Not since the anti-establishment presidential campaign of Andrew Jackson in the 1820s has a populist candidate like Donald Trump captivated the electorate.
The Republican Party platform and Trump’s statements on major issues such as minimum wage, healthcare, immigration and employment legislation offer a policy template that has drawn the support of prominent members of the restaurant industry.
Andrew Puzder, CEO of Carpinteria, Calif.-based CKE Restaurants Holdings Inc., parent to the Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s chains, fills in as a Trump surrogate on national television news programs. Howard Lorber, executive chairman of Westbury, N.Y.-based Nathan’s Famous Inc. serves as one of candidate’s 12 economic advisers.
The Trump campaign did not respond to requests for comment by press time.
Trump has been developing policy statements well into the final weeks of the campaign.
Trump supporters like Puzder, who served on the Republican committee that wrote the party’s platform, said the 2016 presidential election comes at a crucial time for restaurants and the economy.
“There’s been a slump in same-store sales in the industry over the past six to nine months,” Puzder told Nation’s Restaurant News. “I don’t think it’s any coincidence that economic growth ... over that time has averaged slightly under 1 percent.
“When businesses don’t create jobs, employees end up competing for low-wage jobs rather than having employers compete for employees,” he said, “so wages stagnate, paths to the middle-class close and income inequality increases.”
Puzder said Trump and his pro-growth approach to this problem would benefit restaurants.
The Republican Party platform states that any increase in the federal minimum wage, which has stood at $7.25 an hour since 2009, should remain a local and state issue.
Trump said in an interview in July with Fox News that he would consider a $10-per-hour federal minimum wage.
Wages in are country are too low, good jobs are too few, and people have lost faith in our leaders.We need smart and strong leadership now!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 28, 2015
The Democratic Party platform endorsed a $15-per-hour minimum wage, which was supported by the Fight for $15 movement and the Service Employees International Union.
“SEIU members have stood arm-in-arm with fast-food workers, and together they have penetrated the national consciousness and changed the conversation around wages in this country,” said Mary Kay Henry, SEIU president, earlier this year.
But large-scale, multi-unit restaurant operators, such as CKE, with 3,700 restaurants in 44 states and 30 countries, are challenged by the federal minimum wage, Puzder said.
“The minimum wage in San Francisco and the minimum wage in Birmingham, Ala., or Memphis, Tenn., should probably not be the same,” he said.
The GOP platform stands firmly for the repeal of what it calls the “dishonestly named Affordable Care Act of 2010.”
Repeal of the Affordable Care Act would also remove the menu-labeling provisions within it.
“Mr. Trump wants to eliminate Obamacare and replace it,” Puzder said. “He wants to repeal it and replace it. It wipes out the regulations. I’m absolutely positive that Mr. Trump — as a businessman and as a CEO — would listen to the concerns of business while trying to protect the interests of the people of working- and middle-class America.
“The lines are so clearly drawn that it would be hard to be any clearer,” Puzder said. “Donald Trump is the individual the restaurant industry should be behind.”
I was asked about healthcare by Anderson Cooper & have been consistent- I will repeal all of #ObamaCare, including the mandate, period.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 19, 2016
Joe Kefauver, managing partner of Align Public Strategies, a public affairs firm, said that Trump has not yet articulated a replacement proposal for the Affordable Care Act.
“His only definitive proposal on healthcare to date is allowing people to buy insurance across state lines,” he said.
Trump has taken no official position on the National Labor Relations Board’s joint-employer rulings, which included McDonald’s USA LLC and its franchisees in 2014.
Critics have said the NLRB rulings imperil the franchise model.
Cicely Simpson, the National Restaurant Association’s executive vice president for policy and government affairs, said in a statement: “The National Labor Relations Board continues to be a challenge not only for our industry, but the entire employer-employee community on the joint-employer standard and other labor-related matters.”
Simpson said the organization has “been working diligently to educate lawmakers and influencers about the importance of upholding the current standard, and will continue to do so throughout the year.”
Puzder added that Trump, while he has not issued any specific policy on the NLRB, “will understand the issue and do whatever he can to protect the concerns of small-business owners.”
About 94 percent of CKE’s 3,700-unit system is franchised.
Many immigrants work in the foodservice industry. The NRA estimated that in 2016, the industry employed 14.4 million workers.
According to Puzder, Trump’s depiction as a nativist candidate is not entirely accurate.
“He actually has said a number of times that he favors legal immigration,” Puzder said. “He also has hired thousands of legal immigrants in his businesses.”
While Trump has proposed building a wall on the United States’ southern border with Mexico, Puzder said the candidate’s policies on immigration are generally good for the restaurant industry.
“His proposals on illegal immigration — such as building the wall, increasing enforcement of the law, deporting criminal aliens, defunding sanctuary cities, reducing visa over-stays and implementing further use of E-Verify, which I think is a very good system and we already use it extensively — those are very reasonable and sensible,” Puzder said.
Puzder said he disagrees with Trump on how to deal with immigrants living in the United States without legal documentation. In late August, Trump said he would call for federal agencies to deport as many as two million undocumented aliens within days of taking office.
“I think we probably need a more rational approach to deal with them rather than just trying to deport 11 million people,” Puzder said.
Trump has modified his earlier proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the U.S., calling for strict verifications for entry.
While the GOP platform cited employment-enhancing legislation for people with disabilities and military veterans, it steered clear of other employee-related proposals such as sick leave and family leave.
Puzder said those kinds of policies can discourage job creation, and Trump generally shares that philosophy.
“I think he would be inclined to protect American workers, but at the same time he would listen to and understand the business community and protect the interests of not only working-class Americans who want jobs, but the business community as well,” he said.