Terry's Restaurant Insurance Blog
At a recent meeting of the NC Restaurant Owners Association I asked a number of restaurant owner what was the most important factor when it came to choosing their restaurant insurance. Every single one of them said just one thing matters and that is price. This is a common approach to buying restaurant insurance but in truth, when you look at it rationally it doesn’t make any sense at all. I have to assume that trying to boil different insurance proposals down to price is really just a shortcut to save time and effort. But this kind of decision making shortcut could be doing you and your restaurant a great disservice.
The main reason that restaurant owners will buy restaurant insurance policies based on price alone is that they mistakenly believe that all restaurant insurance policies are the same. Nothing could be further from the truth. Even if you ignore the plain truth that most restaurant policies can be tailored in so many ways that no two are exactly alike, you also have the complicating fact that no two restaurants themselves are exactly alike. What this means for you is that you need the help of a professional to construct the coverage that you need to tailor your policy to fit your restaurant. You wouldn’t simply go to a shoe store and say that you need a pair of shoes and you want the least expensive one regardless of style, color or size. The same should be true of restaurant insurance.
Restaurant owners also make the mistake of assuming that since insurance expense is usually such a small item on their expense sheet that it doesn’t merit a lot of time and effort. This too leads to commoditization of the insurance policy in the owner’s mind, leaving only price as a variable. But this approach is really more lazy than reliable. If your restaurant insurance is a very small item on your expense sheet, then saving 10% there will not generate nearly as much profit as cutting your food cost by 10%. So now we are talking about an expense item where price sensitivity is actually not very critical to your bottom line. And given that poor insurance choices could cost you a huge amount of time and money if you are facing an uninsured claim, then worrying about price over protection here really feels like a case of the tail wagging the dog.
Beyond just the coverage and the price of your restaurant insurance, are the issues of the agent and the company that purchase from. Of course you need to trust your agent’s judgment and be able rely on his or her advice and help to get your coverage written correctly in the first place. But there are a few other issues that are more subtle but in the event of a claim could make a huge difference in the time and money you spend after a loss occurs. You should ask about the insurance company’s ability to pay claims and remain solvent both now and in the future. What is the insurance company’s willingness to pay claims promptly and without litigation? And what role will your agent play in the process? Will he or she be an order taker or more of an ongoing advisor to you and your restaurant?
Clinard Insurance Group is a niche player in the restaurant insurance marketplace. We insure hundreds of restaurants all across the 5 states of North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia and Virginia. We would be happy to share our experience and expertise with you, helping you find the insurance program that solves your risk problems and fits well within your budget. Give us a call today at 877-687-7557 or visit us on the web at www.TheRestaurantInsuranceStore.com.
A bill that makes some dramatic changes to the NC workers compensation insurance benefits has moved on from the Senate and is now on the Governor’s desk awaiting her signature. I feel that for the most part, this bill will likely reduce the cost of workers compensation insurance for most restaurant owners as the general direction of these changes is to reduce the benefits that will be paid out to injured workers. But these changes do cut in both directions so the overall impact on restaurant owners will best be understood after it becomes law, which I assume it will.
This bill was possible due to the Republican controlled legislature that is the state of things at this time in NC. The business friendly republicans have forced the lawyers and the labor unions to give some ground. But you will see a few compromises in the changes that are being made.
Start first with the changes to the disability payments due an injured worker. This is a huge part of the workers compensation cost puzzle so any reduction here should filter its way down to slightly lower rates for restaurant owners in coming years. This new bill will cap disability benefits at 500 weeks. For insurance companies this cap will allow them to better plan their loss costs. This will bring NC in line with our neighboring states, Virginia and South Carolina, both of which have 500 week caps. Tennessee and Georgia both have caps of 400 weeks in their disability benefits for injured workers. There will be exceptions for the most severely injured workers such as the loss of both hands or for paralysis. These disabled workers will be able to qualify for extended compensation if they can prove that they have sustained a total loss of wage earning capacity. This change in benefits should certainly help keep rates lower for most restaurant owners in the long term.
Now let’s take a look at the changes that may increase benefits and perhaps produce some upward pressure on the rates that you pay. The new bill will extend disability benefits to workers who are physically unable to continue the work that they were doing before they were injured and who have had to take a new job at lower pay. The bill will extend their benefits by allowing them to receive two thirds of the difference between their old pay and their new pay and do so now for up to 500 weeks. Previously this benefit only ran for 300 weeks. The bill also increases the benefits for dependents of a worker who is killed on the job or who dies from an occupational disease, from 400 to 500 weeks. In addition the burial expenses benefit for workers killed on the job will be increased from $3500 to $10,000.
