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Nusbaum Appointed to Board of Panther Ridge

In early November, Eric Nusbaum, Founder and Principal of Wheelwright Consultants was appointed to the Board of Directors of Panther Ridge, a feline sanctuary and approved breeding facility in Wellington, Florida. Founded in 1999, Panther Ridge, provides life-long care for some of the planet's most endangered big cat species such as Cheetahs, Florida Panthers, Jaguars, and Clouded Leopards. Some of the sanctuary's residents have been rescued from owners who thought it would be fun to own an exotic pet, but later realized that they could not properly care for such a large animal, others were sent to Panther Ridge after being seized by customs agents because they were being imported illegally, and others have been sent to Panther Ridge by zoos to promote genetic diversity among captive breeding populations.

In addition to having bred jaguars and Florida panthers  in the past, programs that will be continued in the future when the current residents reach sexual maturity, Panther Ridge currently has a breeding program for Clouded Leopards, one of the least-studied and most enigmatic of the large cat species. In an exciting and new development, Panther Ridge, has been offered four young CHEETAHs - two females and two males. The sanctuary is currently raising funds to create a new facility to house these animals. This facility will have a very large footprint as cheetahs are the fastest animal on two or four legs and they need space to run. 

Panther Ridge provides small groups (because this is less stressful on the cats) with educational programs to help people understand the lives of these large cats and to raise awareness about the need for environmental stewardship of our planet. For more information about the mission of Panther Ridge or to donate to the care and survival of these magnificent animals, visit the Panther Ridge website:

Connecticut Adopts 2017 FDA Food Code

Connecticut adopted the FDA Food Code at a time when the code did not require that certified individuals be "re-certified" every five years, and so for many years it was possible to take ServSafe once and become permanently certified as a Qualified Food Operator (QFO). This policy has been changed and as of June 30, 2018, individuals who are QFOs in Connecticut will have to be recertified every five years. To assist folks with coming into compliance with these new regulations we have scheduled two recertification programs in Enfield, Connecticut in March and May 2018. More programs will be scheduled if demand warrants.

There are differences between tips and service charges . . . 

We have been doing a bit of fall office cleaning and have been going through magazines and files. As we were doing so we came across an article that indicated that the Internal Revenue Service and the Social Security Administration had reviewed certain "service charges" and determined that they should not be treated in the same way as "tips". This is important for restaurants that automatically add a gratuity on to the bills of large parties as well as those that add a service charge on to banquet checks and this is especially important in states where employers may take a tip credit against wages paid to tipped employees.

In order for a "tip" to be a "tip", it must be something that a guest freely and of their own accord adds to a bill. When the guest makes the decision as to what to pay, the employer can collect it and pass it on to the server(s). If the business automatically adds some sort of charge, no matter what it is called, to the bill that is a "service charge". Service charges may not be used as part of a tip credit. There are also some possible issues with how the two are treated with respect to Social Security (FICA) taxes.

What is recommended to keep restaurants and caterers out of trouble is one of the following strategies: 1) provide the check with a range of gratuities - 15%, 18%, and 20% and allow the guest to indicate which they would like to pay. This allows the amount to be considered a "tip" and it can be collected and paid to the employees and can be used to raise the hourly rate from the lower tip credit wage to the minimum hourly wage (or greater); or 2) pay banquet staff an hourly wage above minimum wage and charge a "service charge" on the bill, which may be distributed as desired.

Please note that there may be different state or local regulations with respect to what to call these fees and how they must be distributed and we advise you to check with your financial and legal advisors! 

The New 7th Edition of ServSafe Manager is out . . .

Every four years the entire FDA Food Code is reviewed and revised. Since the previous revision was in 2013, the Food Code was recently updated. The National Restaurant Association has just issued its latest version of ServSafe. We received our first shipment on June 20 and have read it. At the present time it appears that the 6th Edition or ServSafe Manager will still be valid and probably the 5th edition. If you have any old 4th editions laying around, you probably should discard them. We'll have updated our ServSafe Programs and materials to reflect the Food Code.

We reviewed the new 7th Edition of the ServSafe Manager and must say that we are extremely disappointed in its quality. In addition to being very poorly edited (it has contradictory information in different chapters) and it has dumbed the content down to an extreme level, which we don't believe provides sufficient information to prepare one to take the certification examination. As a result, we have decided not to use the 7th Edition, although we have a few in stock if people want to purchase one, and will be providing all participants with the booklet we have written for those being recertified - both those being certified initially and those being recertified. And since we will not be purchasing the ServSafe book, we will be reducing the program cost!


Some Changes at Wheelwright Consultants

Those of you who have participated in our programs know that for a great many years now my "wife", Barbie, and I have lived about 110 miles apart. Last fall (2016) Barbie took a part-time, seasonal job in Wellington, FL - on the East Coast not too far from West Palm Beach. The plan was for Barbie to spend winters in Florida and to be up here in Massachusetts with me for the summers. Well, her seasonal job morphed into a year round job, so we're going to changing things up a little. Barbie has informed me that she wants me to spend more time with her. (It's nice to be wanted.) Starting around Labor Day, I will be spending extended periods of time with her in Florida - coming back to New England for a couple of weeks at a time.

