Nation’s Restaurant News reports that the increase of government legislation targeting the foodservice industry, on the federal, state and local levels, is one of the largest challenges restaurateurs face, industry executives and operators said Monday during the International Restaurant & Foodservice Show of New York.

Jon Luther, chairman of Canton, Mass.-based Dunkin Brands Inc., the parent to Dunkin Donuts and Baskin-Robbins, said the intrusion of government through such proposed legislative measures as menu labeling, card check and health care reform, would have the most profound effect on the industry’s future cost of doing business.

“Government, that’s the greatest single threat we have,” Luther said Monday during a panel discussion at the New York State Restaurant Association’s trade show. “Every time something happens, it affects the bottom line.”

Luther added that although some of the plans making their way through the Obama administration “are well thought out,” more needs to be done to ensure the success of business “for the long term.”

He told attendees a story about the late Roberto Goizueta, who, he said was “one of the most wonderful CEOs” in the foodservice industry. “The venerable CEO of Coca-Cola,” Luther mused, “was once asked why [the company had] a huge government relations office overlooking the White House. He said, ‘government could put me out of business.’”
Rick Sampson, chief executive of the New York State Restaurant Association, also weighed in on the subject of increased legislation during a presentation on environmentally friendly restaurant initiatives within the New York restaurant community.
“It’s coming,” he said. “We’re already starting to see [mandated] deposits and sales tax on bottled water. You will be paying higher taxes, fees and on and on. The last thing we want is mandates on how to run our business.”
He suggested that restaurants that work to initiate green programs now will get ahead of the legislation curve, as well as manage to do something good for the environment.

Michael Oshman, executive director of the Green Restaurant Association, the Boston-based nonprofit group that assists operators going green through the association’s certification program, agreed with Sampson, saying that initiating green practices before many become law is the smartest way to circumvent future problems.

“California is legislating left and right,” he said. “The question is, do you want to [make changes] now when you can or wait until 2013 when you have to do it? I don’t know of any restaurant [company] that wants to be mandated to by government.”

NYSRA formed a partnership last year with the GRA to increase eco-friendliness among industry members. According to Oshman, there are 120 restaurants in New York that have either obtained or maintained green restaurant certification since the program began and another 40 to 50 locations are on deck. He said there are a total of 650 restaurants throughout the United States that have so far been GRA certified.

Read more: Nation’s Restaurant News