Overview: Learn the dos and don’ts as a restaurant owner to stay out of legal problems

Working in the restaurant industry is stressful enough, now add dealing with a legal problem is you’ve probably got one of the most stressful and unpleasant situations a business owner could experience.

As a restaurant owner, there are plenty of tasks to manage daily – from trying to satisfy picky customers to cooking mishaps and growing demands of different cuisines. Suffice it to say, a legal lawsuit is not only time-consuming and costly, but it also can have adverse effects on a restaurant’s name and reputation.

Why is hiring an attorney a good choice?

If you’re a small-scale restaurant owner, it isn’t easy to deal with legal issues on your own – we wouldn’t recommend this route even if you’re trying to save money. This could ultimately cost you more in the long run. Investing in a professional representative can prevent significant headaches, as an attorney can simplify complicated state laws while protecting your reputation and interests.

Another benefit of hiring an attorney if your restaurant might be faced with a legal issue is that you can spare yourself from legal headaches while reducing the risk of having to pay unexpected fines. Remember that the restaurant still has to run until otherwise mandated, so you’ll have a free hand to concentrate on running the business while the attorney handles the serious matters behind the scene.


Restaurants face potential liabilities that no other businesses face, so buying insurance is mandatory to manage operational risks and prevent lawsuits. Various types of insurance – ranging from personal injury, liquor liability, workers’ compensation, property insurance, to name a few – are vital. A lawyer can aid restaurant owners during a claim and can provide advice on the contents of policies.

Health Code Issues:

Restaurant owners often deal with lawsuits that concern the health and safety of the customers. These types of lawsuits often arise from carelessness, negligence, and even the consumption of food and drink handling. Typically, people associate such cases with food poisoning and contamination, which leads to illness, and the victim can ask for the claim. To avoid these types of legal issues, adhere to health and safety regulations required for restaurants.

Slips and Falls:

One of the most common personal injury cases that restaurants experience is slip and fall cases. If the slip or fall occurs due to the negligence of the restaurant owner, they’ll likely be sued for it by the victim.

Preventing a slip and fall isn’t easy – but it also can be avoided. The challenge is that with the constant bustle and flow of a restaurant establishment, a customer could spill a drink unknowingly, an employee could accidently knock over a glass, and the like. However, there are some preventive measures that could and should be taken that could save you from such dangerous situations:

  • Train your staff to keep the place clean.
  • Ensure adequate lighting in the walking places, including hallways or walkways, etc.
  • Get rid of tripping hazards, including uneven floors or torn carpeting.
  • Make arounds through the establishment and have dedicated cleaning staff to tend to any spills, etc.

Employment Laws:

If you have a restaurant or you’re planning to open one, read the employment laws before stepping into that territory. There’s a lot that awaits restaurant owners – including the weighty responsibility of unintentional injuries, inaccurate wage or breaks, and even discrimination that you might not be aware of.

Our professional recommendation is to always, always review and understand the employment laws in your area and make active efforts to follow them vigorously.

Permits or License:

The process of obtaining a license can be daunting, exhausting, and incredibly complex, especially when you’re new to the industry. To avoid running into legal issues, you have to understand what licenses are needed.

One of the most common lawsuits people file are liquor cases – where someone under the age of the required drinking age is given alcohol. It’s good to train you and your entire staff on how to distinguish real ID cards from fake ones so you can avoid legal issues.

Workforce Legal issues:

One form of legal issue is predictive scheduling. The jurisdictions require quick-service restaurants to post work schedules at least two weeks prior. The decision of minimal wage shall also be made according to provincial or federal law.

Other legal issues in the workplace involve recruitment. It’s illegal to hire (or not hire) someone based on their race, ethnicity, religious beliefs, etc. Even more, if any of your customers are subjected to this behavior, they can sue you for discrimination.


You may need a license to play music at your restaurant because of copyright laws, noise, or other factors. Considering this factor in mind, it’s important to check local laws before getting into the business.

Ambiguous Commercial Leases:

Unfortunately, commercial landlords don’t provide the range of services the way residential landlords do. The leases they provide lack consumer-type protection, pushing problems of the establishment into the hands of the renter.

For example, if you find the heating system has broken down or the furnace needs replacement, you’ll have to do these things from your own end.


“Zoning regulations dictate the type of building you are able to have in a particular location. Zoning possibilities for a property include residential, commercial, recreational, industrial, and agricultural. The zoning restrictions also determine the size and height of the building and lot sizing. In some cities, signs’ type, size, and height are also regulated. Review all of the zoning laws in the initial stages of planning your restaurant to avoid potential legal issues or forced changes to your plans.” Source.

In summary:

To conclude, we find that buying, selling, or opening a restaurant need more than just a passion for hospitality or a love of cooking or baking… it’s a business. Therefore, it’s crucial to imply all the legalities and requirements within the state or territory. Keep the health and safety factors, customer care, licenses, and permits in mind. Also, if you want your customers to dine outside, you must provide them with appropriate tables and chairs.

There’s a whole other list of of laws and regulations for restaurant owners due to the pandemic. While some things have loosened up, others haven’t.

With so much to consider when running a restaurant, and it’s strongly recommended that you speak to an aggressive and potent lawyer to help you tackle potential legal issues before they arise so that your restaurant is being ran at optimum efficiency.

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