Laws And Regulations | 4 mins read

Laws and Regulations in the Restaurant Industry

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Cynthia Vespia

By Cynthia Vespia

Laws and Regulations for Restaurants

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Being a restaurant owner comes with a lot of specific regulations that must be followed. All restaurant businesses must obtain permits to open and others to operate. Failure to comply with these regulations can cause many problems.

Within a business that serves food and beverages, where public health is involved, the importance of following these standards is much higher. Lawsuits from foodborne illness have impacted a lot of restaurants over the years. Other scenarios can include various fines, loss of liquor licenses, or permanent shutdown.

Other than just the legal information that is involved with violating regulations, there is much more cause-and-effect that can take place. Reputation impact and bad publicity can impact a brand for the long term. There are many different reasons why a restaurant owner needs to comply with these laws and regulations.

Types of Laws and Regulations that Restaurant Managers Follow

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The rules and regulations for the food industry are vast. Restaurant managers should learn which laws are applicable to them and remain in compliance to avoid any problems.


Understanding restaurant regulations work
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for the implementation of the federal Food Code. Rather than overseeing every bar or restaurant in various districts, the FDA focuses on the Food Code.

States will use the Food Code as a guideline to structure their own standards of operation. Restaurants and others in foodservice will need to abide by these state codes.

Generally, these are the laws and regulations most restaurants will be expected to follow.

Food service license
Any business that prepares and serves food can expect to get a visit from state and local health departments. These inspections are routine and the inspectors are checking to make sure the food safety regulations are being followed.

Before a restaurant even opens, owners will need to obtain the appropriate food and liquor licenses and pass a health inspection. After opening, there will be ongoing inspections to ensure continued compliance of the food safety standards is in effect.

If a restaurant violates any standards for food safety, it can have licenses revoked. Some violations can include pest infestation, faulty plumbing, or improper food storage which is explained further below.

Health inspectors will hand out grades for restaurants which need to be prominently displayed in full customer view. It goes without saying that anything under an A-grade is not profitable.

Food storage
There are certain measures in place to ensure the proper handling and storage of foods. If these protocols are not followed, there is a certain risk of exposure to foodborne illnesses.

Accurate dates and times must be labeled on all items. This follows the first-in, first-out rule where the food received from the distributor first is used before spoilage can take effect.

There should also be a good working thermometer that can make accurate readings of internal food temps. Refrigeration levels for food storage must remain at 40 degrees Fahrenheit to eliminate bacteria growth.

Selling alcohol
Alcohol sales have their own set of regulations aside from food service. A restaurant or bar must meet all regulations from the state before serving alcohol is permitted. Permits and liquor licenses are required for selling alcohol.

Depending on the type of liquor being served, there will be variable licenses involved. For example, licensing for hard liquor sales has a different approval rate than obtaining a license for beer and wine.

Employee cleanliness
Food service workers should be kept to high standards of cleanliness. Anyone serving, preparing, or being around food needs to following the safety regulations as they relate to cleanliness.

This means to keeps hands clean and washed; having hair neatly groomed and pulled back; and avoiding exposure by not working when ill. All employees, regardless of their level of contact with the food, will need to obtain a health card before working in a restaurant or other food service establishment.

Employee safety
All employers are subject to the standards set forth by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. These federal standards are set and enforced by OSHA ensure working conditions are safe for all employees.


Injury accidents within a restaurant can occur as the result of slips, improper lifting of heavy objects, burns or cuts. The OSHA guidelines not only protect the employees in these instances, but also the restaurant owners themselves.

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Conclusion to Laws and Regulations

  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) creates and oversee the federal Food Code.
  • The United States Department of Labor establishes laws and regulations for any large or small business. These federal laws allow restaurants to protect both employees and owners.

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