Five Guys and Obamacare have come to odds as a franchise owner of eight of the fast food burger restaurants is threatening to raise prices because of the new healthcare law. Mike Ruffer of the Raleigh-Durham area of North Carolina said Monday that the cost of providing healthcare to his employees means higher prices for consumers.
The Five Guys franchisee said Obamacare also halted his plans to expand his small fast food kingdom- the mandated $60,000 a year fee stopped his plans to build three new restaurants. Now, he's attempting to either fire workers, cut their hours, or otherwise wriggle out of healthcare law.
Ruffer appeared as a speaker at a seminar for the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank that promotes free enterprise and small government. There, he told guests that raising burger prices was the only way he would find the money to pay for Obamacare, and that $60,000 is all the profits one of his stores makes in a year.
"Any added costs are going to have to be passed on" to customers, Ruffer said. The former Marriot executive added that he, like many franchise owners, is waiting to see how the penalties will be instituted for those who choose not to provide healthcare to employees.
"I'm kind of in a holding pattern," he told The Washington Examiner.
After Ruffer's plans were announced, Five Guys' headquarters was quick to distance themselves from the controversy.
"Mike Ruffer is a franchisee of Five Guys and independent business owner," Molly Catalano, director of communications and public relations, told the Huffington Post. "He does not represent Five Guys on this or any other subject matter."
Though Ruffer is outspoken about his plans to raise prices, many companies are quietly doing the same. Instead of paying for healthcare, they are attempting to cut back hours to under 30 or employ less than 50 workers to avoid the law. Around 8 million people will lose healthcare because of the mandate, the Congressional Budget Office estimated.