This is the first article in an introductory series on Inspectus, which discusses the problem of navigating code compliance for small business owners.
Compliance sucks. Not only is it confusing to navigate, but the word itself is as vague and opaque as the means of becoming compliant proves to be. Compliance is essentially abiding by a set of rules that are specific to a business’ operations. Government writes those rules, designing them to protect the public. But when the system of compliance is so difficult to navigate that a business owner has trouble finding the rules that apply to them, let alone understanding what the rules mean, something is wrong with the system. It seems like compliance was built to burden business owners instead of to support them in protecting the public.
Let us tell you a story about a man with more than 20 years of experience in the baking industry bought a bakery and the restaurant next door on the west side of South Bend, Indiana. He intended to connect the bakery and restaurant so that he could sell baked goods on the bakery side and have a place for his customers to eat their purchases on the restaurant side. However, after he purchased the properties, he found out from the city that, while the restaurant met the standards of the fire department and health department, it didn’t have the requisite number of parking spots the building department required for a sit-down restaurant. He wouldn’t be able to open the bakery he envisioned.
Like the baker in that story, restaurant owners feel the pain of compliance acutely. They have the unique challenge of dealing with multiple layers of compliance that are specific to the food industry, from building and zoning regulations to fire safety and health code. Each set of rules is created and regulated by different departments of government, requiring the business owner to seek each out individually. And while one authority may give their stamp of approval, as the baker found out the hard way, that doesn’t mean compliance is met.
With no one place to go for guidance throughout the process of trying to be compliant, restaurant owners find themselves having to navigate this interdependent, yet fragmented system of regulation all on their own. Trying to find this information is not only time consuming, but it often leads to delays in opening or sales lost, which restaurant owners cannot afford.