How one man and his team are advocating for restaurants at the government level- removing barriers for restaurants to open and paving the way to success
We don’t have to repeat this ad nauseam, we all know that running a restaurant is hard. If the work itself isn’t hard enough, there are a plethora of local government, state and national laws that create more hoops for restaurants to jump through just to open their doors and function. Understandably, there are laws to protect employees, communities and overall health of your guests, but many laws in many places around the world are also antiquated, redundant and unnecessary. Those laws were created before proper sanitation was implemented in cities and have unfortunately continued at the expense of the restaurant owner.
For this reason, there are a number of advocacy movements developing growing for the hospitality community. The National Restaurant Association formed its own advocacy group called, The Kitchen Cabinet, a grassroots organization, that works to educate lawmakers and regulators at the local, state and federal levels on how their policy decisions affect restaurants day-to-day.
In this conversation with restaurant planner and license expert, Eddie Navarrette of FE Design and Consulting, we discuss how industry professionals can advocate for restaurants and we explore specific cases where change is needed.
What is your favorite project that you’ve worked on?
One of the projects I’m most proud of and provided a huge resource for the community is LA Prep. . L.A prep has 54 license wholesale production spaces. Before this space was launched in Los Angeles, shared kitchens were outlawed in the city. My job on this project was to work with the city’s health department and other departments to overturn this law. I had to find out what their concerns are in order to address them so that we could make shared kitchens legal.
That conceptual design was the poster child for shared kitchen spaces in LA and changed the city dramatically. That was a very proud moment for our team.
Has that experience made advocacy a big part of your work?
Yes! I’ve had many clients that have struggled because of outdated permitting laws. I worked with an Ethiopian lady and her husband who wanted to open their own restaurant but leased a space that couldn’t get approved. After that and seeing how devastated they were both emotionally and financially, I made it my mission in life to help people with this process and advocacy goes hand in hand with that. A lot of provisions are archaic and need to change so that small businesses have a chance to succeed.
I don’t think that many people opening restaurants have the money to pay consultants. Historically restaurants are opened and operated on small scale- ma and pa establishments that are humble and simple- and that is the most interesting and beautiful things about the industry. So people shouldn’t always need to pay for a consultant. If I can have a helping hand to change things from the top, to give people a greater chance to open and succeed- then I should try, it’s a huge passion for me.
What advocacy issues are you currently working on?
Currently I’m trying to help change a law that requires separate sex restrooms in a restaurant if you sell beer, wine and/or liquor. There are a lot of restaurants that want to open small European style spaces and can’t do that because they have to take too much space to build two bathrooms. This law just doesn’t make sense for small spaces and it’s a big barrier to innovation. There is a lot of disconnectivity between departments that regulate and approve permits, therefore we have to make the process more efficient if we want to see small business thrive and improve our economy. Putting together those policy recommendations has become a big part of my work.
About our Contributor
Opening a business is a dream. It’s also a process. No one understands this better than Eddie Navarrette, a.k.a. “Fast Eddie.” Drawing on 19 years of experience nurturing entrepreneurs through the notorious red tape of the Los Angeles hospitality industry, Eddie and his team offer crucial assistance in getting the doors open on time.