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Do You Wear a White Hat or a Black Hat?

Editor’s Letter

Do You Wear a White Hat
or a Black Hat?

With so many jurisdictions around the country banning smoking, I’m sure you’re asking yourself how a ban will affect your business. The popular belief is that your business will be hurt, and maybe badly. Well, according to a new study published in the Cornell Hotel and Restaurant Administration Quarterly that’s not the case. Restaurants and hotels where smoking is no longer permitted have not lost business, reports the study. Some actually gained revenues.

The study, authored by cancer research scientist Andrew Hyland, focused on restaurants and hotels in New York City and four surrounding counties that have implemented smoke-free dining since 1995. He and other authors of the study examined changes in taxable sales and employment levels.

"This study demonstrates that business managers need not fear loss of patronage by going smoke free and should welcome the opportunity to protect the health of their workers and patrons," says Hyland.

The study found that some restaurants and hotels actually saw their business increase after the smoking bans, while a majority saw no change in their business. Only a small percentage experienced a decrease in business. On top of that, the employee turnover rate improved at most operations.

Overall, the study suggests that a smoking ban in your business, whether legal or self-imposed, will dramatically reduce your employees’ risk for lung cancer from second-hand smoke and not hurt your business. That’s a win-win.

The subject of health as it relates to this industry is in the forefront these days and the issue isn’t likely to go away. Of course, that’s bad and good. Bad, for instance, because of frivolous lawsuits claiming fast food causes obesity. Good, because it makes everyone look at what they’re doing and, perhaps, plot a new and better course of action.

That was certainly the case when Kraft Foods announced earlier this month that it will examine the products it offers and the way it markets them to make it easier for consumers to eat and live better. Kraft’s announcement relates directly to the rise of obesity and the debates that have ensued, said Betsy Holden, the company’s co-c.e.o. "Just as obesity has many causes, it can be solved only if all sectors of society do their part to help,"she announced.

Kraft should be applauded for its efforts. But keep in mind its decision is also based on sound business principles. Whether the debate surrounding health and foodservice was generated by lawyers or public opinion doesn’t seem to matter any more. The public is now very interested and it will support those who are looking out for them and reject those who aren’t.

As a business owner, there are times, I’m sure, that the person walking through your door represents a very needed sale that will help you pay the rent. But you can never remove humanity from the equation. Emotion plays a significant role in everyday decisions, and it’s human nature to favor the white hats over those with the black hats. Make sure your customers know you’re wearing a white hat.


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