Washington Lawyer - September 2016 - 17

the fast food bucket if it meets any of these conditions to allow for more nuances in the industry. Meek-Bradley and her business partners told the Washington Post that they hope Smoked & Stacked will receive a different designation come September. If not, they will be forced to appeal the decision or change their concept. Morris believes these zoning changes are a result of a fast-growing industry. "With the new regulations going in effect in September, they're trying to catch up. Clearly they're not moving fast enough, but that's the nature of regulation. They're so often reactive," he says. While the old regulations were "problematic," says Morris, the new ones also introduce their own issues. "The one good thing about the old regulations was at least you knew what the criteria was. [The new regulations] introduce a level of uncertainty when committing to leases and other commitments you need to make early on when opening a restaurant," he says. "We're going from one system that was very rigid, but at least was predictable, to one that is more flexible but will be unpredictable and put the decision in the hands of a human being who may or may not see things the way you do." The introduction of fast casual dining also has created challenges for liquor licensing laws. Local regulators are used to issuing full-service licenses to full-service restaurants, says Morris. "The idea of just a beer and wine license for one place that might have half a dozen locations, that's a genuinely new thing on the liquor licensing front," he says. "The liquor licensing law has not recognized the reality of fast casual." As laws play catch-up with changes in the restaurant industry, innovations in the way food is served and consumed will continue at blistering speed. "A lot of innovation is happening on the restaurant level, from emerging kitchens around the community to the delivery of food to the various new food compositions. It's a whirlwind of activity figuring out how the law works and doesn't work in many cases," says Michael T. Roberts, founding executive director of the Resnick Program for Food Law and Policy at UCLA School of Law. "It's affecting the industry in many ways. There's concern about nutrition and transparency, giving information to consumers. It's a volatile world. In the restaurant side of things, perhaps it's the most volatile." The volatility may be a byproduct of foodie culture. "There's so much more knowledge nowadays about the whole package of a restaurant compared to what it was 10 years ago. People know about food from the Internet, from TV shows," says Isabella. "[There's] a lot more focus on healthy eating across America. I think that's very special. That's why the restaurant scene is blowing up." It's also one reason why Isabella is pursuing major expansions to his business. Known initially for his Greek and Italian cuisine, Isabella recently opened Yona, an Asian restaurant, with chef Jonah Kim, and the French seafood spot Requin, which began as a pop-up, with chef Jennifer Carroll. Both restaurants are located in Virginia. "We have a lot more depth from a culinary standpoint," Isabella says. In addition to his upscale casual restaurants, Isabella runs G Sandwiches, which was later adapted as a concession stand at Nationals Park. Three of his restaurants have made their way into airports in D.C., Los Angeles, and Pensacola, Florida. He's tweaked his recipe for running his businesses to take into account kitchen size and his partnerships with building owners without sacrificing flavors. "The main focus is that you want to try to keep your brand the same as it is at a full-service restaurant," he says. His biggest challenge to date is Isabella Eatery, a 10-concept, 42,000-square-feet food emporium at Tysons Galleria in McLean, Virginia, that is projected to open in 2017. He's nervous, he says. "It's our toughest and biggest project. It's going to double the size of my company just with the amount of employees I'm going to hire for that." But he follows that up with his well-known bravado: "Go big or go home!" KNOW WHAT TO PLATE, WHAT TO POST Stirring up the pot for restaurateurs is customer demand to connect online. Isabella integrates social media into his marketing and branding plan. He's on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. "I'm fighting Snapchat," he jokes. "I don't have it yet, but I'm sure I eventually will!" He and the chefs at his restaurants post photos of beautiful meals and tasty cocktails, guest chef events at other eateries, and media coverage of his business ventures. "You have a brand to represent. Your team has to represent your brand. It's keeping people posted on what's going on, what you're doing, and what you're serving," he says. "Branding is definitely very important. You have to self-promote," says Meek-Bradley. "It's about standing out. Social media is a really important tool." Scrolling through her Instagram account, there are pictures of fresh ingredients, plated food that she's created or eaten, as well as of evenings spent working alongside her chef community. There are even peeks at her personal life - images of her as a child with her father, of her goofing around with her brother. But restaurateurs must be mindful of the risks - and the law. Morris warns that social media is not the platform to solicit investors. "You can't just say, 'We're trying to open a restaurant. Call us if you want to be a part of this hot new restaurant.' Federal securities regulators really look closely at that. Once you do that, you engage in general solicitation and you've put yourself in a whole different silo when it comes to federal securities law," Morris says. His advice? Use social media as an avenue to market your next happy hour, showcase your personality, and feature your food. For these chefs, the simple inspiration behind their work is apparent in their social media posts. Cooking brings family and friends together and creates community. Even with a room full of investors, a great marketing strategy, and an iron-clad business plan, success still centers on one's love of cooking. "Be involved. Be aware. Be passionate. Be genuine," says Meek-Bradley to would-be entrepreneurs. "The restaurants [that] are successful are the ones that are opened by the people who genuinely believed in what they were doing. That really shines through." WHERE THE FOOD MOVEMENT GOES, THE LAW FOLLOWS The food movement is truly global. Its rise has forced laws around the world to evolve as consumers' interest in what they're eating grows. "The food system has changed so dramatically that it's different from anything we've experienced before," says Michael T. Roberts, founding executive director of the Resnick Program for Food Law and Policy at UCLA School of Law. "It evokes a sustained interest in food. It has changed dramatically in terms of how I approach food law." Whether in China, the E.U., or the U.S., Roberts has seen a growing interest in food law and policy on the international stage. New challenges are cropping up in respect to: * * * * * * * Food safety Menu labeling Accessibility of food Food composition Biotechnology Nanotechnology Animal cloning "You have all these similarities that are really quite striking, but you have a different legal system in each country and different attitudes in each country," says Roberts. For more on the changing food laws, visit dcbar.org/news. * WASHINGTON LAWYER * SEPTEMBER 2016 17 https://www.dcbar.org/about-the-bar/news/global-food-law.cfm https://www.dcbar.org/about-the-bar/news/global-food-law.cfm https://www.dcbar.org/about-the-bar/news/global-food-law.cfm

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