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The Official Publication of the Illinois Restaurant Association
MARCH 2017

Making Sure Your Business is Well-Protected


The past few months have been a very active and fluid time regarding labor and employment legislation and regulations, to say the least. With so many changes, restaurant operators and other industry employers need to be aware of new ordinances and developments and how they apply both legally and practically to their businesses. IRA Advisory Council Members Glenn Keefer of IRA Silver Sponsor and Endorsed Partner Heil & Kay Insurance and Rob Bernstein of Laner Muchin share background on new laws coming into effect, and how operators should manage their operations in accordance with these changes.

City of Chicago and Cook County Minimum Wage Laws:
Effective July 1, 2017, under the City of Chicago Minimum Wage Ordinance, the minimum wage for non-tipped employees increases to $11.00/hour, and any increase to the current $5.95 minimum cash wage for tipped employees will be based on any increase to the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which has not yet been determined. Effective July 1, 2017, under the Cook County Minimum Wage Ordinance, the minimum wage for non-tipped employees will be $10.00/hour, and the minimum wage for tipped employees will be the greater of the minimum tipped wage under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) or the Illinois Minimum Wage Law, which means that the minimum wage for tipped employees will be $4.95/hour under the Cook County Ordinance.

What operators need to know: There are scheduled increases to the minimum wage for the next four years in the City of Chicago, and five years in Cook County. Additionally, employers must keep in mind that there are posting and notice to employee requirements under the City of Chicago and/or Cook County Minimum Wage Ordinances which must be followed. The posters will be prepared by the City of Chicago (available online) and Cook County (not yet published). Additionally, on or before June 1, 2017, Cook County will post finalized notices and regulations that employers must follow. 

City of Chicago and Cook County Paid Sick Leave Ordinances:
Effective July 1, 2017, these Ordinances will go into effect (except as to those municipalities outside of the City of Chicago who have opted out of the Cook County Earned Sick Leave Ordinance). These Ordinances apply to any employer who employs at least one (1) covered employee and who maintains a business facility within the City of Chicago’s boundaries (for the City of Chicago Paid Sick Leave Ordinance) or Cook County’s geographic boundaries (for the Cook County Earned Sick Leave Ordinance). Eligible employees accrue one (1) hour of paid sick leave for every forty (40) hours worked. Employers can cap paid sick leave accrual at forty (40) hours per year.

What operators need to know: Employers must keep in mind that there are many more aspects to compliance with these Ordinances and that, assuming one or both of these Ordinances are applicable to their businesses, there are posting and notice to employee requirements that must be followed. Additionally, Cook County will post finalized regulations, postings and notices for employers on or before June 1, 2017.

With so many changes in the law and an increasingly litigious environment, it is in restaurant operators’ and other restaurant industry employers’ best interests to understand how securing Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI) can protect their businesses.

Against the backdrop of ever-changing legislation, worker advocacy groups, and any number of litigation lawyers seeking to establish class action lawsuits, employers are under tremendous pressure to get it right or face possible fines, penalties or costly lawsuits. Additionally, the City of Chicago added an Ordinance in 2013 giving the City the right to unilaterally revoke or suspend an existing business license for past and present wage and hour violations protected by local law, Illinois law, and the Fair Labor Standards Act. The types of violations covered by this Ordinance include violations for failing to pay an employee’s vacation pay, overtime, bonus, or other compensation in a manner that does not comply with applicable law. This Ordinance serves as an additional reason for Chicago employers to protect themselves through compliant and thoughtful human resources practices, legal guidance and tools like EPLI.

Heil & Kay Insurance offers a special EPLI policy for IRA members that covers a variety of employment-related claims including discrimination and harassment, wrongful discharge, retaliation, as well as claims under the ADA, FMLA and Equal Pay Act. The policy also provides coverage for wage and hour claims, and includes access to the local law firm Laner Muchin, which has over 70 years of experience in defending employers – including many restaurants and hospitality clients – in their labor and employment disputes and litigation matters. With over 50 collective years in restaurant management, ownership, and insurance, Heil & Kay provides leadership in connecting the dots between insurance products and the restaurant industry’s unique challenges. 

