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If you’re thinking about starting a bar or a restaurant, one look at all the rules and regulations involved might make you throw up your hands. While all startup businesses have to get licenses and permits, bars and restaurants have to jump through many more hoops to ensure the food and beverages they serve are safe. Understanding regulations for restaurants and bars is complex, but essential.

Failing to follow even one of the regulations could cause major problems for your business. Consider some of the things that could happen:

  • A customer sees roaches in your restaurant kitchen and writes a scathing review that ruins your reputation.
  • A customer gets food poisoning from spoiled food and sues you.
  • An improperly maintained stove hood causes a grease fire and your restaurant has to close down for costly repairs.

If worse comes to worst, failing to meet regulations could cost you your business.

As you can see, staying abreast of all restaurant and bar regulations is essential to success. Keep reading to learn more about the appropriate regulations for your location.

How do regulations for restaurants and bars work?

Food service regulations are based on the federal Food Code, set by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA doesn’t inspect or govern individual bars and restaurants, however. Each state creates its own food code based on the federal Food Code, but they may interpret it differently or create their own rules, too.

To find out what your state food-service laws are, visit the FDA website for a list of food-service codes by state and find the state authority over restaurants and bars. While each state’s regulations are different, bars and restaurants in most states generally follow these rules:

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Get a food-service license

If your bar or restaurant stores, prepares, and serves food (as opposed to just selling prepackaged food) it must be inspected by state and local health departments to confirm you are following food safety regulations. Each state has its own restaurant inspection process; however, in most cases the county health department performs these inspections.

Before your bar or restaurant can open, you must pass inspection; once your bar or restaurant is open, regular inspections will be required to maintain your food-service license. A license can be suspended for a wide range of violations including improperly stored food, vermin infestation, plumbing problems, and more. Your state and city health departments can give you more information about food service licenses and inspections.

Store and handle food properly

To avoid food-borne illnesses like salmonella, you must store food properly. For instance, items must be stored separately to prevent cross-contamination. They must be labeled by the date they were received, and the first items received must be the first items used. Your restaurant must also have a working thermometer and refrigeration should be below 40 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent the growth of bacteria.

Monitor employee cleanliness

To prevent spreading germs, employees are expected to keep clean, wash their hands regularly, and pull back their hair so it doesn’t get into food or drinks. Sick employees should not work around food. In order to serve food, each worker needs to complete a food safety course and get a food handler’s permit. Your state and city health departments can provide more information about employee regulations in your location.

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