A perhaps more disturbing change – depending on which side of the privacy issue you fall on, might be the changes in employer’s access to the injured employees’ medical records. The employer may now be able to speak to the employee’s physician, but only after giving the employee notice. The employee has a right to sit in on that meeting though. It remains to be seen if and how this may be abused by dishonest employers.
So what did the bill fail to do? Well I think they missed an opportunity to change the law that says those with less than 3 employees are not required to purchase and insurance policy for their employees. This rule makes little sense to me since an uninsured employer is still required to pay the claims themselves from their own pockets. But of course these small employers rarely have the financial assets needed to pay the claims that they owe to their more severely injured employees. These injured or disabled people then become wards of the state and we all must pay for them. I can’t see any justification for keeping this rule in force when so many injured and maimed workers are now carrying around worthless judgments against their former employers. The bill should also have tackled the area of enforcement of the workers compensation policy buying rules. Our industrial commission needs to begin enforcing the laws regarding required workers compensation insurance for employers. We cannot continue to force the rule followers to pay for those who break the law.
If you would like help with your restaurant insurance, please call us, toll free, at 877-687-7557. Clinard Insurance Group insures more than 100 restaurants and would love to help you with your restaurant insurance questions.
It is silent and deadly, it can strike without warning. It can kill your employees, your patrons, even you. It is odorless, colorless and can’t be detected by human senses. Nearly every restaurant uses this gas in bulk form to create the fizz in soft drinks. I’m talking about CO2, carbon dioxide. Without careful precautions, this innocent gas can become a killer.
In recent years, several deaths have occurred at restaurants as a result of CO2 poisoning. The victims have been restaurant employees, patrons and CO2 delivery drivers. An 80 year old woman in Florida died in the restroom when gas seeped into the bathroom while CO2 tanks were being refilled. In this case, a line that was designed to funnel excess CO2 out of the restaurant was disconnected. Nine other people were sickened in the incident including three firefighters and two other patrons who were found unconscious after trying to help the dying woman. In another case an 18 year old McDonald’s employee and a CO2 delivery driver both died from asphyxiation from a leak near a fill port which was located in a small room with no ventilation.
CO2 exposure can cause cause dramatic effects in a person quickly and silently. Here are some of the warning signs that you may be exposed: labored breathing, severe headaches, increased heartbeat, faintness and dulled awareness or poor judgment. If the exposure is strong enough or lasts for a long enough time then a victim might experience unconsciousness, rigidity, tremors, convulsions, asphyxiation or even death. And all of this can occur without warning and in the presence of normal oxygen levels.
CO2 poisonings in restaurants are most often related to leakages in older or retrofitted installations or fill ports, or in lines in or near enclosed spaces. CO2 is heavier than oxygen and so it will tend to be trapped closer to the ground. For this reason, your CO2 alarms should be mounted close to the ground near your fill ports. Consult your supplier for the most appropriate type of alarm for your particular restaurant.
OSHA has published a list of guidelines for safer use of bulk CO2. Here’s a short list of those recommendations. People handling liquid CO2 should be thoroughly familiar with the hazards. New CO2 receptacles should be installed at ground level. Properly ventilate fill areas to allow exhaust to leave at the lowest level and replacement oxygen to enter the room at a higher point. Develop and implement a procedure to monitor CO2 levels near all fill ports. Display warning signs outside areas where high concentrations of CO2 could build up. Establish and implement procedures for inspection and maintenance, at regular intervals of all piping, tubing, hoses and fittings. Make sure that you have proper lighting at the fill ports to allow servicing workers to use these systems safely.
Some simple precautions and education of your employees could help save a life. CO2 is not often thought of as a killer by most people in our society. It is up to you to take the precautions needed to keep others safe in your restaurant.
Clinard Insurance Group, located in Winston Salem, NC is a niche player in the restaurant insurance market. We want all restaurant insurance buyers to be informed consumers. If you would like help with your restaurant insurance, please call us, toll free, at 877-687-7557.
Restaurants have employees driving on their behalf all the time. The obvious case is food delivery but think about the other times when you ask one of your employees to run an errand for you, to the bank perhaps or to pick up supplies or drop something off at the bank. The minute they drive off, they are taking with them your potential liability for any damage that they cause while on that errand. If they use their cell phone during this errand, then they are 4 times more likely to cause an accident. You wouldn’t let them engage in activities in your restaurant in ways that are 4 times more likely to cause accidents so why should you allow this behavior when they are driving for you?
