With over one million restaurants in the United States and an estimated $828 million in projected sales last year alone, the restaurant industry is big business. And thanks in no small part to reality television, there is no shortage of shows featuring chefs, restaurateurs, and other self-proclaimed experts of the industry touting their knowledge. But restaurant experts do more than make good television, they offer a seasoned perspective on the legal aspects associated with the business. From acting as a consultant in the preliminary stages of building a brand to offering expert testimony at a trial, there are a number of ways a restaurant expert can assist a business owner both before and throughout litigation.
What Qualifies Someone as a Restaurant Expert?
But what makes someone a restaurant expert? Typically, hands-on experience is the strongest indicator of a qualified restaurant expert. Those who really know the business have been in the business for a significant amount of time. Many have started from the ground up, with eight out of ten restaurant owners starting their careers in entry-level positions. That being said, there are various aspects of the restaurant industry – from the purchasing and planning to accounting, to day-to-day operations, to the actual preparation of food. As such, the exact qualifications depend on the type of restaurant expert sought.
That is not to say that education is not an important factor as well. Degrees in hospitality, food services, restaurant management and operations, as well as various business and accounting degrees form an important foundation for any restaurant expert. Likewise, culinary institutions, courses, and seminars provide hands-on training and education for those specializing in food services and the culinary arts.
Financial Planning and Profits
Owning a restaurant is a huge undertaking, and the decision to open a restaurant should not be taken lightly. While many may take the leap and gamble by learning as they go, the safer bet is to hire an expert consultant. Experts in financial analytics can help determine whether the restaurant will be financially viable. Such data should include all startup costs and day-to-day overhead expenses as well as an estimated profit margin. A basic financial outline in the beginning with a knowledgeable consultant provides a reasonable financial game plan and takes the guesswork out of at least some of the variables that affect the business’ profits.
With a financial model set and costs carefully budgeted, the next goal would be to increase profits. An expert consultant in restaurant design, branding, and marketing can help bring a restaurant to its greatest potential. Particularly in the age of social media, online branding and marketing is a huge aspect of the restaurant industry. After all, over 90% of customers read online reviews of restaurants. A restaurant’s advertising and online presence should be carefully fine-tuned by an expert to optimize its search engine exposure, and hopefully, its profitability.
Health and Food Safety Standards
All states have their own food safety laws and if not followed, a restaurant can be closed as fast as it opened. In New York, for example, the Health Department conducts unannounced inspections of the restaurant’s property and grades the business based on the number of violations. Things such as proper food handling, adequate food temperatures, personal hygiene of employees, and the control of vermin are just some of the issues that health inspectors are trained to look for. The various types of potential violations can seem overwhelming to both new and experienced restaurant owners. Experts in the various food safety laws and regulations can help ensure a restaurant is in full compliance of each and every possible rule.
Liability Issues: A Restaurant Expert’s Day in Court
Like any other service industry dealing with the public, restaurants are susceptible to lawsuits filed by their patrons. The infamous 1993 lawsuit against McDonald’s for serving its coffee too hot, which earned its burned customer $2.86 million in damages, is an extreme example. But there are many other ways in which a restaurant can find itself in court. When patrons injure themselves on a restaurant’s property, they can allege that the business was negligent in creating an unsafe condition. Allegations of negligence can stem from allegedly dangerous staircases, slippery floors, or unsafe bathrooms. But like any lawsuit setting forth a negligence claim, plaintiffs need to show that the defendant restaurant breached the standard of care. In such cases, a restaurant safety expert would be critical in establishing the standard of care among reasonable restaurant professionals and whether or not the standard was breached.
The restaurant industry is complex and subscribes to its own unique practices of conduct. When facing litigation, it is imperative to consult a qualified restaurant expert that can help navigate the many aspects of the business.