Restaurant and Hospitality Law
Gonzalez Saggio & Harlan’s Restaurant and Hospitality Law team has extensively represented clients in the restaurant and hospitality industries. Our attorneys provide counsel from concept to creation, attuned to the industry’s legal issues, business operations, and competitive environment. With a depth of knowledge and breadth of experience, we are able to work with a high level of efficiency. As a law firm with the scope and experience to help with every part of our clients’ business, our clients receive great value from a team that shares your passion and commitment to succeed. We apprise clients of emerging business and legal issues to make strategic assessments and manage risk.
We represent individual chefs, ranging from small local restaurants to James Beard Award winners, and all sizes of restaurants, as well as corporate and franchised restaurant chains nationwide. We begin our relationship with confidentiality agreements so that chefs and creators feel secure that their concepts and creations are safe. Our attorneys counsel and provide advice on business formation; real estate transactions; menu structuring; venue, labor, and liquor permits; non-compete clauses; and shareholder and investor agreements. We have represented individual chefs, including celebrity and James Beard Award winning chefs in book, TV, and endorsement deals, and various licensing and franchising transactions. We not only represent chefs and restaurants, but suppliers and individual workers as well, handling all aspects of the industry.
We work closely with our service industry clients, including restaurants, hotels resorts, gaming, and entertainment facilities to provide effective and efficient legal counsel. We are dedicated to keeping abreast of the latest changes affecting the hospitality industry nationwide and strive to provide innovative and proactive legal solutions to suit each client’s unique needs. Our attorneys have worked as both in-house counsel for restaurant management groups and serve as general corporate counsel to a major state restaurant association. They have also been actively involved in the restaurant and hospitality industries, including memberships in related organizations and authoring of relevant articles.
As part of a large, full-service firm, we can also provide clients with support for episodic needs, such as employment class actions, major financings, large acquisitions, litigation, and food product liability claims. We have handled negligence defense, premises liability, and personal injury claims; workers’ compensation; employment discrimination, ADA, and public accommodations claims for restaurants; immigration issues; real estate matters; environmental and zoning issues on behalf of hotel companies; breach of contract; collection suits for entertainment companies; trademark applications, and IP litigation for hospitality clients.
Experienced in Handling Matters Affecting Hospitality Clients
Contracts: We have extensive experience handling and negotiating contracts for individual chefs and restaurants with respect to book deals, licensing deals, and media appearances including television deals. We also draft, negotiate, and review employment contracts, non-compete agreements, commercial leases, hospitality service contracts, and vendor agreements. Our attorneys have represented chefs and restaurants in matters ranging from simple contractual issues to more complex licensing and trademark matters.
Employment: We assist restaurant and hospitality clients in a broad range of preventative day-to-day employment-related counseling, including employment training, drafting of employee handbooks, preparation of affirmative action plans, review of wage and hour practices, handle discipline and discharge issues, non-compete agreements, and maintaining a harassment-free workplace. We work with service industry clients to avoid and defend claims on charges of discrimination, involving gender, race, age, religious, and national origin. We have assisted hotel and restaurant clients in investigating allegations of sexual harassment or employment discrimination through internal proceedings, state administrative agencies, and federal agencies, including the EEOC and OCR.
Immigration: We provide assistance to our hospitality clients facing unique challenges in recruiting and employing non-resident restaurant and hotel personnel. We have advised on U.S. immigration matters, including solutions such as Employment Visas, H-1B Visas, EB-1 Visas, and EB-2 Visas.
Litigation: We are well-versed in general tort liability and represent hospitality clients directly, as well as through their insurance liability carriers. We have represented hospitality clients in matters, including negligence defense, leasing negotiations, vendor disputes, hotel and restaurant premises liability claims, personal injury, food borne illness, defense in claims of customer theft, and multi-district litigation matters. Our experienced trial lawyers have also represented clients with the defense of food product liability claims, providing advice and defense in the areas of salmonella and e-coli claims, food recalls, food poisoning claims, and class action lawsuits.
Intellectual Property: We handle intellectual property matters for our hospitality industry clients, including providing intellectual property-related advice and trademark applications, as well as handling IP litigation matters.
