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Overbearing Regulations Are Slowly Killing Restaurants


Last month, Eater's New York vertical published an excellent and damning investigation into the city's awful food-safety inspection regime. The article details some of the ways restaurants of all types are forced to game the system in order to pass muster with the city's notoriously overzealous health department. Many of these examples are farcical, including one centered on a covert, all-hands message that "Beyoncé is here," one unnamed restaurant's code language that warns employees of the arrival of a health inspector.

"These businesses aren't necessarily in gross violation of the health code—they're simply reacting to a system that feels broken," writes Saxon Baird.

Overbearing, broken restaurant regulations aren't just a thing in New York City. They're hurting restaurants across America. And while a few cities and states are chipping away at bad rules they now have on the books, many others are busy adopting bad new ones.

With low profit margins and high failure rates, running a restaurant is already a risky endeavor. That's why restaurant owners find it so onerous when additional regulations eat into those profit margins and raise the risk of failure.

That fact doesn't stop lawmakers around the country from piling on restaurateurs nevertheless. Chicago lawmakers, for example, are considering a new ordinance that would limit flexibility in scheduling workers' hours. In a great editorial last week, the Chicago Tribune urged the city to back off, noting the rules don't make sense and would hit restaurants and restaurant workers particularly hard.

The Tribune reports the new rules would impose restrictions on flexible schedules for hourly workers (and even, in an apparent nod to the snowballing Bernie Sanders' campaign labor scandal, many salaried workers). Many of these workers, the Tribune notes, "prefer getting called on short notice to work [and] actually like a more fluid schedule—and extra hours." The editors, lamenting the fact that "employers find Chicago an increasingly hostile place to do business," close with this argument: "City Hall should not be interfering in shift changes at…Taco Bell."

Chicago and New York City are as blue as blue gets. Certainly, red-state lawmakers would never interfere with businesses, right?

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