Restaurant industry responds to government shutdown with promos, pleas

Oct. 11, 2013

Pie Five Pizza is the latest restaurant brand to launch a promotion in response to the government shutdown. The fast casual pizza concept is offering free pizza to all furloughed federal government employees with a valid ID from today through Oct. 13.

"We're all frustrated by the nonsense going on in Washington; but the shutdown is no laughing matter for furloughed employees, so we wanted to do our part to make life a little easier on them," said Flynn Dekker, Pie Five's chief marketing officer. "So come on by this weekend, show us your government ID, pinkie promise that you've been furloughed, and your favorite personalized pie is on us."

Pie Five joins Starbucks, which launched a coffee giveaway this week to "encourage the government to reach a solution to the shutdown."

Starbucks customers who "pay it forward" to another guest by buying them a drink will receive a free tall brewed coffee. Howard Schultz, CEO, said the offer is a "different yet authentic way" the company can help citizens come together during this time.

Also, starting today, Starbucks launched a petition drive asking the leaders in Washington, D.C., to "reopen the government, pay debts on time to avoid another financial crisis, and pass a bipartisan and comprehensive long-term budget deal by the end of the year."

Petitions are available at 8,000 to 10,000 Starbucks locations in the U.S., and they can also be signed online at or liked on Facebook.

A variety of restaurants in Washington, D.C., are also getting creative to deal with a heavily-furloughed customer base. The National Restaurant Association reported some of these efforts, including extended happy hours.

Industry groups call for end to shutdown

Also, two industry organizations have released statements asking for an end to the government shutdown. The National Retail Federation has called upon Congress and the Administration to get back to work.

"We strongly support passage of both a continuing resolution to provide for funding of the federal government into the next fiscal year and a measure to raise the nation's debt ceiling," NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said in a letter to government leaders. He said the shutdown has paralyzed the retail industry's public policy priorities and has adversely impacted consumer spending and depressed consumer confidence.

Gallup figures this week show that consumer confidence now measures at the same levels as those from the 2008 economic collapse.

"It's time for Congress to get our government back to work — and time for Congress itself to get back to work on building a strong, stable national economy that will restore the United States to its rightful place as the leader of the global economy," Shay said.

The International Franchise Association is also calling for Congress to support measures to fund the government and raise the debt ceiling. The deadline to do so is Oct. 17.

"Franchise business owners want their elected officials on both sides of the aisle to put aside the partisan rancor and negative rhetoric so we can get this economy moving again," Steve Caldiera, IFA president and CEO, wrote in a letter delivered to Congress. "We have seen this happen before, and without question Congress and the Administration's inability to come to agreement on long-term economic policy puts downward pressure on job growth and business development in the franchise sector. Failure to raise the debt ceiling would almost certainly plunge the economy back into deep recession and fiscal calamity."

Caldeira added that the government shutdown and the uncertainty over raising the current debt ceiling are hurting franchises.

"These issues command immediate and decisive bipartisan action to prevent further damage to the U.S. economy," Caldeira said. "The uncertainty deepens with each day that the government shutdown is allowed to continue and consumer uncertainty created by the shutdown is driving down sales and revenues for franchises nationwide."

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Topics: Marketing / Branding / Promotion , Operations Management , Policy / Legislation

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