet with em­ploy­ees in De­cem­ber to tell them “that be­cause of Oba­macare, we are go­ing to be cut­ting front-of-the-house

Neil Trautwein, a vice pres­i­dent at the Na­tional Re­tail Fed­er­a­tion, said he’s not sur­prised by the ac­tions these com­pa­nies are tak­ing. “We warned Congress,” Mr. Trautwein said. “Ob­vi­ously, the elec­tion passed and these are not po­lit­i­cal

de­ci­sions. These are sober-minded busi­nesses de­ci­sions.”

elec­tion passed and these are not po­lit­i­cal de­ci­sions. These are sober-minded busi­nesses de­ci­sions.”

He ex­pects more busi­nesses to take sim­i­lar mea­sures in 2013 and 2014 as more parts of the health-care law go into ef­fect. “They’re be­gin­ning to think about the eco­nomic con­se­quences,” Mr. Trautwein said. “I’m sure this isn’t the last we’ll em­ploy­ees to un­der 30 hours, ef­fec­tive im­me­di­ately.”

“I think it’s a ter­ri­ble thing,” he said. “It’s ridicu­lous that the max­i­mum hours we can give peo­ple is 28 hours a week in­stead of 40. It’s go­ing to force my em­ploy­ees to go out and get a sec­ond job.”

Mr. Metz said he was sym­pa­thetic to the prob­lems this would cre­ate for em­ploy­ees, but he shifted the blame to the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion.

“What we’re go­ing to ask them to do is to speak to their elected of­fi­cials, to try to con­vey what this means in terms of their jobs and their liveli­hoods,” he said.

In New York, a large Ap­ple­bee’s fran­chise owner has drawn back­lash from em­ploy­ees and cus­tomers for an­nounc­ing last week that he wouldn’t continue ex­pand­ing and is con­sid­er­ing lay­offs.

“We’ve cal­cu­lated it will (cost) some mil­lions of dol­lars across our sys­tem,” Zane Tankel, chair­man and CEO of Ap­pleMetro, told Fox Busi­ness Net­work. “So what does that say? that says we won’t build more restau­rants. We won’t hire more peo­ple.”

In re­sponse, Bran­don Baker, an Ap­ple­bee’s waiter in Seattle, told the Huff­in­g­ton Post, “it’s ridicu­lous with all the money they make they can’t take care of their em­ploy­ees. They sit in their man­sions and we scrape by. I have no idea what it would be like to get a real break or have sick days or in­sur­ance.”

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