What You Need To Know About Human Resources In The Food Industry

The following appeared in Total Food Service on October 20, 2016, and features a sit-down discussion with OperationsInc CEO David Lewis. To view the original article, please click here

by Total Food Service

We sat down with David Lewis of OperationsInc, a human resources outsourcing and consulting practice based out of Norwalk, CT. David has worked in HR for 30 years, at a couple of Fortune 500 companies along the way before starting OperationsInc in 2001. Needless to say, David Lewis knows human resources and what a restaurateur needs to know.


totalfoodserviceIn short, human resources is one of the biggest liabilities and vulnerabilities if it is not managed properly. We’re not saying that you have to hire an HR person, in reality, you just need to get an appropriate level of advice. One of the most common mistakes that business owners make is that believe that HR is an administrator and an intuitive function. About 75% of what you need to treat people nicely and fairly but that other 25% could put you out of business. There are tons of Federal and State Laws that can have significant impacts on business if they are not followed or understood.

Wage and Hour Rules

It is important to know about the wage and hour rules, or better known as the Fair Labor Standards Act. This act covers who get paid overtime and who does not.  It is a very complex, confusing and convoluted law.  Lucky or unlucky for you, the law is set to be changed on December 1st.  This is going to mean that restaurants are going to need to make some adjustments. In general, this law is about who gets paid overtime and who doesn’t and how it’s calculated. If you do not understand what the law requires you to do you could be carrying huge financial liability. These are business killers that can put any successful restaurant out of business.

Modern kitchen and busy chefs in hotelDepartment of Homeland Security

It is crucial that restaurateurs understand the importance of following the guidelines set by the Department of Homeland Security associated with who you employ. These guidelines are important because there is a tremendous amount of foreign workers who are working who may or may not be here legally. Basically, these guidelines are telling you that it is required to have your employees compete for the I-9 document. In reality, you do not even need to understand the I-9 form, but at the end of the day, you need to show that you’ve made a good faith effort to collect their information. This gives you the right to say that with reasonable certainty that your employees are here legally.

Workers Comp

It is also very important that you focus on with Human Resources is workers comp. This is essentially making sure that your employees have proper training. It is incredibly important to make sure that your employees know how to operate safely. Accidents happen and you do not want to be one liable when an employee gets hurt and has to take off some time from work.

Performance Management

This may just seem like a way to properly manage employees, but it does have a larger purpose. This is essentially just taking the proper steps to address poor performers so that you are covered when you choose to terminate someone. This is important because if someone was to challenge for wrongful termination you will have the appropriate pieces in place to defend your decision.

Workplace Harassment

Always remember the classic, workplace harassment. The most important aspect of that is to understand what the term hostile work environment means and how you would address it when you get complaints. These complaints can take the form of the workplace harassment and sexual harassment.

Human Resources may appear as the least of your worries but your employees hold as much importance as any other aspect of a restaurant. This does not mean you need to hire an HR guy or agency to handle these issues. It is all about what you know, you can go easily hire an HR agency to handle all of it and you won’t have to worry. Not all restaurants can afford that luxury which is why human resources and the food service industry is a dangerous combination. That is why it is essential that if you don’t have the discretionary budget that you had someone in your restaurant who you are prepared to invest some time and a little bit of money to help them become more educated. It is also really important that the restaurant owners has a good handle on what the core issues are for HR.