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Defining Events


In the beginning of the 20th century, temperance organizations were vibrant in almost every state. They demanded the complete abolition of alcohol at the federal level. By 1916, many states enacted laws restricting the consumption of alcohol. In 1919, the 18th Amendment was ratified, prohibiting the sale and manufacture of alcohol. It went into effect on January 16, 1920.

The Volstead Act, in addition to the 18th Amendment, was passed in 1919. The act stated that beer, wine, or any other type of alcohol with more than 0.5 percent alcohol was illegal. It also stated that anyone manufacturing or distilling alcohol would be fined or jailed. After this law was passed, there was a significant rise in illegal production and sale of alcohol. Many citizens were unable to reproduce liquors and spirits on their own—and bathtub gin tasted like bath water—so they sought to buy liquor illegally. The illegal sale of alcohol caused organized crime to flourish at a level that simply could not be controlled by local police squads.

In Chicago, one of the most famous gangsters to profit from the illegal sale of alcohol was Al Capone. Some crime bosses would hire "rumrunners" to smuggle whiskey from the Caribbean or Canada. Others would purchase large quantities of homemade distilled liquor from underground moonshine operations. Speakeasies— secret or "underground" bars—sprung up all over the country, allowing people to drink illegally and out of sight from the police.

As soon as the 18th Amendment was passed, organizations formed to repeal it. The temperance movement failed in its promise to bring about an end to the evils of alcohol, and the anti-Prohibition movement gained strength as the 1920s progressed. The stock market crash in 1929 and the beginning of the Great Depression changed people’s attitudes toward the 18th Amendment.

People needed jobs, and the government needed money. Making alcohol legal again would resuscitate jobs for citizens and mean additional sales taxes for the government. On December 5, 1933, the 21st Amendment was ratified, repealing the 18th Amendment. Even with Prohibition—or perhaps because of it—the pub culture of America changed during the 1920s, creating a direct line to the bars that exist today. Pubs and saloons were no longer unsavory places where men engaged in evils of society, and women were allowed in drinking establishments once available only to men.

The First Fast-Food Restaurants

Walt Anderson, a short-order cook, along with Billy Ingram, a real estate agent, opened the first White Castle restaurant in Wichita, Kansas, in 1921. They wanted to create a place where customers could be served a quick and easy meal—it was a nickel a burger during the Depression. Anderson and Ingram printed coupons in the newspapers to draw customers. This new and radical concept of advertising in a newspaper by using coupons was a success and the company branched out to open more restaurants by 1936.

McDonald’s is not the first but is by far the most well-known fast food restaurant in the world today. The founding owners were two brothers, Nick and Maurice (Mac) McDonald. Ray Kroc, a milkshake machine salesman, was fascinated by the idea that the McDonald brothers had franchised eight locations serving French fries, Coca Cola, and milkshakes faster and cheaper than in any diner. In 1954, Kroc received permission to open his own location in Des Plaines, Illinois. In four years, Kroc had grown his business to its 100 millionth hamburger. Kroc built a fast food empire in a short amount of time—all based on the concept of fast service, a tasty burger, and a refreshing milkshake.

In 1954, James McLamore and Dave Edgerton opened the first Burger King in Miami, Florida, and it quickly became a competitor of McDonald’s. What made Burger King famous was the concept that customers could have their burger built any way they wanted it. The Burger King burger was also larger—with more beef and bun for the customer. “Have it your way” was Burger King’s mantra for success. By the 1960s, many other fast food chains became part of the American food landscape, meeting the needs of a growing population who literally needed to eat and run.

Today, the fast food industry comprises a more than $300 billion market, dominated by chains such as McDonald's, with more than 13,000 locations in the U.S., and Starbucks, with more than 15,000.

