Foodservice Equipment Reports Fortnightly
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Welcome to FER Fortnightly Online Newsletter
September 9, 2008








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In This Section:
Water Woes Spreading On Both Coasts
California Approves Menu Law, King County, Wash., Reg Kicks In
County Bans Golden Arches As Signage—For Now
Coffee Shops Need Grease Traps, City Says
L.A. Court Overturns Taco-Truck Ticketing

This issue's Economic ReportSponsor: Manitowoc Foodservice Group 
Industry Report Sponsor: The NAFEM Show '09
Regulatory Report Enodis

Water Woes Spreading On Both Coasts
Even if water is still plentiful in many of your own markets, you'd better brace yourself. Prices are rising, and squabbles over rights are likely to spread.

Voluntary restrictions are in place in many water districts, with mandatory measures not far behind. In Marshall, N.C., about 20 miles north of Asheville, the situation is especially dire. Last month a well dried up there, and the municipality is requiring restaurants to use disposables instead of washing dishes. Meanwhile, drought conditions across much of western North Carolina are so severe that several towns have ordered restaurants not to serve water unless customers request it.

On the opposite coast, Los Angeles passed an ordinance in August that not only restricts restaurants from serving water unless requested, but also nixes hosing down parking lots—and has quadrupled the fines for violations. While first offenders still get only a warning, second offenses are subject to a $200 fine. Subsequent offenses can result in fines of up to $600 and even restricted or suspended service.

Meanwhile, Florida is taking action, too. The Southwest Florida Water Management District recently established voluntary restrictions to help conserve water use. The district has created a program called Water PRO (for "Program for Restaurant Outreach") to offer guidelines in water conservation. Restaurants that sign up get water-saving tips as well as consumer education materials in the form of table tents and children's place mats.

Beef O'Brady's, headquartered in Tampa, Fla., signed up for the program and now has at least half its 62 franchise units in the district on board. The chain is pushing water and energy conservation in its stores, according to spokesperson Debbie Ferris. Low-flow pre-rinse spray nozzles, waterless urinals and tankless water heaters among other efforts have reduced daily water use to about 8.7 gals. per seat, she said, less than most restaurants.

 

Section sponsored by Enodis

California Approves Menu Law, King County, Wash., Reg Kicks In
It's official: California has become the first state in the nation to pass a statewide law requiring the posting of nutritional information in foodservice locations. All that remains is Governor Schwarzenegger's signature.

After much negotiating and amending, the California Restaurant Association and other groups withdrew their opposition to SB1420, and in late August it cleared both assembly and senate votes.

Under the revised bill, if signed, chains with 20 or more stores (raised from 15) will have to post calories and other nutrition information on menus and menu boards. As amended, however, the bill would give chains a grace period from Jan. 1, 2009, to Dec. 31, 2010, to provide that information in a brochure available on request. After Jan. 1, 2011, restaurants would be required to post calories, saturated fat, sodium and carbohydrates on the menu, brochure or insert on the table, or the menu board if there's no printed menu.

King County, Wash., home to Seattle, meanwhile has literally started seeing the writing on the menu as its calorie-posting ordinance went into effect Aug. 1. Chains with 15 or more stores nationwide and more than $1 million in sales have until Jan. 1 to post calories, saturated fat, sodium and carbohydrates on menu boards or face a deduction in points from their health department inspection scores.


Section sponsored by Enodis

County Bans Golden Arches As Signage—For Now
Are McDonald's "Golden Arches" a sign or an architectural design? And what about trademark rooflines for other restaurant chains, for example?

Some officials in Alachua County, Fla., recently said McDonald's trademark arches constitute a sign that's not permitted by county code.

McDonald's submitted plans to the county to rebuild a store on Archer Road outside Gainesville in the retro style of its 1950s restaurants, including an arch on either side of the building extending up through and over the roof. County code says "any attention-attracting device, fixture, placard or structure, but excluding flags, that uses any color, form, graphic, illumination, symbol or writing to advertise, to announce the purpose of, or to identify a person, location, building or entity, or to communicate information of any kind to the public" is a sign. Steve Lachnicht, the county's growth management director, said the arches are recognizable signs that "clearly indicate the occupant of the building."

If they are a sign, the arches violate the county code's height and size restrictions. But some county commissioners, including the chairman, say the arches are a design or architectural feature, not necessarily a sign. To break the impasse, McDonald's submitted language for a code change that would allow trademarked architectural embellishments to buildings that aren't intended to convey information.

County officials haven't evaluated the proposed code change yet, but said they have to be careful about such language, as it would apply to future design proposals.

The slippery slope: Would a Bob's Big Boy statue be considered an architectural embellishment?


Section sponsored by Enodis

Coffee Shops Need Grease Traps, City Says
Coffee-shop operators in Milwaukie, Ore., a suburb outside Portland, cried foul when inspectors said they needed to install grease traps to comply with a city ordinance passed in 2007. Several complained to the city saying their operations simply dispense food and don't prepare it, so they don't produce grease. No grease, no traps, they claim.

City staff, however, argued that coffee beans, milk and other food waste that goes down the drain contain enough oil and grease to foul city sewer pipes. To compromise, the city offered to pay to install grease traps, then inspect them after six months to determine whether the coffee shops are putting FOG down the drain. If FOG is not found, the coffee shops can keep the grease trap free of charge. If FOG turns up, operators will have to reimburse the city.

Coffee shop owners and others voiced concerns about how the grease would be measured and how much would constitute a violation of the city ordinance if they didn't have a trap. Now the city has introduced amendments to the grease trap ordinance that would clarify who's covered—specifically including coffee shops, c-stores and cafeterias—and the definition of grease to include fats and oils, and eliminate any reference to the quantitative measurement that would trigger enforcement (now set at 100 ml).


Section sponsored by Enodis

L.A. Court Overturns Taco-Truck Ticketing
Taco trucks ride again in Los Angeles County. An ordinance passed in April that made it illegal for taco trucks to park in one spot for more than an hour was overturned in late August by a County Superior Court judge. The judge ruled that the language of the ordinance was vague about when a truck could return to a spot where it had previously parked, and didn't establish a convincing argument that the rule was in the interest of public safety.

County board supervisors passed the ordinance unanimously after restaurants complained the trucks competed unfairly, taking away business. Under an old ordinance, the trucks could be ticketed $60 for parking more than half an hour in one spot, but it was rarely enforced. The ordinance passed last spring upped the parking time to one hour, but increased the fine to $1,000 for staying in one spot any longer.

Both vendors and taco lovers complained. A Web site—SaveOurTacoTrucks.com—collected 9,000 signatures on a petition, and one of the vendors who was ticketed hired a lawyer to argue the case in court. The attorney expects the county to rewrite the ordinance.

Despite the victory, the county's 14,000 taco trucks still must meet health codes, including being parked within 200 feet of a restroom, having hot water, soap and towels, and having access to a facility to wash and store their vehicles daily.



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