Hospitality Law




Hospitality laws relate to food service, travel, and lodging industries. It governs the various nuances of the hotel, restaurant, bar, spa, country club, meeting, and convention industries, among others. Much like entertainment law, homeowners association law, and other specialty fields, hospitality law is much more a description of the types of clients who seek out the attorneys who focus their practices in these areas rather than an actual set of laws. Hospitality law commonly encompasses a wide array of laws including contracts, anti-trust, torts, real estate, and many others.

Recent spurts of food poisoning cases and increasing awareness of food illnesses have brought hospitality laws front and center in the public conscience. Similarly, terrorist attacks against hotels abroad have also demonstrated the importance of hospitality law even in international affairs, especially as they pertain to protecting guests from harm.

While hospitality law covers many different types of businesses, hotels and restaurants are the two most common hospitality law clients. American hotel operators have a number of legal duties to their guests. They are expected to protect guests' safety and avoid negligence. Hotels must also protect the confidentiality of their guests' identifying information. They must hire, manage, and fire employers just like any other business, and they must prepare and execute a seemingly endless stream of contracts. Moreover, hotels must also obligated to protect their guests from criminal harms, like theft of belongings left in the rooms or other harms, possibly even terrorist attacks.

Restaurants, on the other hand, have a duty to sell food that is suitable for human consumption. Many states have enacted “Truth in Menu” laws governing descriptions of food items on menus to allow customers to make healthier choices and to ensure that the customer receives exactly what they ordered (for example, 10 chicken wings will be 10 wings, not 9). The federal government also has a plethora of food regulations that restaurants must abide by, such as warnings regarding trans fats. Restaurants must also protect customers against slips and falls, food poisoning, and other personal injuries.

Both industries also commonly deal with anti-trust issues, franchise agreements, supply chain and other commercial transactions, labor disputes, and a variety of other legal issues.

The resources below will provide additional information regarding this area of the law, and you can find attorneys who focus their practice in this area under the “Law Firms” tab on the menu bar, above.

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Hospitality Law - US

  • ABA - Hospitality Law Overview

    Hospitality law has evolved as a specialty within the legal profession in the last several decades. It is also offered as a course on the undergraduate and graduate levels as well as in some law schools. A typical hospitality law course covers the history of hospitality law, the impact of federal and state civil rights laws on the hospitality industry, and an extensive discussion of contract law, including discussions of remedies for overbooking and a guest’s breach of the contract regarding a reservation.

  • Food Safety - Inspections and Compliance

    The food industry is responsible for producing safe food. Government agencies are responsible for setting food safety standards, conducting inspections, ensuring that standards are met, and maintaining a strong enforcement program to deal with those who do not comply with standards.

  • Hospitality Law - Definition

    Hospitality law is the body of law relating to the foodservice, travel, and lodging industries. That is, it is the body of law governing the specific nuances of hotels, restaurants, bars, spas, country clubs, meeting and convention planners, and more. Hospitality law doesn’t just involve one area of law. It encompasses a wide variety of practice areas, including contracts, antitrust, tort law, and more.

  • Hospitality Risk Solutions

    Business interruption insurance (also known as business income coverage) helps businesses in situations like this. Many businesses without the business income coverage, shut down their business operations after their business is completely shuttered due to some unforeseen event. It covers the loss of income and helps a business return to the financial position as it was in prior to the disaster.

  • Restaurants and Food Service Businesses

    Business.gov helps small business owners stay abreast of legal and regulatory issues affecting their daily lives. This guide provides an overview of federal regulations that affect restaurants and other food service businesses, including links to guidance that help restaurateurs stay in compliance with federal regulations.

  • United States Hotel Liability

    Hotel guests should be aware of certain laws and regulations or policies that could impact their visits. Special concerns affect the "hospitality industry" because its establishments hold their property open to the public at large. For hotels (collectively referred to as "innkeepers" under many state laws), duties owed to the public at large are based on the historic consideration that when weary travelers reached wayside inns as night approached, they were not to be arbitrarily turned away into the dark (the roads were filled with robbers) or otherwise subjected to the arbitrary mercy of the innkeeper with regard to prices or adequacy of quarters.

Organizations Related to Hospitality Law

  • American Hotel and Lodging Association

    Serving the hospitality industry for nearly a century, AH&LA is the sole national association representing all sectors and stakeholders in the lodging industry, including individual hotel property members, hotel companies, student and faculty members, and industry suppliers. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., AH&LA provides members with national advocacy on Capitol Hill, public relations and image management, education, research and information, and other value-added services to provide bottom line savings and ensure a positive business climate for the lodging industry.

