Commercial food retailers face extraordinary regulation, and consequently have special needs. On-premises retailers, such as restaurants and hotels, theme parks and golf courses, face a broad range of regulatory requirements and liability risks. Off-premises retailers, such as convenience stores, supermarkets and consumer membership club stores, face their own unique challenges as local governments get more restrictive on food safety requirements for licensure, while plaintiffs’ lawyers seek to expand the scope of liability for retailers.

Our Food Law Team understands these challenges, and we help members of the retail tier to both comply and thrive in an increasingly competitive environment. We offer our retail clients a wide range of high-value services, including:

  • Start-Up

    We have extensive experience working with new "niche" entrants to the food industry, as well as with experienced chain retailers who are expanding into new geographic markets, diversifying with new private label brands and/or implementing innovative business concepts to strengthen their existing market positions. We provide guidance and assistance for Start-Up issues ranging from capitalization and entity formation, through location and licensure, to market penetration and mid-long term planning.

  • Licensure

    We handle food labeling, registration and licensure at the federal, state and local levels for locations throughout North America. Additionally, we work with clients to secure all required operating and collateral licenses associated with their businesses, including local health, safety and occupational permits.

  • Brand Development

    We understand that a private label brand is more than a label – it’s the embodiment of the retailer. From initial appointment through registration and market rollout, we assist retail clients with the creation and promotion of their private label food products to assure compliance and enhance the prospects for market success. Our regulatory guidance for brand development encompasses compliance with federal product formulation and labeling requirements, as well as state brand registrations and practical, experience-based input on brand development. 

  • Contracts

    Preparation and negotiation of key contracts is vital to success in the food industry. Our services in this area include drafting lease and concession agreements with venue owners, private label production contracts, and a range of other relevant operating documents necessary for compliance and success.

  • Taxes and Records

    Because the food industry is heavily regulated, retailers must produce and maintain records that are accurate and complete. Moreover, because it is a heavily taxed industry as well, retailers are obligated to meet their federal and state taxation responsibilities; failure to do so can jeopardize a retailer’s licensure, which directly impacts the ability to remain in business. We provide comprehensive assistance with taxation and record-keeping responsibilities.

  • Marketing

    In today’s world, with the unprecedented proliferation of brands and industry members, the ability to distinguish a particular retailer or a specific brand is fundamental to success. While advancing technology presents extraordinary new opportunities for marketing and promotion, the regulatory restrictions applicable to alcohol beverages produce concomitant compliance risks. Our Food Law Team provides specific advice regarding marketing, advertising and promotional activities, including issues relating to consumer tastings and samplings, coupons and sweepstakes, social media marketing and the degree to which retailers lawfully can work with food suppliers or distributors to achieve success in the marketplace.

  • Compliance

    Unlike most other consumer products, commercial food presents industry members with huge compliance challenges because the laws and regulations vary among some states. We counsel clients on trade practice and compliance issues at the federal, state and local levels on issues ranging from labeling requirements and market recalls to distributor relations and restrictions on how lawfully to work with suppliers to best promote sales. 

  • Government and Public Relations

    Legislative change is rarely easy, but sometimes it is vital to development and growth. Issues can range from focused matters such as IRC coupon redemption regulations, to more expansive issues such as calorie and nutrition requirements for menus and package size restrictions on certain food products. We have proven experience in securing needed legislative changes for clients, working with food industry members to design and implement strategic public relations and legislative lobbying campaigns, including the drafting of proposed legislation and regulatory rulemaking. 

  • Enforcement

    In a heavily regulated industry, the risks of regulatory enforcement always are substantial. In especially competitive markets, these risks often escalate because competitors do not hesitate to complain to regulators whenever they perceive an alleged violation that arguably yields an unfair advantage in the marketplace. Whether in the form of an audit, subpoena for records, or institution of formal administrative proceedings, our Food Law Team’s professionals are experienced at protecting client’s rights defending their interests against administrative actions at the federal or state levels.

  • Dispute Resolution

    Disputes can arise from any number of sources: government agencies, members of the public, and even other food industry members. Whether those disputes ripen into litigation often depends on the initial actions and reactions of the relevant parties. Our experience proves that skilled communication and strategic planning often can avert litigation, saving all parties time, effort and expense. Our unique combination of lawyers and former regulators, along with our experience of representing all tiers and segments of the industry, enable us to offer food industry clients unparalleled mediation capabilities that can identify key issues, overcome inter-company obstacles and resolve disputes before control is ceded from the parties to the courts. When mediation is not an option, our trial lawyers have decades of experience with litigation and arbitration, including supplier termination, intellectual property protection, and product liability matters. 

  • Education and Training

    We use the experience and knowledge of our Food Law Team’s attorneys and former regulators to develop tailored education and training programs that emphasize best practices while encouraging compliance. Whether in the format of a live presentation before an in-house classroom audience, or a company-wide online webinar, we can devise programs that add value by increasing employee education about commercial food DOs and DON’Ts while reducing both compliance and liability risks.

  • Research and Insights

    Our attorneys and former regulators stay current on industry developments, and work to identify developing trends ahead of the market curve. That prowess can be invaluable for retailers who seek a competitive and strategic edge. We offer such clients leading-edge industry research and reports that provide critical information and insights needed to make important mid-and long-range business decisions. Our Food Law Team brings complex information together and makes it understandable so our clients can stay ahead of emerging trends.