Presidential Politics Won't Change D.C.

Restaurant operators say it will be politics-as-usual in Washington, D.C., in 2012, even though this is a Presidential election year when candidates work to address voter concerns while campaigning for favor, according to a recent survey from Nation's Restaurant News.

A 61-percent majority of the more than 150 operators who responded to the NRN 2012 Restaurant Operators Survey said politics inside the Belt Way will not change, and that the industry must continue to advocate for its own best interests.

Looking out to the campaigns and elections later this year, about 18 percent of respondents said the Presidential election will help change the environment in Washington and the economy. About 12 percent of respondents said the campaign and subsequent elections will not bring about any alterations in Washington, and 8 percent said national politics don't matter to their restaurant business.

Last year's political wrangling in Washington over debt ceilings, tax reform and Wall Street regulations affected consumer sentiment and stock market valuations, according to analysts who often cite the "CNN effect" — the change in consumer habits, typically for the worse, fueled by constant news coverage of national or global affairs.

Some of the dips in restaurant industry sales and market performance over the past year or so were seen during mid-term elections and the media coverage of the European debt crisis.

With or without any change in the national political landscape and leadership, restaurant operators said there was cause for concern on the legislative front, with health care reform and menu labeling legislation expected to be front and center in 2012.

According to the NRN survey, restaurant operations will be most affected by:
1. Health care reform (56%)
2. Menu labeling legislation (23%)
3. Paid sick leave legislation (11%)
4. Immigration reform (10%)

NRN will explore more results from the 2012 NRN Restaurant Operators Survey this week.
Part I: Sales, profit and unit growth expectations
Part II: Menu pricing trends

Contact Sarah Lockyer at
Follow her on Twitter: @slockyerNRN