A lot of hard work, sweat, and passion goes behind setting up and growing any successful business. Running a food business is no different, in fact it is much more complex than running other businesses. Why? Nearly 51% restaurant owners face some real tough challenges in hiring, training, and retaining their employees. A whopping 30% restaurants close in their first year of operations because of notoriously low margins, high staff turnover, non-compliance of regulatory guidelines, and various other challenges.
We have discussed in the past how a robust training program can help in retaining employees, and also possibly save you from shutting shop. However, the content of a training program is what makes it effective or ineffective. Besides training employees on day-to-day operations, soft skills, etiquettes, and other fine details it is extremely important to familiarize them with the regulatory guidelines and compliances applicable to your business. A failure in adhering to regulations can lead to some serious consequences.
So, what do we mean by regulatory compliances and which ones are applicable to restaurants based out of the US. Let’s find out.
Meaning of Regulatory Compliances
Every business has to follow a set of regulations defined by the local legislation and legal authorities for it to be deemed a legitimate business. Similarly, any food establishment or restaurant must adhere to regulations, guidelines, laws, and specifications relevant for their industry. These regulations defined by law are referred to as regulatory compliance. Failure to adhere to these can attract federal fines, severe legal punishment, time in prison, and even closure of business.
- Why train restaurant employees on regulatory compliances
The day-to-day functioning and operations of your restaurant is managed by your restaurant staff. Flouting norms, and non-compliance of regulatory guidelines are bound to happen if your staff is not aware about them. Hence, in order to avoid non-compliance it is imperative to train your staff on regulatory compliances applicable to restaurants. Make sure you include these in your employee handbook and training sessions.
Regulatory compliances for restaurants
The US government plays a pivotal role in establishing standards regarding the food safety system, liquor laws, health and safety regulations at the workplace and also oversees its enforcement. The government is supported by trade and consumer organizations, professional organizations, regulatory bodies such as HACCP and OSHA, and academic institutions that engage in training and educating people involved in the restaurant business. Food safety is serious business and every organization involved with the food chain from farm and sea to table shares responsibility for the safety of food. Regulations applicable to the restaurant industry and in a broader perspective applicable to the food industry includes producers, processors, shippers, retailers, food preparers, consumers, and anyone (restaurant workers, servers, managers) involved in the chain. The food safety system and regulatory compliance for restaurants is complex and multilevel in the US.
Regulatory government agencies that oversee different aspects of restaurant business
Different government regulatory agencies monitor different aspects of a restaurant business. The below listed three main agencies are present at a state, local city, and county level:
- Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS): A public health agency, FSIS is a part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It oversees the country’s commercial supply of poultry, meat, and processed egg products.
- Food and Drug Administration (FDA): The FDA primarily protects public health by ensuring that all food products (excluding meat, poultry and egg products) are safe for human consumption. Visit their detailed food service codes and regulations for every state.
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA): OSHA, a part of the Department of Labor, is responsible for overseeing employees' health and safety regulations. To know more about OSHA guidelines read our OSHA guide.
Regulations that should be a part of your training program
- Regulations for food storage
FDA has defined guidelines around safe food storage, a failure to comply with these can have severe legal consequences. These guidelines are critical to avoid any food-borne illnesses. A few guidelines as defined by FDA for storage are:
- All foods (cooked, raw, fruits, vegetables, spices, dry ingredients, meat, poultry, seafood, dressings, oil, butter, dairy) must be stored separately, at the recommended temperature, and clearly labelled by the date received.
- Food items in stock should be used on FIFO (first-in-first-out) basis.
- All restaurant kitchens/food establishments must refrigerate food below 40 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid breeding of bacteria.
- All facilities must have a working thermometer.
Know more about safe food handling and storage here.
- Regulations for employees personal hygiene and cleanliness
All restaurant employees must complete their food safety course and get a food handler’s permit issued after completing the course. Your state's health department can provide you with detailed information on employment regulations and food handler permits. As a part of your restaurant training, you must train your employees on the personal hygiene and cleanliness guidelines both for their safety and your customers safety. Read our guide on employee grooming and personal hygiene.
- Employee safety regulations as defined by OSHA
More than employees, employers need to be well-versed with OSHA regulations applicable for bars and restaurants. However, all your supervisors and managers must be trained on OSHA regulations so that they make sure that all safety standards are enforced for a safe and healthy workplace. Restaurant and bar employees are always at the risk of injury at their workplace which could be because of heavy lifting, fires, smoke inhalation from improper ventilation, cuts-bruises, slipping on wet floors and a lot more. Being trained on OSHA guidelines and properly implementing and following them can avoid such mishaps.
- Regulations regarding sale of alcohol
Selling alcohol is ofcourse a profitable proposition, however things can get tricky if you are on the wrong side of law. Make sure to get a license to sell alcohol, and tick mark all boxes of both state and local regulations for serving alcohol. Also training your employees on ‘Alcohol awareness’ is necessary to ensure an enjoyable and safe dining experience for all your guests and your employees too. Our blog on Alcohol Awareness Training for restaurants has all the information you need to know.
- HACCP Regulations
HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) is considered as the gold standard in food safety. Implementing HACCP and training employees on HACCP regulations helps curb incidents of food contamination and saves you from a myriad of financial and legal troubles. Get more insight on HACCP for restaurants and food establishments here.
Running a restaurant can be cumbersome, but a fulfilling experience. Being on the right side of the law may often seem difficult despite your best efforts. But with the right planning and training all your staff from top to bottom on these mandatory regulations can help you stay on track.