There are many laws, regulations and codes to consider before becoming a hotelier. There is a minefield of bureaucracy to consider ranging from licensing rules to food hygiene and fire regulations. If something goes wrong in your hotel ignorance is no excuse in the eyes of the law. The cost to remedy breaches of the law range from criminal and civil actions against you (including fines) and even imprisonment for more serious breaches.
Even the simple process of naming your new hotel does have regulatory implications. Under the Business Names Act 1985 owners of hotels must display a notice showing the owner’s name where it is not the same as the business name. Any stationary produced for your new hotel must also have the owners name, address and any other relevant contact information. This also applies to any invoices for goods and services, business letters, receipts, purchase orders and accounting information.
When producing your advertising literature, marketing pamphlets and updating your website he must ensure that you do not mislead potential guests with your pricing by advertising at one price after it has already been quoted. It is an offence to raise the price after quoting it to a prospective guest (and then failing to inform customer). Similarly under The Trade Descriptions Act 1968 (when undertaking your marketing activities) you must provide accurate descriptions of your hotel facilities that is a true and fair reflection and is not misleading in any way.
When implementing a booking process for taking bookings from guests hoteliers need to be compliant with both the Credit Card Order 1990 as well as the Data Protection Act 1998. Specifically any surcharges that credit card companies asked to hotelier for payments made by credit card must be identified on the guests bill. When processing the bill and any personal data is stored such as credit card information, the hotelier must obviously protect guests privacy. Specifically any personal data held on a computer must be available at the public and the owners of such data must notify the data protection Commissioner.
One of the most serious threats to your business and guests is an unexpected fire. Typically this is caused by a kitchen fire but also occasionally occurs due to an electrical appliance overheating or a guest causing some type of accident. As well as the obvious safety precautions such as installing fire extinguishers, fire exit signs, checking fire exits and undertaking regular fire drills you must also limit the ability of q potential fire to spread. Therefore if you are starting up a new hotel and in the process of choosing your fixtures and fittings for the bedrooms and other living areas you must ensure that you purchase fire retardant furniture that complies with the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988. Most modern furniture is compliant and will have a ready tree label attached to it confirming this. However if you are purchasing and all the hotel as a going concern you may find that some of the old furniture is not compliant and does not meet with the latest fire regulations. Most building insurance policies will stipulate that you adhere to statutory fire regulations.
Likewise to protect the safety and health and welfare of guests hoteliers are obliged to ensure that all gas equipment and gas appliances meet with the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1994. It’s probable that your main industrial boiler will be heating the building constantly seven days a week to provide hot water and heating for guests. Failure to properly ensure maintenance of this boiler could result not just in machine failure but gas leakage and consequent safety disasters.
Most people who run a business in the UK are familiar with the implications of forever changing health and safety regulations. The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 requires that hoteliers must take notice of substances which may cause injury or illness to their staff. In particular employees should be provided with any proper protective clothing required to handle harmful substances. These may include some type of cleaning fluids such as chemical-based bleach for general maintenance and building repair materials. Similarly the act also provides that employees should avoid ‘the need for hazardous manual handling’ (such as heavy luggage). Clearly carrying guests suitcases up and down stairs may require a sensible assessment of the risks involved. Staff are also protected under the Act in that they cannot be required to work excessive hours any unsuitable shift pattern which could result in an accident or ill-health from fatigue. Supplementing this health and safety requirement is the introduction of the recent Working Time Regulations 1998 which specific case dictates rest breaks, shift patterns annual leave entitlement and working hours for all employees. Running a small hotel can be a busy and hard-working environment and so it’s important to plan ahead for any possible absences or illnesses where cover is required at short notice. Other important health and safety regulations include a requirement to display fire exit signs that comply with The Safety Signs and Signals Regulations Act 1996.
It’s inevitable that accidents happen in public places including hotels. Unfortunately in this day and age of litigation and blame culture it’s important to mitigate the threat of being sued (whether founded or unfounded). One of them most important areas of hotel insurance is public liability insurance which most insurance providers will provide as part of an overall package deal. Similarly under the Employer’s Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act 1969 employers must adequate insurance for their employees as well as display the insurance certificate inside the hotel.
If you are serving food at your hotel you have legal duties to ensure the food is prepared in a hygienic fashion and in the proper way for the safety of your guests. Many local colleges provide formal training courses on food hygiene for those new hoteliers who have limited experience in this area. Poor hygiene and food management can result in food poisoning of guests. Food poisoning represents one of the most serious threats to your business. Food poisoning can be created because germs can cause diseases and illnesses if allowed to spread between humans and food. Germs love certain temperatures in order to multiply and spread and so understanding which types of food need to be heated or cooled and at what specific temperatures ranges is vital. With this in mind the main causes of food poisoning are as follows:-
- Failure to correctly ensure food is properly refrigerated
- Inadequate personal hygiene of the staff members preparing the food
- Heating up cold foods too slowly
- Undercooked food
- Food left at high temperatures that attracts bacteria which can incubate and create harmful germs
- Storage of food resulting in contamination
- Failure to reheat food at a high enough temperature and for enough time to kill any remaining bacteria
If an environmental health officer visits your hotel and discovers poor hygiene standards they have the right to close your hotel for the welfare of your guests. General cleanliness is also one of the top factors that guests would consider in deciding whether or not to return to the hotel they have stayed in. Therefore formal hygiene training of your kitchen staff and staff responsible for cleaning and maintenance is not just a legal obligation but good business practice. Underpinning this approach to ensuring compliance with food hygiene standards must be an overall system and procedure for quality standards. Having a written document process for checking cleanliness, food temperatures, maintenance schedules, safety and security checks are all highly relevant to comply with a whole raft of statutory obligations.
Likewise most hotels also like to provide guests with alcohol as well as food which also has to be kept at the correct temperature. Therefore hotels need to adhere to the Licensing Act 1964. Assuming a licence has been granted most hotels are free to source their alcoholic beverages from whatever source they see fit. However, the Act dictates all aspects of serving alcohol such as the cleanliness of optics, pipes and glasses as well as the unit measures which you can advertise and sell at. You will need a ‘public room’ to be converted into a bar to serve alcoholic beverages. If you’re planning to serve alcohol during mealtimes you will need a residential and restaurant licence which is sometimes known as a Function’s Licence.
With a wireless temperature monitoring system there is a far reduced chance of wasted food in the case of a fridge failure or a power cut. You are alerted immediately via a variety of methods and know exactly how long any power cut occured, this is useful for yourself and any insurance claim that may persist.