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As our restaurant heads into the Holiday Season, are there any issues we should be concerned about?

Yes, and unfortunately, some of your worries concern the government’s oversight of your business.  First, be aware that the Holiday Season is a prime time for the Michigan Liquor Control Commission and local law enforcement departments to conduct “sting” operations, using underage decoys to ensure your compliance with the Liquor Control Law.  To that end, re-double your efforts to ensure that your wait staff is following their alcohol management training regarding confirming that each patron consuming alcoholic beverages is over 21 and properly managing alcoholic beverage service to prevent overserving.  Make these alcohol management reminders a frequent (daily) part of your staff communication; make sure that your employment policies thoroughly describe your alcohol management policy and the sanctions for an employee’s violation of the same; empower your managers to double-check your wait staff to ensure that no one under 21 is consuming alcoholic beverages and that your customers are not being overserved; make alcohol management a critical part of your restaurant culture; and celebrate your staff’s proper execution of your alcohol management policies! 

Second, year-end is a good time to review your employment manual for needed updates.  We see that the Department of Labor is increasing their investigations of the restaurant industry.   The Department of Labor is investigating a number of things in your restaurant operations, such as (without limitation), making sure that you are paying at least minimum wage to your wait staff who are eligible for the tip credit; ensuring that you have properly classified your employees as tipped employees or non-tipped employees; and ensuring that you are not using your tipped employees to perform work functions that are considered non-tipped employee job functions. 

Third, year-end is the best time to do tax planning.  Although no one enjoys paying taxes, scheduling an appointment with your tax advisor now will help you identify your potential year-end tax obligations and to develop a strategy to minimize your tax obligations.  The earlier you schedule your year-end tax planning meeting, the better. 

Finally, year-end is an excellent time to review your growth strategies and your long-term strategic plan.  Are you on track with your long-term strategic plan?  If so, is it time to adjust your goals?  And what will you need to do in the coming year to achieve these new goals?  If not, in what ways did you fall short?  Do you need to evaluate your operations or other sections of your business?  Year-end is an excellent time to look back at successes and opportunities, and begin 2016 with a running start!  Happy Holidays!

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