How operators are navigating regulations in 2019

Noncommercial stakeholders assess the cost of complying with governmental mandates. Are they facing more tailwinds or headwinds?
Illustration by Sam Falconer

When the city of San Francisco passed its first anti-polystyrene bill in 2007, the law did away with some polystyrene packaging, starting with to-go containers and foam cups—the primary intention being to ease landfill congestion and reduce street littering.

When the city released its Department of Environment Litter Survey Report in July 2008, conclusions proved favorable: Littered foam cups had decreased by 30%. But the good news was tempered by a caveat: The littering of paper cups increased by about the same rate, essentially resulting in litter displacement, says Lynn Dyer, president of the Foodservice Packaging Institute, an organization that represents packaging companies. (Effective January 2017, San Francisco ushered in a more far-reaching ban on plastic foam products.)

As noncommercial foodservice operations assess the many state, local and federal mandates they’re expected to uphold, the San Francisco example demonstrates how a well-meaning piece of legislation might not always be the absolute cure-all.

Bottom line: The legislative and regulatory landscape is intensifying—in some cases making folks work even harder to compensate for gaps and inefficiencies within the letters of the law. In addition, some foodservice directors indicate they’re seeking relief from the myriad state or federal certifications required to conduct business in this day and age.

“I’ve had to up my game to become an expert at procurement, nutrition, marketing, culinary know-how, food safety and personnel,” says Sally Spero, child nutrition director for Lakeside Union School District in Lakeside, Calif. “It’s been incremental, occurring over time—and it’s all new stuff. It’s not good enough to be ‘really good’ at procurement anymore: You have to be an expert.”   

Are you on a road riddled with speedbumps or enjoying a smooth traverse? Some in the noncommercial space seem to embrace some mandates, while others find it tough sledding. Click below for peer-to-peer insights across core operational areas under growing scrutiny: school meal legislation, packaging, labor-related reforms and menu labeling.


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