Cars driving along West 43rd Street near Times Square, Midtown Manhattan, New York City
The restaurant business in New York City is like no other business in the world. The rent structure, the volume of business, minimum wage pay scale, spotlight and notoriety, 3rd party online order, celeb chefs, and delivery platforms, as well as the ever-increasing regulation set forth by NYC, make operating a restaurant in NYC exciting, exhausting, and sometimes as nerve-wracking as bungee jumping. As a result, national organizations established to support restaurant operators in other parts of the country very often do not connect with restaurant issues in New York City. The unique rewards and challenges facing restaurateurs are often more complicated, misunderstood, or not embraced at all. As a franchise consultant in the restaurant development space, my experience has been that when it comes to addressing and assisting restaurateurs in New York, one size does not fit all.
Enter Andrew Rigie, the Executive Director of The New York City Hospitality Alliance (The Alliance). He is a driving force, spearheading the voice of NYC restaurants. Informed, in touch, and relentless in his pursuit to advocate for NYC restaurant operators. His actions and organization have, in my opinion, done more to address and find solutions for restaurateurs in NYC than any other entity I’ve encountered.
The Mission Statement page on The New York City Hospitality Alliance website explains how and why it was established?
The New York City Hospitality Alliance (The Alliance) is a not-for-profit association founded in 2012 to represent and serve restaurant and nightlife establishments throughout the five boroughs. Home to more than 24,000 eating and drinking establishments, employing more than a quarter of a million people, our industry is vital to the economic footprint and social fabric of New York City. The Alliance bridges the gap between the hospitality industry, government, and the press. We advocate for a fair and equitable regulatory environment that removes barriers to entrepreneurship and job creation. We seek to reduce unnecessary regulatory burdens, streamline the permit and licensing process, cut the red tape, and represent the industry’s perspective on proposed laws, regulations, trends, and other matters impacting restaurant and nightlife establishments. Members of The Alliance gain exclusive access to operational guidance; up-to-date information on the ever-changing regulations and trends; invites to industry-only training, educational and social events; and, a suite of customized services to help their businesses save time and money. Restaurant and nightlife establishments that join the New York City Hospitality Alliance become part of our tight-knit community and ensures our industry is represented and served.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Andrew to discuss critical issues facing restaurateurs in NYC and how his organization is on the front line of the ever-changing restaurant landscape in New York City.
Andrew shares his insights and explains how his organizations support operators in the industry.
What are some of the issues facing restaurateurs in NYC today?
Two of the biggest issues pending in NYC is the threat that the restaurant tip credit could be eliminated, which would cost approximately $12,000 more to employ, each full-time tipped employee. Although, over the past year-and-a-half restaurant owners and tipped workers have been advocating together to save the tip credit. The other issue is Mayor de Blasio’s proposed unfunded, two-week paid vacation mandate. We’re saying that if it’s a moral imperative for all workers to have this benefit, then the City has a responsibility to help fund and administer the benefit, just like the government does for other benefit programs like Social Security and Paid Family Leave. With that said, we strongly believe there should be a moratorium on all new small business mandates until our government leaders develop and implement a comprehensive regulatory reform agenda.
Are the challenges unique to NYC restaurants?”
NYC definitely has unique challenges because of the high cost of doing business here and the fierce competition – there are more than 25,000 eating and drinking establishments in the five boroughs. However, when I speak with restaurateurs in other cities, they tell me that they’re now grappling with similar regulatory challenges, which are often related to labor costs and mandates.
Are NYC regulations putting too much pressure on entrepreneurs looking to open a restaurant?
How have 3rd party ordering platforms impacted the business?
“Earlier this year, it was reported that Grubhub, the mega-sized restaurant delivery company, was charging restaurants bogus fees for phone call orders that customers did not place. New York City Council Member Mark Gjonaj held what has been noted as the first of its kind oversight hearing into restaurant delivery platforms. I testified alongside restaurateurs on behalf of the organization. I was astonished by how many restaurateurs told me they were too fearful to testify publicly against Grubhub because of the fear of retribution, such as their restaurants not showing up easily in the platform’s search results. And, while the fear of retribution may be overstated, it shows how much real or perceived leverage the billion-dollar corporation has over restaurants.”
In August 2019, Mr. Rigie wrote an in-depth article regarding 3rd party ordering platforms for Forbes.com, which can read in its entirety by here.
What is New York City Hospitality Alliance doing to address some of the negative issues?
We’re constantly providing policy ideas to lawmakers and testifying at public hearings on proposed legislation. We publish op-eds and provide forums for our members so they can have their voices heard, and questions answered.
What do you see as some of the solutions to these challenges?
We need to preserve the tip credit and support them with workforce-related issues. We need to reduce fines and liability for minor violations of complex laws, cut red tape, streamline the permitting and licensing process, and a lot more, such as ensuring restaurants own their customer data when working with third party delivery and reservation apps.
How will The Alliance continue to address the challenges facing NYC restaurants?
We’ll continue to fight hard and non-stop on behalf of our members in the halls of government. We’ll continue to offer the information, education, and services our members need to operate complaint and successful businesses, and we’ll keep hosting events that create a community for hospitality industry professionals.
How do you increase your membership?
We grow our membership by constantly communicating and engaging with the industry. The more we do to reach, support, and advocate for restaurant and nightlife operators, the more businesses will join.
To summarize my interview with Andrew, as I stated earlier, starting and successfully operating a restaurant in New York City has its challenges, as well as it’s the reward. As a restaurant franchisor, former franchisee, and now a consultant, I have seen first hand how Andrew Rigie and the New York City Hospitality Alliance have become an integral component of the New York City restaurant landscape.
About Andrew Rigie:
Andrew Rigie is the Executive Director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance, an association representing restaurants and nightlife venues throughout the five boroughs.
Andrew was born into the hospitality business, working at his family’s third-generation bakery in Queens, NY. He later “got his apron dirty” by working multiple positions within the industry before joining the New York State Restaurant Association in 2004. There he recruited members, was a grassroots organizer, and provided resources and consulting services to restaurant operators, including its Nightlife Association chapter that represented bars and nightclubs. In 2009, Andrew took the helm of the 80+ year-old Association’s New York City operations as its Executive Vice President.
Rigie utilized the knowledge he gained working inside the industry and, on its behalf, to become the founding executive director who launched the independent New York City Hospitality Alliance in 2012. Since then, The Alliance has grown into a premier organization delivering information, education, services, and representing thousands of restaurants and nightlife venues in the halls of government and in the media.
In addition to his executive duties, Rigie serves on multiple advisory boards ranging from regulation to education. Notably, he is the Chair of New York City’s Office of Nightlife Advisory Board and Vice-Chair of Community Board 7 (Manhattan). He is a vocal industry advocate, public speaker, frequent panelist and moderator, Forbes and Total Food Service News contributing author, and recognized commentator on local, national and international media platforms. City & State listed Rigie on their 40 Under 40 list of “Rising Stars: Next Generation of Political Leaders, as did Hunter College with their Stars in NYC Food Policy recognition.” Rigie is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education in Manhattan