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Rethinking Overtime

July 10, 2015 Comments off

Rethinking Overtime
Source: Oxford Economics

Today, some 3.3 million salaried workers across the US retail and restaurant industries can be exempted from the right to receive overtime pay because they earn at least $455 per week—the so-called overtime threshold. The Department of Labor is currently preparing a proposal that would change the rules that govern overtime payment.

To better understand the effects of these changes, Oxford Economics conducted an analysis using three possible modifications of the overtime regulation—raising the wage threshold to $610, $808, and $965 per week. This report explores the effects on the retail and restaurant industries under these three scenarios.

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Unhappy Meals: Sex Discrimination in Toy Choice at McDonald’s

July 2, 2015 Comments off

Unhappy Meals: Sex Discrimination in Toy Choice at McDonald’s
Source: William and Mary Journal of Women and the Law

This Essay reports on a commonplace form of sex discrimination that we unsuccessfully challenged in a lawsuit before the Connecticut Human Rights Commission. In a small-scale pilot study that we conducted 5 years ago (which was the basis of our initial complaint) and in a follow-up study conducted in 2013, we found that McDonald’s franchises, instead of asking drive-through customers ordering a Happy Meal about their toy preference, asked the customer for the sex of the customer’s child (“Is it for a boy or a girl?”) and then gave different types of toys for each sex. Moreover, our 2013 visits found that franchises treat unaccompanied children differently because of their sex. In 92.9% of the visits, the stores, without asking the child about her or his toy preference, just gave the toy that they had designated for that sex. Moreover, 42.8% of stores refused to offer opposite-sex toys even after the child reapproached the counter and affirmatively asked for an alternative. In the most egregious instance, a girl, after twice asking for a “boy’s toy,” was denied, even though the store a moment later had the “boy’s toy” in stock. These “fair counter” tests indicate that stores use discriminatory default, altering, and mandatory rules. They constitute strong prima facie evidence of disparate treatment on the basis of sex in the terms and conditions of contracting for a public accommodation. We also use our Happy Meal empiricism as a motivating example to explore the proper limits of civil rights law. While newspapers describing job listing as “male” or “female” have been found to be a per se civil rights violation, describing Happy Meal offerings as “boy’s toys” or “girl’s toys” may not, as a positive matter, offend courts’ current notion of equality.

Red Lobster, The Cheesecake Factory, Sonic Top 2015 Xtreme Eating Awards

June 5, 2015 Comments off

Red Lobster, The Cheesecake Factory, Sonic Top 2015 Xtreme Eating Awards
Source: Center for Science in the Public Interest

Imagine chowing down on an eight-piece bucket of KFC Original Recipe fried chicken, four sides of mashed potatoes with gravy, four pieces of corn on the cob, and eight packets of buttery spread—all by yourself.

It takes a lot to shock the nutritionists at the Center for Science in the Public Interest who compile the annual Xtreme Eating Awards. But this year they found a single restaurant meal that’s the nutritional equivalent of that KFC binge. Red Lobster’s “Create Your Own Combination” delivers 2,710 calories, and four days’ worth of sodium (6,530 milligrams), if you choose the Parrot Isle Jumbo Coconut Shrimp, Walt’s Favorite Shrimp, and Shrimp Linguine Alfredo to go with the Caesar salad, French fries, and one Cheddar Bay Biscuit. But wait, there’s more!

Wash down that combo with the Lobsterita—the chain’s trademarked 890-calorie, 24-ounce margarita—and the meal reaches 3,600 calories, enough calories for today and most of tomorrow. It’s the highest-calorie meal among the 2015 Xtreme Eating “dishonorees,” as CSPI calls them.