The Employment of Minors

One of the biggest legal issues for restaurants and hotels is the hiring of minors, which means anyone under the age of 18. Federal law allows for minors at the age of 14 to be deemed employable during the school year—but only until 7:00 P.M. (They may work until 9 P.M. on school breaks and holidays.) Minors aged 16 and 17 are not subject to the number of hours they work, but they may not work in hazardous conditions or with any machinery. For restaurants, for example, this law would prevent a minor from operating a dough-mixer or meat-cutting machine. Likewise, for hotels, having minors operate tree-cutting or lawn-mowing machinery may be considered dangerous. Managers are responsible for the hiring and supervision of employees, and must check identification for the age of minors, be familiar with the jobs they can and cannot perform, and limit their working hours by law. Managers should also run periodic checkups to identify any problems with compliance with the above restrictions.

The Americans with Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed in 1990. It is a disability discrimination law that prohibits employers, in most circumstances, from allowing an individual’s disability to negatively affect his or her career. An individual with a disability can get protection under the ADA if he or she can prove a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.

Title III of the ADA, which requires the removal of barriers that prevent persons with disabilities from full and equal access to public accommodations, applies to hotels and restaurants. Customers with disabilities must have full access to restrooms, dining areas, guest rooms, doorways, parking lots, swimming pools, and laundry rooms.

They must also be provided with accommodations for service animals and access to ice machines and listening devices for telephones, computers, and cash machines. Warning lights must be placed on irons and other potentially dangerous appliances for the hearing impaired, and Braille on appliances and other items for the visually impaired. According to Title III, restaurant and hotel employees must be trained in policies for assisting persons with disabilities. The law provides for injunctive relief to stop ADA violations. California, Colorado, and Florida allow plaintiffs to recover actual, punitive, and statutory damages. In California, the mandatory minimum statutory damages are $4,000 per violation. Lawyers have taken full advantage of the law and have been suing hospitality establishments since the 1990s. Even after they have passed inspection by their local government agencies, hotels and restaurants are being sued for minor infractions. With litigation on the rise, restaurants and hotels are faced with increasing legal fees in addition to having to make changes to their properties.

To further complicate matters, the Department of Justice proposed new ADA accessibility guidelines for buildings and facilities. The changes threaten to pose major costs for restaurants and hotels. There are so many gray areas within the law that the National Restaurant Association submitted formal complaints about the proposed changes.

Many in the hospitality industry lobbied for the ADA Notification Act, which would allow small businesses 90 days to correct an ADA violation. The hospitality industry has made great strides in adjusting to the ADA—and has come a long way in terms of increasing accessibility provisions—but better balance is needed between the litigious climate, businesses compliance, and customers’ essential needs. The ADA Education and Reform Act was passed in 2017, allowing 60 days for an owner to acknowledge having received the complaint and an added 120 days before legal action can be initiated.

Health Inspections

A major area of concern for restaurants is passing health inspections. All restaurants must pass a health inspection in order to have an operating license. A restaurant manager must know the health codes for his or her state and town. Health inspectors can conduct three types of inspections: (1) a routine inspection, which is literally a drop-in visit, (2) a complaint inspection, where a customer lodges a complaint against a restaurant or becomes sick from eating at the restaurant, and (3) a follow-up inspection after a restaurant has been issued a warning of a violation.

The spread of bacteria and viruses can be devastating for a restaurant, and the leading cause of food poisoning is poor employee hygiene. Cleanliness is also of utmost importance to a restaurant’s reputation and profitability. Kitchens, dining rooms, and restrooms must all be cleaned and sanitized regularly. All employees must keep their hands washed and clean at all times. Restaurants must have clear instructions for the storing of cooked food and other products that need refrigeration, as well as for the cleaning of equipment and utensils. Other practices that need to be closely monitored are the proper labeling of food storage containers, the calibration of meat thermometers, the division of space between areas where employees change and equipment is stored, the thorough cleaning of dishes, and the proper storage of meat, poultry, and seafood (all of which must be chilled to the right temperature).

It is essential for employees to be schooled in food safety practices, and they must demonstrate that they know how to handle food safely. Employees who are ill, but can report to work, must be removed from handling food or utensils. Instructions on how to wash produce and chill meats, fish, poultry, and leftover food must be adhered to. There are also guidelines on how to gauge the right temperature to properly defrost, thaw, cook, and reheat food, as well as how to properly dispose of food and other waste.

