Foodborne illness outbreaks are costly. Just one sick customer can bring a devastating lawsuit, huge legal fees, staff turnover, long-term loss of reputation, and a crippling loss of income.
Yet it still surprises me how many restaurants don’t have proper coverage for this.
Foodborne illness happens.
Any restaurant can fall victim to bad food. It really can happen to you.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 48 million Americans get sick from contaminated food in the United States every year. 60 percent of the time, this happens at restaurants- even the best and the cleanest restaurants. It could be yours next.
Fran, Fred, and the French Silk Pie.
Fran and the ladies from the office decided to celebrate Fran’s birthday. They went to her favorite restaurant, which was also known for the best French Silk Pie in town. After a great meal, Fran ordered her favorite pie. But her server was busy, so the prep cook, Fred, decided to help by cutting the pie.
Unfortunately, Fred had come into work sick that day. Really sick.
Fred meant well. He was a great employee. But he had E. coli that day. And of course, Fred accidentally shared his E. coliwith Fran.
So began the lawsuit, the article in the newspaper, and the “everyone loses” nightmare.
Prevention is the first step.
The old clichés apply here: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” and “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.”
- Talk to your employees.
Do your employees know how to properly handle food? Randomly quiz them to find out.
- Check with your food vendors.
Talk to your vendors to make sure they have excellent food safety procedures. They should be selling you more than just food. They should sell safety too.
- Re-examine your culture.
Food safety can (and should) become a culture in your restaurant. It may be time to create or enhance a food safety training program.
Make sure your liability coverage is adequate.
Commercial General Liability insurance (CGL) is the type of insurance that covers the bills for medical, pain and suffering, and lost wages for the victim. It’s the front line of defense for a restaurant, and it’s often contained in a Business Owners Policy (BOP). That’s the good news.
The bad news is that many restaurant owners don’t have enough liability coverage. And they also haven’t discussed exclusions and limitations with their agent in a long time.
Now might be the time to have that discussion.
Make sure you have business continuation insurance.
Here’s the bigger risk when something like foodborne illness strikes your restaurant: How LONG will it be before sales are back to normal?
Restaurants face unique risks when the news of food-related illness becomes known. News like this spreads like wildfire. Social media is “word of mouth” on steroids. Can you financially survive the public shaming? It will take time… and money.
Surprisingly, many restaurants in Napa and Northern California do not have adequate coverage for loss of business and loss of reputation when a foodborne illness claim hits them.
In addition to the advice above, call a local agent who is experienced in restaurant insurance. Experience counts in this unique niche. Don’t wait. Call someone today.
Bruce Sackrison is an insurance property and casualty broker affiliated with Professional Insurance Associates helping clients with insurance needs for personal, commercial and business insurance. Bruce can be reached at 707-931-0186, firstname.lastname@example.org