Billionaire restaurateur turned reality TV host Tilman Fertitta, the man behind chains like Rainforest Cafe and Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., just gave some of his own quotes to CNBC regarding changes to healthcare mandates and President Trump, saying, "Why should the city of San Francisco be able to do absolutely whatever they want to do?" Fertitta doesn't think the restaurant industry should have to pay for its employees' health insurance, and he's not afraid to complain to a national news outlet about SF's liberal ways.
Fertitta, who's now hosting the second season of the CNBC show Billion Dollar Buyer, made his fortune buying up struggling restaurants after growing up peeling shrimp in his father's seafood restaurant in Galveston. He's now CEO and 100 percent owner of Landry's, the restaurant group based in Houston that has also purchased chains like McCormick & Schmick's, and here in SF, McCormick & Kuleto's Seafood Restaurant.
After November's election, and amidst the current debates about the GOP's healthcare plan, he's eager to voice his distaste for San Francisco's healthcare law, given how it's affected the multiple bottom lines of his SF restaurants though the healthcare surcharge, which he still keeps as a separate bill item, probably isn't discouraging tourists from eating at his tourist-focused restaurants. And neither is mediocre food.
As he told Forbes a couple years back, it's not really about the food. ""You can put the greatest seafood restaurant next to an average steak house in an urban area, and that steak house will do more business than the seafood place. If you go to the water, you can put an average seafood place next to the greatest steak house, and people are going to eat seafood."
But it seems like Fertitta may may be behind the times when it comes to the discussions that many restaurateurs have had here about whether or not to keep grumpily pointing out the Healthy SF surcharge something they began doing when the law took effect nearly a decade ago, and which many of said they should stop doing and just roll the costs into their prices as of about seven years ago.
"Do you realize, all the restaurants in San Francisco, we all have an added charge?" says Fertitta to CNBC. "We have a 3% or 4% or 5% add-on to the menu because they make us give all our employees full healthcare. We can't afford to do it."
All restaurants definitely do not put that added charge on their bills anymore, and the city never required that. And while different corners of the restaurant industry here may be struggling with their margins, the industry has managed not to collapse in the decade since they began having to provide health benefits.
As the Business Times notes, Fertitta is hoping the president appoints "the right people to the National Labor Relations Board," though he acknowledges that they can't change mandates made by individual cities and states.