Restaurant Regulations: The Government Can Help

Many highly regulated small businesses have a bear of a time staying on top of legal and regulatory issues. However, food services and restaurants seem to have among the greatest number of things to know, permits to get, and general compliance demands weighing heavy on day-to-day business operations.


The government can help.


One of the most helpful, and relevant, sites you’ll find is the “Food and Beverage” section of the Small Business Administration’s site, which provides – among many other things – a Guide to Federal Regulations for restaurants and other food-service businesses.


In this guide you’ll find a wealth of information on nearly every federal regulation you’ll face. According to the site, some of the most pressing topics you’ll come across are:

  • American with Disabilities Act

  • Child and Teen Labor

  • Immigration

  • Minimum Wage, Tips, and Overtime

  • Taxes

  • Nutritional Labeling

  • Food Safety

  • Franchises and Business Opportunities

ADA: Meeting the Challenge

In the food services industry, one of the most challenging regulations is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This legislation requires that you avoid discriminating against customers and employees with disabilities, while still obeying public health rules.


To help meet the challenge, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has put together a guide, called “How to Comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act: A Guide for Restaurants and Other Food Services Employers.” This guide provides many, many pages of information on a vast range of issues, from diseases to hiring suggestions. It’s not a quick read. That said, it’s a must for truly understanding your responsibilities under the ADA.


Hiring and Employment

On the employment front, whether you’re hiring teen workers, immigrant workers, or Americans over 18, you’ve got to know what you’re doing before you bring new hires on board.


The U.S. Department of Labor provides information on Federal and State Rules on employing teenagers; provides a Small Business Guide to Immigration Regulations. The Department of Labor also provides a guide to the Fair Labor Standards Act – called the Fair Labor Standards Act Advisor – to explain the intricacies of minimum wage, overtime, child labor, and record-keeping requirements.



Even the most savvy small-business owner can be sidetracked by tax laws and requirements. For the restaurant owner in particular, there is a range of legislation that will apply to you and not to any other business.


On the Food and Beverage page of, you’ll also find a direct link to the Internal Revenue Service – specifically to a Tax Guide for Restaurants link that provides a full page of additional resources that cover nearly any topic you might want to learn about, from market segmentation to tax laws and regulations to ensuring you get the proper credit for cash tips.


Lots of Regulations, Lots of Help

Restaurants and food services represent a near majority of small businesses in the United States, compared to small businesses in other industries. Restaurants and food services businesses are also among the most highly regulated.


That combination has the potential to make life rather challenging for the small-business restaurant owner. While the government is the one that establishes many of these regulations, it also provides the resources necessary to help you meet those regulations quickly and easily.