Navigating Legal Challenges in the Restaurant Industry

September 15, 2020
Barbara Castiglia

On this episode of The Main Course with host Barbara Castiglia, Pooja Nair, Litigation Partner at Ervin Cohen & Jessup offered her insight into a perhaps less-prominent aspect of the restaurant and foodservice industries – legal challenges.

For those starting or running a restaurant, the principle goal and motivation is to serve delicious food and satisfy customers. However, employment, complexity surrounding trade secrets, partnership disputes, contract negotiation and more can all offer legal barriers to achieving that goal as simply as these industry players would like.

“I’m passionate about food and about restaurants and the experience,” Nair said. “It’s what I do in my spare time. More than any other type of company, a restaurant or a food manufacturer provides something that’s really tangible in value. Going into a restaurant of one of my clients is something I find really personally satisfying.”

Currently, restaurants are facing intriguing legal scenarios surrounding in-person, indoor dining in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the globe’s march toward reopening.
This has come to a head in New York City, in particular, where restaurants are struggling to get a plan in place that aids in reopening efforts.

“Over 300 restaurants filed a large class-action lawsuit against New York City [Sept. 4],” Nair said. “New York announced that it was going to create a new reopening plan for indoor dining at 25% capacity, and that’s going to go into effect at the end of the month on Sept. 30.

“That approach of trying to lobby for indoor dining and then needing to take the legal option and file a large, class-action lawsuit isn’t ideal, but I think that’s something other restaurants depending on their city’s regulations are going to be looking at closely.”
Moving forward, Nair said she expects regulations and changes to come down the pipe related to nutritional information, the ability for home cooking to be sold, and more.

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