Environmental Sustainability in the Hospitality Industry: Best Practices, Guest Participation, and Customer Satisfaction

May 18, 2015 Comments off

Environmental Sustainability in the Hospitality Industry: Best Practices, Guest Participation, and Customer Satisfaction
Source: Cornell University School of Hotel Administration, Center for Hospitality Research

Certain sustainability practices could be considered nearly universal in the lodging industry, based on a study of 100 resorts in the United States. Among the common green practices are water conserving fixtures and linen-reuse programs. A separate survey of 120,000 hotel customers finds that guests are generally willing to participate in sustainability programs, but the presence of green operations still do not override considerations of price and convenience in selecting a hotel. Additionally, the study finds an increased willingness to participate when hotels offer incentives, such as loyalty program points, for participating in environmental programs. Although the link between environmentally sustainable programs and improved customer satisfaction is weak compared to standard drivers like facilities, room, and food and beverage quality, hotels are increasingly expected to maintain sustainability programs as a regular feature of their business. At the same time, the study did find that environmental sustainability programs do not diminish guest satisfaction. Consequently, the decision regarding which programs to implement should rest on cost-benefit analysis and other operating considerations.

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Balancing Tourism against Terrorism: The Visa Waiver Program, CRS Insights (March 13, 2015)

March 26, 2015 Comments off

Balancing Tourism against Terrorism: The Visa Waiver Program, CRS Insights (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

In recent months, Congress has expressed concern that some foreign fighters might exploit the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) to enter the United States and commit acts of terrorism. The VWP allows eligible visitors from 38 European nations and a few prosperous Asia-Pacific countries (Figure 1) to enter the United States for short business or leisure stays without first obtaining a visa from a U.S. consulate abroad. Recent attacks by domestic terrorists in Europe and reports of European countries’ citizens fighting with armed groups in the Middle East have raised concerns that potential terrorists could travel to the United States with little scrutiny under the VWP.

Balancing national security interests against efforts to facilitate international travel through the VWP presents challenges to legislators. The United States has a large travel and tourism industry. In 2013, travel and tourism accounted for 2.6% of U.S. gross domestic product and directly employed nearly 5.4 million Americans. Foreign visitors in the United States account for a disproportionate amount of U.S. travel and tourism spending. International travelers spent about $215 billion in 2013 on passenger fares and travel-related goods and services, which makes tourism the United States’ single-largest services sector export.

Cyborg Service: The Unexpected Effect of Technology in the Employee-Guest Exchange

March 18, 2015 Comments off

Cyborg Service: The Unexpected Effect of Technology in the Employee-Guest Exchange
Source: Cornell School of Hotel Administration, Center for Hospitality Research

Hotels, restaurants, and other hospitality industry operations are experimenting with self-service kiosks, tablet devices, and other technologies intended to augment or replace interactions between guests and front-line employees. While the combination of technology and people is designed to improve service, research suggests that service technologies can impede development of employee-guest rapport and lead to lower service evaluations. The studies presented in this report apply social equity theory to determine when (and why) technology can improve guests’ satisfaction with the service process and when it diminishes the guest experience. Equity theory suggests that when the use of technology prevents guests from responding to an employee’s friendly advances, guests experience psychological tension and decrease their evaluations of the service experience. The reverse situation also applies, so that when employees are less than friendly the barrier created by technology increases service evaluations by reducing guest anger. However, it is not always the case that friendly frontline staff and technology don’t mix. In a follow up field experiment, guests who used a Monscierge touchscreen system located not far from a bell stand preferred interacting with the technology when a hotel employee was nearby though not directly engaging guests. Thus, frontline employees should still develop a rapport with guests, but when technology acts as an “equity barrier,” the employees should provide guests with “social space,” without abandoning them entirely.

2012 Economic Census Geographic Area Series: Accommodation and Food Services

February 18, 2015 Comments off

2012 Economic Census Geographic Area Series: Accommodation and Food Services
Source: U.S. Census Bureau

This is a series of national-, state-, county-, place- and metro area-level data files that include statistics for traveler accommodation, rooming and boarding houses, full-service restaurants and drinking places. The files provide statistics on the number of establishments, receipts or revenue, payroll, number of employees and other data items by industry. This release is the first for the accommodation and food services sector and covers Colorado and Hawaii and geographic entities within and will be followed by data for Montana and geographic entities in that state. Statistics for the other states and geographic entities within them for this sector will be released on a flow basis over the coming months.

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