  • Cornell's Center for Hospitality Research Roundtables

    Center roundtables are a meeting place for invited senior-level hospitality industry executives and Cornell faculty members. Each roundtable lasts one day and is divided into four or five sessions. Sessions begin with a short research presentation (by a Cornell faculty member, faculty from another institution, or an industry leader) that lasts five to ten minutes. Immediately following, one or two industry discussants either support or contest the researcher's hypothesis or conclusion. The conversation is then opened up to the entire roundtable for discussion.

  • Hospitality Law Conference - Hospitality Net

    The annual Hospitality Law Conference is a one-of-a-kind opportunity designed for participants to share legal insight and best practices, and to gain a better understanding of the latest industry developments. It is the only program in the country and in the world devoted exclusively to legal, safety and security issues impacting the hotel, restaurant, and travel industries.

  • Hospitality Trends

    Founded in 1998 by Thomas Wahl and initially focusing on the hotel industry, the Nevistas network has evolved into the leading online information and knowledge base for not only the hospitality industry, but also the all and many other channels.

  • National Restaurant Association

    The National Restaurant Association now represents more than 380,000 of those businesses — from restaurants and suppliers to educators and non-profits — and provides each one with the valuable resources needed to stay ahead in a fast-paced industry.

Articles on HG.org Related to Hospitality Law

  • How Does the U.S. No Fly List Work?
    Following the terrorist attacks on 9/11, the U.S. federal government enacted a number of measures meant to combat the threat of terrorism on American soil. Among these measures was the implementation of the No Fly List, created and maintained by the Terrorist Screening Center (TSC). Often the subject of jokes in TV shows and movies, many wonder what it really is and how it works. So, how does the U.S. No Fly List actually work?
  • When Can Kids Fly Alone?
    It is not uncommon, particularly around the holidays, for children to visit family members in other states. Sometimes this means taking a flight. But, for many families, it is just not financially feasible for a parent to accompany the child on the flight. So, what are the laws and rules regarding when children can fly alone?
  • What is a Liquor License and Why is it Such a Big Deal?
    A liquor license is, as the name implies, a license for the service of alcohol. But, many have referred to the procurement of a liquor license in almost reverent terms, as though it is a rare prize. So what is a liquor license and why is it such a big deal to have one?
  • The Hazards of Tourist Season for Your Betrothed
    The warmer weather and sunny skies of spring have arrived in the U.S., opening the gates to tourists from around the globe, but one group of tourists should be especially mindful of the legal hazards of visiting the U.S. If you are a foreigner engaged to a U.S. citizen and living abroad, then your petition for a K-1 visa will establish your intent to marry an American citizen and stay here permanently.
  • Tourist Season Easier for Some than Others
    The summer travel season is fast approaching, and many foreign citizens are making plans now to visit the U.S., but they won’t be going anywhere without the necessary immigration compliance preparations. Generally, the “necessary preparations” would include obtaining a tourist visa, but it is possible to avoid the paperwork, fees and waiting associated with this step if you are an eligible citizen of a country that is enrolled in the U.S. visa waiver program.
  • New PA Law to Ban Texting While Driving Passed
    A Pennsylvania law to ban texting while driving statewide has been passed and will soon go into effect.
  • Traumatic Brain Injuries and Youth Athletics— What Do Ski Area Operators Need to Know?
    Traumatic brain injuries (“TBIs”) among young athletes have garnered increased attention recently, due in large part to a growing awareness in the medical and athletic communities regarding the prevalence and potentially devastating effects of head injuries in youth sports.
  • Summer Safety on Illinois Highways
    Summer driving season is upon us. Across Illinois, residents and visitors spend more time on our state’s roads, driving to see family and friends and to visit vacation spots. As driving time increases, so should your awareness of simple, effective road rules that make everyone on the roads safer.
  • Summer Vacation Travel: Drivers Beware
    Spending summer in the Poconos or along the Jersey Shore is certainly appealing for Philadelphia city dwellers and the thousands of tourists who flock to the East Coast each summer in search of adventure. Unfortunately, summer fun can come at quite a cost. Each year accidents involving recreational vehicles (RVs), motor homes, motorcycles and campers put an end to summer fun and cause catastrophic injuries and death.
  • All Leisure Law Articles

    Articles written by attorneys and experts worldwide discussing legal aspects related to Leisure including: art and cultural property, entertainment law, gaming, hospitality law, sports and recreation, tourism and travel.


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