Glenn and Rob recently presented an in-depth seminar at the IRA focused on making sure your business is well-protected as it relates to recent legislative and regulatory changes in the restaurant industry. To obtain a copy of their presentation, please email Matt Quinn at For more information on recent changes to labor and employment laws or EPLI, please contact Glenn Keefer at or Rob Bernstein at

Flavor Profile

Michelle Mascaro, Owner, Happy Apple Pie Shop


This month, we touched base with Michelle Mascaro, owner of Happy Apple Pie Shop, LLC, an artisan pie shop that creates a blended work environment where people with and without developmental and intellectual disabilities are employed in a fun, nurturing setting.


Tell us a little about your history. How did you get where you are today?  

I was born in New York and have lived in Chicago for more than 30 years. In my eclectic career life, I have worked in hospitals, social service and advocacy organizations. The thread throughout my work life has been social service. As somewhat of a hobby, cooking has always fascinated me. I love the creative process and often tell people that it is how I relax. I find food and culture fascinating. Opening the Happy Apple Pie Shop brings my love of helping others to a place where we create and serve an excellent product.


Tell us a bit about your staff, philosophy and working in a blended environment.  
Presently, the staff at Happy Apple Pie Shop are people with developmental/intellectual disabilities and young people in high school who are looking for their first job. Physically, our shop is open – you see the kitchen when you walk in. Whoever is working is completely a part of the storefront, and the shop is completely open. I am proud and amazed by the staff we have, their work ethic and acceptance of challenges. We are also the recipients of volunteer hours of friends who love the mission and want to see this business succeed. Without them this would not be possible.

My philosophy is that you cannot help but create good food and a vibrant community when there is place for everyone. We hope that the Pie Shop will inspire other employers to hire people who expand the definition of diversity in their businesses.

What’s been the biggest reward in your first few months?  
We have been open and running for just over a month. The rewards have been our staff, our customers, and the welcome by other businesses in the Harrison Arts District. The biggest reward is looking around and seeing people engaged, working, and happy with what they are creating. Customer comments are also rewarding. People come first because they like the story…and they visit again because they love the pie!

Being located in an active business district, where people from the surrounding community value local businesses is also rewarding. So many people have come in telling us they were just waiting for us to be open. There is a sincere feeling of welcome.

To what do you attribute your success? 
Our initial success leans on having a vibrant work force, a commitment to our mission, and high quality products. And we believe the welcoming community helped, too. Our previous year of work at River Forest kitchen, a rented, shared commercial kitchen space, helped us to hone our product and develop a following, which also gave us the support we needed to open our new location.

Our community partners - the Oak Park and River Forest High School, Opportunity Knocks, Aspire, and Seguin Services - also have helped us achieve the success we have today.

What are you looking forward to in the coming year?  
I am looking forward to settling down to a bit of routine and developing innovative ways to increase our productivity.

What do you see as the most valuable resources/services the IRA provides you?  
The IRA has been invaluable in its support for this venture! They have helped me think through ideas, offered resources for many of the questions I have had, and provided connections within the community and the industry. The enthusiasm of other members is inspiring!

Any advice for aspiring chefs and restaurateur? 
The only advice I can give is to follow your dream and don’t let anyone tell you it is impossible. If you have a big idea, don’t shrink it, make it work!




Cook County Issues Rules, FAQs on Upcoming Soda Tax


This week, the Cook County Department of Revenue released rules and FAQs for retailers and distributors on the upcoming penny-per-ounce soda tax – or sweetened beverage tax – that retailers must begin collecting from customers on July 1, 2017. Here’s what you need to know.

The tax imposed will be at the rate of $0.01 per ounce on the retail sale of all sweetened beverages in Cook County. Below are a few frequent questions and answers about the soda tax.

Who pays the tax?

The ultimate liability for payment of the sweetened beverage tax is to be borne by the purchaser of the sweetened beverage. In short – distributors collect the tax from retailers, and retailers in turn must collect the tax from customers.

Can I list the soda tax as a separate line item on my receipts?

Whether or not a retailer may include a separate line item on a receipt that breaks out the cost of the sweetened beverage tax remains unanswered by Cook County. The IRA is working with other stakeholders to gain additional clarification from the County.

How does the 5% syrup spillage work on the tax return?

When paying a distributor, a retailer is allowed to retain 5% of the calculated tax for spillage. The tax is calculated first, and then 5% of that tax amount is taken off for the retailer. This 5% will be reported by the distributor on the tax return.

Will mixers produced to be mixed with alcohol be taxed?

If the mixer itself meets the definition of sweetened beverage in the ordinance, it is subject to tax.

How should the tax be imposed when the retailer offers unlimited refills and does not know if a customer gets no refills or multiple refills?