Take a look at a few high dollar settlements against companies whose employees were on the phone when they caused an accident. A lumber salesman crippled a a 78 year old woman. The lumber company was forced to pay $16.1 million in settlement. A driver on an errand for his company didn’t react when traffic slowed and rear-ended a Honda in a chain reaction that killed a 32 year old woman. A Florida jury awarded the woman’s family $21.6 million.
The real problem for you, the restaurant owner, is the smoking gun of the cellphone records. Trial lawyers are very aware of this piece of evidence and in any bad accident, they will be there with the records, ready to waive them in the jury member’s faces. And unfortunately for you, juries seem eager and ready to scold companies for letting their employees engage in phone use on the road. Juries don’t seem to want to let everyone out there use their phone and drive at the same time. It’s ok for them, but apparently not ok for everyone else. They see it as protecting themselves by encouraging corporations to not allow their drivers to use the phones on the road.
It doesn’t really matter if your employee is using a company owned car, or their own car with their own private cell phone. In each case the jury loves to pin the blame on the company and punish them with a huge jury award. Because of this, most experts now believe that out of court, pre-trial settlements are the best options for companies caught in this trap. The jury environment right now is pretty hostile to the corporation.
So what can you do? First of all, make sure that you have adequate insurance on your business auto insurance policy if your restaurant owns any vehicles. Next be sure that you have high enough limits to protect you on your non-owned auto insurance as well. Make it clear, both verbally and in writing, signed by your employees, that they will not use their cell phone in any way while driving a company car or while driving a private vehicle on behalf of your restaurant. You should consult your attorney for the best way to accomplish this.
Clinard Insurance Group, a niche player in the NC restaurant insurance marketplace wants all restaurant owners to be informed insurance buyers. If you would like help with your restaurant insurance in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee or Virginia, please call us, toll free, at 877-687-7557 or visit our restaurant insurance web page at www.TheRestaurantInsuranceStore.com.
There are many ways these days to glean reviews forf a business or product before you buy. Restaurants are no exception. The big players for restaurant reviews are Google and Yelp. But what if one of your patrons decides to unleash an attack on your restaurant? How should your respond? What can you do to repair the damage?
Many of our restaurant clients tend to have a love hate relationship with services like Yelp and Google reviews. There are even those out there who believe that Yelp will extort money from restaurant owners in the form of higher level memberships before removing a bad review. In fact, according to Richard Torrenzano, CEO of The Torranzano Group, Yelp has developed and uses algorithms that punish members who provide only negative reviews by moving their review further down the list or by hiding them completely.
So what should you do if you are attacked on one of these review sites? How can you respond in a way that doesn’t create more bad press for your or simply make it worse?
First of all, try to approach the bad review as an opportunity. You may learn something about your restaurant that you can improve that will over time be a benefit to you. Also, the bad review can give you an opportunity to turn a negative review into a compelling story that can generate positive press for your restaurant. So begin by allowing your emotions to ebb before you respond. If you allow a little bit of time to pass before you reply then you are less likely to do so emotionally and perhaps make things worse. So, no name calling, no threats and no arguing.
Before you plan your response to the criticism, keep a few things in mind. Remember that the reviewers are your paying customers. Remind yourself that they are also human beings and like all of us can have unpredictable feelings and sensitivities. It is also often true that those who might actually take the time and effort to write a review are often opinionated and vocal people. Plan your response by empathizing with their feelings and their experiences.
One mistake that many businesses make is fashioning a response that comes across as highly impersonal or corporate. People like to do business with people, not faceless nameless corporate entities. People will tend to side with the individual over the corporate image so make sure that you meet them with your response as another human being, empathetic to their feelings. Another mistake some restaurant owners make is to publicly promise coupons or freebies to the complaining reviewer. If you want to offer something to them along these lines, it is best if you do it via a private message to them. If possible, you should also assure your reviewer that he or she has in some way helped you improve your business or contributed to positive changes in the way that you will run your operation.
Sadly, when attacked, you do need to respond. Leaving no reply at all still leaves you mired in the negativity. Just remember that when you respond you are getting the chance to be in control of the issue and the conversation. Your response should be carefully calculated.
At Clinard Insurance Group, located in lovely Winston Salem, NC, we insure more than 100 restaurants all across NC, SC, GA, TN and VA. We will be happy to help you with any questions you may have regarding insurance for your restaurant. Please call us, toll free, at 877-687-7557 or visit us on the web at www.TheRestaurantInsuranceStore.com.
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