Barbie's position is with Panther Ridge, a sanctuary that rescues and breeds endangered big cats such as cheetah's, cougars, jaguars, and leopards. Some of their animals have come from zoos, others have been rescued from people illegally importing them or who thought that it would be "cool" to have an ocelot or some other exotic cat as a pet. The fact of the matter is that these are wild animals with the instincts and reactions of a wild animal. These animals are amazing to behold, but one should think twice about holding one or trying to keep one in the home. The jaguar, for example, has the most powerful bite of any land animal - it teeth can puncture the skull of a crocodile or a full-grown cow. I have been recruited as a part-time volunteer at Panther Ridge, so in between providing ServSafe classes, expert witness services, managerial consulting, and nutritional labeling services, I will be spending a couple of days a week at Panther Ridge. I will be keeping my cell phone number and will be available, as always, to help you run your business safely and profitably.

Wheelwright Consultants selected as "Expert Witness"

Over the past year Wheelwright Consultants has been selected to provide an "expert" opinion in a number of cases where hotel or restaurant guests have been injured.The cases that we have been involved with include: an three cases where a customer sustained a serious burn that resulted in a permanent scar from an overly hot beverage; where a guest was permanently injured when the chair he was sitting in collapsed; an instance where a guest sustained a permanent facial injury when he slipped getting out of the bathtub in a hotel; a situation where an improperly located stage resulted in a guest with an impairment falling off the stage and suffering a serious injury; and a case where the business is alleged to have failed to secure a space where an outside contactor had been working and the guest was severely injured after catching her ankle in a hole on the property. We have also been consulted on in a case where a guest died as a result of choking on food where no one in the business was choke-saver trained. (REMEMBER - In Massachusetts if you have a food license and can seat more than 25 people you must have someone on premises who is choke-saver trained anytime you are serving food!)

Although we can't discuss the specifics of any case, we can state that in each of these cases there were allegations that the hotel or restaurant failed to exercise reasonable care in the maintenance or operation of the business. All of the injuries sustained by the alleged victims were serious resulting in permanent scarring, a permanent disability or death. Even if the hotel or restaurant is ultimately found not to have been at fault, they will sustain serious expenses related to their legal defense and may have a serious negative impact on their reputation and business.

We urge you to check your policies and procedures to make sure your business is safe and your employees know how to respond in case of a guest injury.


MASSACHUSETTS' Sick Pay Regulations

As of July 1, 2015 all Massachusetts' employers must have a sick leave program for their employees. The specifics of the program are based upon the average number of employees per week. Employers with 10 or fewer employees per week must allow the employees to have unpaid sick leave while those with 11 or more employees must provide paid sick leave. 

Here is a summary of the regulations:

  • Employees earn one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked.
  • Employees can earn and use up to 40 hours of sick leave a year.
  • Employees can roll over up to 40 hours of unused sick leave from one year to the next.
  • Employees begin earning sick leave on their first day of employment, but may not use if during the first 90 days of employment.
  • Paid sick leave can be used in increments of one (1) hour when the employee, their child, spouse, or parent(s) are sick, for a medical appointment, or to address the effects of domestic violence.
  • Employees must be paid their regular hourly wage for the sick wage, except for tipped employees who must be paid the State minimum wage.
  • Use of sick leave for purposes other than those listed above may result in disciplinary action.
  • Except in cases of emergencies, employees must notify their employer in advance of using the sick leave.
  • Employees who miss three (3) consecutive shifts or who are sick within the two (2) weeks prior to leaving a job may be required to provide medical documentation of their illness.
  • Employers may not retaliate against employees who use their earned sick leave.


Press Release--Wheelwright Consultants Completes Foodborne Illness Investigation and Recall Response Training

Eric F. Nusbaum, founder and principal of Wheelwright Consultants, recently completed training in Foodborne Illness Investigation and Recall Response given by the National Environmental Health Association in Southborough, MA. Participants in the program came from a wide variety of backgrounds: chain and independent restaurants, grocery stores, health departments, and food safety consultants. More than two dozen participated in the full-day program. The training was given in conjunction with the Massachusetts Restaurant Association as part of the Association’s commitment to improving the relationship between food safety regulators and operators and as part of the Association’s on-going commitment to protect the health of the American public.

Nusbaum, who founded the hospitality management and food safety consulting firm in 1995, was the only participant from Western Massachusetts attending the program.  Asked about the program, Nusbaum said that the presenters were very good and that they provided participants with a wealth of materials and forms that would be useful in investigating a foodborne illness outbreak or in working with food processors to handle a product recall. Nusbaum said that Wheelwright Consultants is working with a number of individuals and firms that are starting to produce specialty food products in Western Massachusetts and that having this training and information would be extremely valuable in the unlikely situation where one of these producers would have to institute a recall of products. Information provided in the program indicates that the number one reason that a producer would recall a food product is the undeclared presence of an allergen or due to a labeling error. While food products may be recalled when there is evidence that they could cause an illness, this is actually the case in a minority of recalls.

The program also reviewed the steps to be taken when investigating a reported foodborne illness, including taking case histories of those involved, conducting an environmental assessment of the business implicated in the outbreak, proper epidemiologic procedures, and implementation of corrective actions.





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