January 20, 2023

6 Things The New York Times Got Wrong

Person reading a tablet.

On January 17, The New York Times published a story which we believe includes a raft of false claims and inaccuracies. We’ve broken down 6 key points to correct the allegations that the authors made in the article — which appears to have been written in coordination with a competing labor lobbying organization that has long been adverse to the Association's advocacy positions.

  1. The ServSafe training fees are used across the Association for many purposes, not just for lobbying on certain topics as was implied.
    • Revenue from ServSafe products is used for the National Restaurant Association, independent state restaurant associations, and the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation to support and achieve their educational, advocacy, and charitable missions.
    • 10% of revenues from ServSafe products goes to the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation and is used to advance its charitable purposes and programs to develop, grow, and advance the foodservice workforce.
    • The Association’s portion of the revenue supports the operation, development and improvements to ServSafe programs and operations — as well as the mission and operating budget of the Association.
    • Training and certification businesses are conducted by many trade associations and non-profits, and such programs are recognized as within the mission and scope of an association’s purpose.
    • Another recognized purpose of associations and other 501(c)(6) organizations is to advocate and promote the priorities of an industry and its members. 

  2. Restaurant workers are not required to choose ServSafe products and have choices of where to obtain food handler training. Their costs, and the time it takes to complete it, are often reimbursed by their employer.
    • Food safety training is a competitive marketplace and there are more than 20 companies that offer ANSI accredited food handler training. These trainings are available to anyone required or desiring to take the course and, in most states, are listed on the state or local health department website. ServSafe Food Handler training is one of many options available for restaurant workers.
    • In certain states mentioned in the story, the state regulation mandating the training allows for operators and workers to choose from any food handler training that is ANSI accredited. The basics of food handler training are determined by the FDA Food Code and state food regulations and statutes.
    • Many training, certifications, and certificate costs are paid for, or reimbursed by, employers. Employees who purchase their own training often do so in order to allow for greater job mobility.

  3. Contrary to assertions made in the article, the Association has never shied away from its connection to ServSafe, in fact we are extremely proud of its long history in helping prevent the risk of foodborne illness in restaurants.
    • The Association’s name appears in the ServSafe product logos, and we’re proud of the training’s legacy of protection for both the public AND foodservice workers from foodborne illnesses and transmissible viruses.
    • Anyone interested in learning more about the provider of their ServSafe training can search the Association’s website.
    • Advocacy priorities are clearly listed on the Association’s website. We are proud of our efforts to create new employment opportunities and protect restaurant workers’ current jobs.

  4. The National Restaurant Association did not lobby for Food Handler mandates in any state — and we believe food safety training is essential to the safety of everyone coming to a restaurant.
    • Many careers require training, certification or licensing approved by state or local governments. Lawmakers often choose to pass regulations in areas where standardized best practices will ensure greater safety for customers.
    • Association training, certifications, and certificate programs provide important safeguards to the public and useful information to employers and customers by signaling that holders of those credentials have demonstrated the requisite knowledge or competencies.
    • For that reason, many states include requirements that those seeking to work in a particular field have earned a baseline certification or have passed an exam in order to be authorized to engage in the occupation. Even in states without such a legal requirement, safety credentials are often widely sought out by employers and workers — and, ultimately, consumers. 

  5. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the majority of minimum wage workers in the U.S. are employed in industries other than restaurants.
    • According to Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data, more than 99% of restaurant workers earn more than the federal minimum wage.
    • According to BLS data, 25% of restaurant workers that earn the federal minimum wage are either waitstaff or bartenders, which means their total earnings are above the minimum wage when tips are included.
    • According to Association research tipped workers are typically the highest paid workers in a restaurant. The median income for a tipped employee is $27/hour; the highest earning tipped employees make more than $41/hour.

  6. Despite the assertion that we declined an interview, the National Restaurant Association worked with The Times to answer questions and try to correct certain assertions.
    • President & CEO Michelle Korsmo and Executive Vice President of Public Affairs Sean Kennedy both provided on-the-record written responses and quotes to questions from The Times.

Most important, what The New York Times gets wrong is its failure to recognize the importance of food safety training, like ServSafe Food Handler, for every community with a restaurant in it.

Food safety lapses can directly harm customers, put employees at risk, and shake consumer confidence in restaurants. When that happens, it harms restaurants AND employees. As the voice of the industry, the Association feels a strong responsibility to develop and offer solutions to help protect customers, operators, and employees. We help to ensure the highest levels of food safety across the nation — and we are proud of the role we play in keeping our communities safe. And that’s truly pro-worker.