Occupancy and Operations Tips For Your Hospitality Business

By Lema Khorshid Founding Partner, Fuksa Khorshid, LLC | July 19, 2015

It is no surprise that hospitality businesses often experience an uptick in customer traffic and interest as the weather warms, local residents emerge from their winter shells to frequent local hot spots and drive up to their familiar weekend getaway locations, and out-of-town tourists flood popular entertainment districts for days at a time seeking great hotels, restaurants and attractions.

In fact, an annual report released by Adobe in May revealed that U.S. consumers are expected to spend $65 billion online on summer travel this year. This increased traffic and spend can mean increased business for hospitality operators – a welcome thing – but it can also lead to problems for business owners if they do not properly enforce applicable laws and regulations. It is extremely important for hospitality business owners to understand information relevant to their industry, focusing on occupancy rules, room rights, safety inspections, and staff training tips, in order to avoid penalties and keep business running smoothly in the busiest months.

When evaluating what your exact requirements are, be sure to keep in mind that each state and many cities individually govern fair market practices for businesses and consumers and administer permits, licenses, and health and safety inspections. This often occurs through some type of business affairs or consumer protection agencies or departments. These departments are generally responsible for the administration of licenses and permits, providing necessary education and resources to local stakeholders, and enforcing the applicable municipal codes.

In order to avoid a citation, it is always a very good idea for business owners to take the time to review policies and procedures, train all of the staff members, and hang signs around the premises of the building informing visitors of any house rules, such as those banning loitering or soliciting. In terms of occupancy regulations, hospitality operators should bear in mind that these departments will often seek out violations during the busiest times of the year, since this is precisely when compliance is most likely to slip. So, whether in regards to overcrowding or to related compliance issues such as liquor service, never use a crowded venue as an excuse for poor administration. Instead, use it as a chance to shine.

In many cities around the country, the local Department of Buildings or comparable agency designates the occupancy limits for a given space based on the location's useable square footage. The agency issues an occupancy placard for each business. At a bare minimum, business owners should know their occupancy limit, advise their staff members of that number, and make sure that occupancy placards are posted in a conspicuous location alongside other business licenses. It is also very smart for business owners to periodically conduct walk-through inspections of their property with legal counsel who is familiar with all requirements.

Sometimes, the perspective of an outside observer can really help reveal inconsistencies in your operations or diagnose missing policies and procedures and help you to avoid penalties in the future. Proactive measures do come with some cost, but this is a wise use of resources because you control the timing and mitigate the possible negative outcomes. With some proper planning, you will be ready for government inspections and large crowds alike.

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