Hotel Safety Codes

Hotels have similar health and safety requirements. Regular inspection and testing of portable electrical appliances such as hairdryers, kettles, irons, and televisions is critical. These appliances are subject to much wear and tear and, as such, require routine assessments. There must be an organized system in place for the staff of housekeepers to follow. A definite no-no is bugs—bedbugs, termites, and roaches (or any other type of insect, for that matter!) are not acceptable in any kind of hotel. Frequent spraying and sanitization of mattresses, curtains, and other interior decorations made from fabric will ensure that bugs are not a problem. Waste and trash should be disposed of on a regular basis.

Hotel rooms should be cleaned daily, glassware used in bathrooms washed or replaced daily, and towels replaced daily (although some hotels offer their guests the opportunity to reuse their towels in the interest of being more environmentally friendly). Towel service is a must after each change of guest in a room. Carpets and furniture need to be positioned so that guests do not trip and fall on them. Television brackets or shelves that hang overhead may pose safety hazards and should be given consideration. Windows should not open beyond a certain measure, as a safety precaution, and slip mats and rails in the bathtubs should be available to help prevent slipping and falling. Ideally, floor surfaces should be made of nonslip material.

The water temperature throughout the hotel water system should never reach scalding. Legionella is a type of bacteria commonly found in water systems, fountains, faucets, and HVAC systems. Regular testing of a hotel’s water and regular sanitization of its fountains and HVAC systems are crucial.

Some other basic hygiene and safety concerns include patios, tennis courts, gyms, and swimming pools. Swimming pools must be properly maintained. Safe storage for chemicals is critical. Training of staff and adequate supervision of a pool by lifeguards is crucial for pool safety. Water disinfection is also important. The water’s pH must be tested daily, and records of such tests must be kept. Adequate signage for unauthorized entry or use should be posted. Health and fitness centers should always have someone on duty to supervise guests and assist them with equipment. Equipment must be correctly installed, maintained, and inspected on a regular basis. Hotels that allow pets and smokers must take extra care to clean up stains or mend burns left behind after guest departures.

Other safety concerns of which hotel managers must be aware include exposed electrical cords, wet floors, and spills in public areas such as stairs and landings. Elevators and food lifts must be inspected and maintained regularly. Managers should immediately address broken windows and loose doors and windows. Fire codes must be adhered to according to state standards. The fire safety code depends on the size, age, and height of a hotel structure. Newer hotels and high-rise hotels are protected with fire sprinklers. Some hotel owners have corporate policies to retrofit older properties with fire sprinklers.

Hotels must install well-maintained fire alarm systems that do not create false alarm problems. Standpipes and hoses must be installed at various points in the hotel. Fire extinguishers must be readily available to employees and guests. The quality of fire protection varies by region. In some areas, building and fire officials keep their safety codes current and diligently enforced. But code advancement and enforcement are not uniform across the United States. Needless to say, if these codes are not kept up to date and enforced by competent personnel, the quality of fire safety can suffer greatly.

Along with customer health and safety at their hotels, managers must also concern themselves with the health and safety of their employees. Safe and ergonomic equipment helps prevent injuries to workers. Because much of a hotel’s workforce is often young, managers must target this population’s education on safety in the workplace. About 45 percent of 16- and 17-year-olds are employed in the workforce at any given time, and an estimated 80 percent are employed at some point before they leave high school. Approximately 200,000 of these young workers are injured each year. Given these high numbers, the Occupation Safety and Health Administration implemented a Young Worker Initiative, the goal of which is to increase young workers’ awareness of the importance of occupational safety and health.

Recent changes in hygiene and safety practices due to the COVID-19 pandemic included extra steps of cleaning rooms and facilities, deep cleaning of linens, social distancing, contactless check-in, and housecleaning upon request only to allow guests to avoid hotel staff entering their room during a stay. Some hotels have continued or modified these practices since the end of the pandemic.