A Restaurant Brainstorms How To Afford Obamacare | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio
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A Restaurant Brainstorms How To Afford Obamacare

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Almost 20 percent of American workers are working part-time, a historic high. Those part-time workers will be able to get health coverage beginning next year under Obama's Affordable Care Act, but many business owners worry about how they'll pay for it.

Business owners like Clyde's Restaurant Group, a family-owned chain of 14 restaurants in the Washington, D.C., area. For half a century, Clyde's has been a meeting place for politicians and lobbyists — like those who passed the Affordable Care Act — to meet over drinks away from Capitol Hill.

Restaurants face particular challenges adapting to the new health care laws. Supplemented by tips, most restaurant employees work for low wages. That means restaurant owners must pay a relatively larger portion of premiums than other businesses to make health care affordable.

It's not as simple as just cutting employee pay or raising prices to bring in the extra money needed, Clyde's Chief Financial Officer Jeff Owens says. Clyde's has had to rethink its business plan.

"It started out as a brainstorming exercise for us," Owens says. "We were able to sit in a room and ... list out any ideas that would generate either cost savings or additional revenue."

Some of those ideas included things like using paper napkins over cloth, reducing portion sizes and, of course, staffing changes. There's also raising prices, which Owens says is last on the list.

"It's a tricky thing, because it's hard to forecast what the decrease in your traffic is going to be," he says.

All of this, in order to prepare for bearing the increased cost of covering employee health care under Obamacare.

"For one to two years it's been the No. 1 issue on our radar," he says. "We're not trying to run away from it, but it's a frightening proposition."

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