– Is government bureaucracy choking restaurants unnecessarily?


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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, 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 “” 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!

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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 [email protected]

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Copyright © 2013 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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Listen to Tim on WJTN-AM (News Talk 1240) “The Town Square” with host John Siggins (Mon, Wed, Fri, 12:30-3:00pm Eastern), KGAB-AM 650 “The Morning Zone” with host Dave Chaffin (weekdays, 6:00-10:00am Mountain), and KIT-AM 1280 in Yakima, Washington “The Morning News” with hosts Lance Tormey & Brian Teegarden (weekdays. 6:00-9:00am Pacific). Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube.

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