The ordinance requires the tax to be applied to each ounce sold. The retailer has the discretion to offer refills, but must assure the tax is remitted per ounce sold. If a 20oz beverage is sold, the tax is $0.20. The addition of ice is at the discretion of the retailer/customer and does not affect the amount of tax due.

What records do retailers have to keep?

A business should retain all books and records that can show the tax has been paid. This may include any tax returns, invoices, sales receipts, cancelled checks, etc. that will provide this information.

For more information, visit the Cook County Department of Revenue Sweetened Beverage Tax webpage, which includes the ordinance, rules and regulations, and FAQs.

The IRA is a proud member of the Illinois Coalition Against Beverage Taxes, and we will continue to oppose and actively work to stop burdensome soda taxes at all levels. If you have any questions, please contact Matt Quinn, IRA Government Relations & Communications Manager, at

A La Carte

Is Your Restaurant Covered?


With the changing landscape in state legislation, technology and more, Illinois operators might want to refresh their insurance policies to ensure maximum coverage. Glenn Keefer from IRA Silver Sponsor and Endorsed Partner Heil & Kay Insurance shares details on several available insurance policies to protect operators. 

What is Cyber Liability Insurance Coverage?
The term “cyber liability” has evolved over the past decade and the coverage has grown to cover many industries besides just technology providers. Often though, cyber liability insurance policies have no clear description of the scope of coverage necessary. Insurance buyers can approach this in two ways by either using that lack of specificity as an excuse to buy cheap cyber liability that doesn’t fit the their needs; or purchasing a broad cyber liability policy that ensures full coverage, perhaps even beyond what’s needed. Traditional cyber liability policies typically cover things like wrongful acts by technology professionals, hardware consulting, website design, online commerce and more. A more modern policy might include more specialized items like privacy liability (which covers loss of confidential employee and customer information) or cyber extortion (which covers expenses to respond to a data breach threat with ransom payments).

What is Employment Practices Liability Coverage?
Employment practices liability (EPL) coverage provides protection for an employer against claims made by employees, former employees, or potential employees. It covers discrimination (age, sex, race, disability, etc.), wrongful termination of employment, sexual harassment, and other employment-related allegations and can also provide third party coverage to protect the policy holder if a non-employee is harassed at the office or with employees off-site. The latest trend is to provide coverage for wage and hour claims, especially with the new threshold for overtime limits and continued political pressure on minimum wage issues that have sharpened response from the courts and made the penalties for these violations severe. EPL coverage protects the company and other non-officers from these claims, although company officers may be held personally liable for some parts of violations.


What is Reputation Management Coverage or Food Borne Illness Coverage?

Food Borne Illness Coverage provides protection for restaurants for the costs associated with recovering from a food borne illness event. This coverage is relatively inexpensive and helps protect a restaurant’s reputation to respond to an alleged or actual foodborne illness outbreak. Restaurants opting for this coverage would be insured for physical events like accidental contamination or malicious tampering with food products, and recovery costs like business interruption, consultant costs, and other rehabilitation expenses.


For more information, please contact Glenn Keefer, Risk Management Consultant at Heil & Kay Insurance Agency, Inc. at 847-258-5310 x210 or


A Focus on Family Dining and Hospitality in Southern Illinois


Maria and Aaron Jones focus on quality, community, hospitality and service as owners of Culver’s of Marion, a recently opened Culver’s location in Southern Illinois. From their backgrounds in owning small businesses, they have applied a personal touch to their Culver’s franchise, turning it into more than just a quick service restaurant for the community.

The Joneses first visited Culver’s on a trip to Wisconsin, the restaurant’s home state, where the company’s roots in family and quality drew them in. The pair had no prior industry experience, but opted to leave the small businesses they managed to embark on a new path and bring the Culver’s hospitality to Marion, IL.

“Every time we visited Wisconsin or road tripped through the Midwest, we found ourselves chasing Culver’s, doing everything we could to stop and eat!” explained Maria Jones. “Marion is a thriving community and after some research, we decided that Culver’s would be a great fit. The reception since we’ve opened has been fantastic,”

Co-founder Craig Culver opened the first restaurant in Sauk City, WI in 1984, featuring his mother Ruth’s homemade burger recipe, the ButterBurger, and fresh frozen custard. These items remain on the menu as signatures, but the restaurants offer a variety of items including grilled or crispy chicken, cod, hearty soups, salads and sides like the popular Wisconsin Cheese Curds.

For additional information, please visit


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