Andy Puzder Stephen Osman

The Power List 2017: Andy Puzder

NRN presents The Power List 2017, our fourth annual list of the most powerful people in foodservice. The Top 10 on the list are leading the restaurant industry today, and shaping its future.

You probably know Andy Puzder as CEO of CKE Restaurants Holdings Inc., parent to the Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s chains, which have become infamous for television commercials starring bikini-clad models and celebrities chowing down on the brands’ burgers.

Beginning in January, we will begin to know Puzder as the secretary of labor of the United States, pending Congressional approval. And restaurant operators will now have their interests represented on the federal level.

The nomination drew quick praise from organizations including the International Franchise Association, National Council of Chain Restaurants and National Retail Federation.

National Restaurant Association CEO Dawn Sweeney said that Puzder “brings much-needed business experience to the Department of Labor. He has a proven track record of turning around businesses, and his background in the restaurant industry will help foster an environment for job creation.”

In the year of Donald Trump, Puzder was right in the thick of things. As an outspoken supporter of the president-elect and now as future labor secretary, Puzder will expand his influence from quick-
service customers to the entire country.

Puzder has been a vocal opponent of President Barack Obama’s business policies, criticizing the administration’s support of unions, corporate insurance requirements and new overtime salary regulations.

“The problem now is the government,” Puzder told Nation’s Restaurant News in 2016. “We’ve spent seven years of the Obama administration doing everything they possibly could, keeping us from opening new businesses.”

When it comes to the restaurant workforce, he warned in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece that increasing labor costs for restaurants through higher wages for workers will lead operators to rely more on technology at the expense of people’s jobs.

“If consumers prefer it, or if government-mandated, labor-cost increases drive prices too high, the traditional full-service restaurant model, like those old gas stations with the employees swarming over your car, could well become a thing of the past,” Puzder wrote.

A pressing concern for Puzder as labor secretary will be minimum wage, which worker organizations have demanded be increased for years. Puzder has said Republicans should support an increase to a maximum of $9 per hour and tie the wage to inflation. This is far below the $15 per hour such groups as the Service Employees International Union’s Fight for $15 campaign have called for.

Puzder, a trained lawyer, has never been afraid to speak out, but he’s not just talk. CKE said it would combine its Mississippi and California headquarters in Nashville after years of threatening to leave The Golden State because of its allegedly unfriendly business environment. Tennessee does not have individual income tax.

Puzder has led CKE as CEO since 2000, but he has been involved with the operator since 1991, when company founder Carl Karcher asked him to be his personal attorney.

Puzder has won a number of awards for his longtime service to the restaurant industry, including being named a Nation’s Restaurant News Golden Chain Award winner in 2008.

Now America waits to see what will characterize his service as secretary of labor.

Contact Marcella Veneziale at [email protected]

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