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ARE RESTAURANTS BEING BULLIED?

Posted by Tim Bryce on October 28, 2013

BRYCE ON RESTAURANTS

– Is government bureaucracy choking restaurants unnecessarily?

(Click for AUDIO VERSION)

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The restaurant business is a tough one, requiring skill, patience, and considerable fortitude. It’s much more than just having a good recipe or talented chef, you have to have good people skills, and a keen attention to detail. If you do not, your tenure will be brief. My restaurant friends have told me about dozens of restaurants which have gone out of business in Pinellas County. According to LoopNet.com, there are 65 restaurants currently for sale in Pinellas County, a few with some very prominent names. Back in July, Spotos, a longtime fixture in Dunedin closed its doors claiming rising costs and the economy took its toll on them. This surprised me as I had visited them for years and thought they would endure a lot longer. Frankly, it looks like the owners became frustrated and burned out, as I suspect many other owners are becoming likewise.

There are considerable regulations related to running a restaurant, primarily due to the health concerns involved. To get a restaurant operator’s license, you have to pass an extensive test every five years. Florida uses the National Restaurant Association’s “ServSafe Essentials” as the text book for testing. It contains a lot of common sense items but also includes a ton of technical jargon with questionable value. To illustrate, most of us are familiar with such things as salmonella, staph infections, botulism, and Hepatitis A. However, the operators must also learn such things as Hemorrhagic colitis, Listeriosis, Scombroid poisening, Shigellosis, Vibrio vulnificus primary septicemia, etc. They also have to learn about various illnesses and the bacteria causing them, such as Clostridium perfringens gastroenteritis as caused by the bacteria Clostridium perfringens. “Such pathogens can be found in food with low acidity, that is not being maintained by the proper temperature, sits out for too long, or gets too much oxygen and moisture to grow.”

I do not doubt the need to learn the basics about bacteria, molds, yeasts, toxins, and pests, but I question the validity of teaching them Latin. It would seem to make more sense to teach the restauranteur the need for simple cleanliness, organization for food preparation, climate control, and how to maintain their facilities.

Restaurants are visited by health inspectors at least two or three times a year. Such inspections are vital to assure the public is properly protected from unhealthy conditions, but there doesn’t seem to be a standard pattern for such inspections. I have heard owners complain about inspectors looking for something new with each visit and overlooking other infractions from prior visits.

I have yet to find a restaurant who hasn’t been cited for some offense, be it large or small. Even in some of the most pristine restaurants, owners complain the inspectors dig something up just to prove to their superiors they are doing their job. And there may very well be something to this accusation. If you go to “FindTheData.org” on the Internet you will be hard pressed not to find a Pinellas Restaurant listed. This leads you to believe the chances for getting away with a 100% clean record is next to impossible.

What I believe is happening is an example of Parkinson’s Law in action whereby, “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” In other words, it appears the Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County has turned into a bureaucracy for restaurant owners who are overwhelmed by red tape. Again, I recognize the need to safeguard public health, but there seems to be a fine line owners must walk between common sense and being bullied by the government.

Between rising food costs, a weak economy, and dealing with bureaucrats, it’s no small wonder restaurant owners are starting to throw in the towel. I would much rather have a restauranteur with some basic common sense and understands the necessities of cleanliness, temperature control, and the organization of food preparation, than having him learn “Clostridium perfringens gastroenteritis.”

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
timbryce.com

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Copyright © 2013 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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2 Responses to “ARE RESTAURANTS BEING BULLIED?”

  1. Tim,

    I think you should follow up this story with another on the expansion of bureaucracy in our governments. Many see this at the Federal level, but ignore it, yet most do not comprehend nor concern themselves with how much it has expanded on the local level. You touched on it here with the Pinellas County Health Department.

    As an architect, general contractor and developer I’ve noticed a major expansion of government intervention over my career. One of my early clients back in the early 80’s was fed up with it then. He jokingly commented to me that in his next life he wanted to pursue a career as a bureaucrat. He would probably turn over in his grave if he knew the hoops one has to go through today to get a project through the various government entities.

    My best,

    Bill Baldwin

    Like

    • Tim Bryce said

      Bill – Thanks for your comments. I wanted to specifically show bureaucracy at the local level. As you say, people know about problems at the Federal level, but not at the State, County or Municipal levels.

      All the Best,
      Tim

      Like

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