Complying with Government Regulations

Whether it’s foodservice, tobacco or unionization, c-store owners must educate themselves on the changes that are taking place and respond accordingly to protect their investments.

By Jim Callahan.

As if we did not have enough government intervention to deal with, we are about to come face to face with an enormous increase in rules and regulations designed to control our respective businesses.

Let’s count some of the major challenges we are starring down the barrel of:
• Mounting changes to the Americans with Disabilities Act.
• Employee unionization concerns.
• FDA tobacco regulation and subsequent in-store inspections.
• An onerous set of new food safety requirements that could affect every foodservice package we sell.
We are the lucky ones that get to deal with all of these initiatives while still trying to fend off the likes of Walmart, Tesco, Walgreens and others, all of whom have decided a smaller format is the best way to compete for today’s on-the-go consumers and their busy lifestyles.

Before we go out and blindly hire a bigger staff to help operate the stores and run up our operating costs, we should take a moment to reflect on the hard work this industry has done through the years to make it a preferred retail destination. We’ve overcome much worse and can certainly weather this regulation onslaught as well.

Growing Government
Most governmental laws are made with the best of intentions and many are actually effective at helping to protect public safety. Moreover, regardless of how we feel about government intervention, we must follow the laws of the land or suffer the consequences.

While these laws may not be easy to deal with, we have to learn how to deal with them. Many business owners or top management folks have gotten where they are through knowledge, hard work and a forceful personality. These are normally the attributes of great leaders, but my advice is to rein in that forceful personality when dealing with government inspectors. As the saying goes, you will catch more flies with honey than you will with vinegar. Your goal is to smile, be nice, very agreeable and display that great and willing can-do attitude.  

Let me relate to you a recent example to demonstrate the power of government inspectors and how much control they have over our destinies. One of my consulting clients has a casual dining restaurant that was having its periodic foodservice inspection. During the course of the inspection the quite arrogant inspector asked one of the cooks where his gloves were. He replied that he didn’t have any. The inspector responded by saying, “What is this stupid day?”  

We all know that is not the proper thing to say to a skilled cook who takes pride in his work. He responded equally sarcastically and the inspector went about “rewarding” his reaction by reinventing the violations code handbook that resulted in the facility’s first inspection score of less than 95.  

Now let me ask you this: Would a health inspection score of 67% make you hesitate to dine at that establishment? What if that grade were made public? As a result of this little ego battle my client very nearly faced that harsh reality.

A few anxious phone calls later we were able to book a reinspection three days later. Fortunately, the new grade was 98%. Incidentally, the inspector deducted two points because I advised the client not to post the failing health grade. Can you imagine the reaction of any discerning customer upon entering a dining establishment and observing a score that low? The real damage to this major investment would have come as the low score spread by word of mouth. Once that damage starts, it’s difficult to control.

The lesson here is to do your due diligence work every day, keep your cool and don’t cut corners. All it takes is one misstep to destroy an empire and not everyone is going to be fortunate enough to get a second chance.

Jim Callahan has more than 40 years of experience as a convenience store and petroleum marketer. His Convenience Store Solutions blog appears regularly on CSDecisions.com. He can be reached at (678) 485-4773 or via e-mail at jfcallahan502@msn.com

  • Ddavis

    Excellent reminder.  So hard to take words back.  And the power negative words have is nearly unfathomable.

  • swog

    I’m looking at buying a convenience store in ohio. there is an apartment that is above the store (no way to go from inside one to the other with out leaving the building and entering thru a seperate door) we own pets and don’t want to get rid of them. are there laws against pets in the same building as a convenience store?

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