Real Estate and Environmental: We have handled real estate and environmental matters for hospitality clients to include environmental compliance, site cleanup, contract review, and landlord-tenant negotiation involving long-term real estate leases. We have also performed due diligence reviews in connection with hotel acquisitions and have advised on ocean-dumping by vessels at sea.
- Negotiated publishing and television contracts for James Beard nominated and award winning chefs.
- Negotiated cookware contracts for James Beard nominated and award winning chefs.
- Represented James Beard award winning chefs and restaurants in multi-district litigation involving losses suffered in the wake of the Gulf Coast oil spill.
- Represented a global restaurant chain in the New York region in real estate and zoning issues, as well as numerous smaller operators on business formation, real estate leasing, and other contractual matters.
- Represented a restaurant in connection with its lease and the sale of the business and represented clients in the purchase of an established restaurant.
- Worked extensively with a major franchise corporation in the Chicago area that needed help obtaining and amending their corporate bylaws to suit the new enterprise, obtain their DBE, MBE, and ACDBE certifications, as well as submit RFPs to the Chicago airports for restaurant space.
- Represent franchisees, with responsibilities including hiring and managing employees; reviewing and negotiating contracts; responding to lawsuits brought by customers; handling the operations and management of the businesses; and assisting the franchiser in running the franchise system.
- Firm attorney has served as general corporate counsel to a large, state restaurant association and its subsidiary, a preeminent trade association for restaurants and restaurant groups.
- Firm attorney served as Commissioner and assisted in developing bookings and other policies for a major convention center.
- Handled environmental compliance, site cleanup, contract review, and landlord-tenant negotiation to resolve a landlord-tenant dispute for a large company with both hotel and restaurant holdings. The work involved obligations of the hospitality client arising under long-term real estate leases with the property owner.
- Provided intellectual property-related advice and handled trademark applications for a client that distributes beverages to the hospitality industry.
- Successfully handled IP litigation matters to a leader of food management services.
- Motion to dismiss granted by U.S. District Court for managers and their new employer on a breach of a non-compete clause and tortuous interference claims brought by a major food corporation.
- Successfully defended Fortune 100 Foods Company in a federal lawsuit for race discrimination by obtaining a voluntary dismissal in lieu of agreement to forgo recovery of costs. Upon filing of motion for summary judgment, plaintiff sought dismissal rather than to attempt to oppose our seeking of summary judgment.
- Represented a restaurant, with a nationwide presence, in an action brought in the state human rights agency by three patrons alleging race discrimination in a place of public accommodation. After a hearing, the administrative law judge found in favor of the restaurant on each of the claims.
- Represented national food service chain in an action brought by a former store manager in federal court alleging sexual harassment and retaliation under Title VII. Summary judgment for the employer was entered on all claims prior to trial.
- Successfully represented restaurant employer defending ADA claim, alleging failure to make reasonable accommodations, which was dismissed on motion for summary judgment.
- Representation of restaurant chains defending cases of e-coli, salmonella, and foreign objects in food. Cases include representing a major food producer and packager concerning e-coli illnesses from spinach and providing regional counsel for a major food producer defending claims of salmonella poisoning from peanut butter.
- Handled several premises liability matters for a retail establishment with restaurants located in the stores. Cases include: slip and fall on soda by self-serve fountain in Bistro of large International retail establishment; slip and fall on yogurt substance in a walkway of showroom; and a bodily injury case when a customer utilizing restaurant tray cart (specific for transporting food to table) tipped over because it was loaded with merchandise, which lead to a torn rotator cuff and resulting surgery.
- Represented several clients in the hospitality industry relating to numerous premises liability claims. Some claims were resolved by the granting of summary judgment in favor of the client, and the remaining claims were settled prior to trial.
- Represented national restaurant chain in premises liability matters relating to slip and fall incidents inside the restaurant. Cases resulted in favorable settlements for the client.
- Arbitrations before National Grain & Feed Association with seed litigation/seed failures.
- Litigation and consulting of federal regulations pertaining to agriculture industry.
- Litigation and consulting regarding parameters of USDA regulations pertaining to organic labeling.