Insurance policies are valuable as companies navigate workforce shortages and inflated food and supply costs.
In this industry, it’s not a matter of if accidents will happen—it’s when. From slips and falls on wet surfaces, to kitchen fires and equipment failures, a restaurant can incur losses any number of ways, often because of property and liability claims.
As restaurants continue to navigate workforce shortages and inflated food and supply costs, insurance policies aren’t likely to be top of mind for many owners and operators, but they’re a valuable tool in helping reduce the risk of costly losses. With preparation and the help of the restaurant’s insurer, claims can be managed with confidence, helping owners keep their business running.
Here are four tips to help restaurant owners and their staff effectively manage any claim.
1. Gather photos, video, eyewitness reports, and contact info
It’s crucial to create a detailed record of any incident. Collect photos, videos, eyewitness reports, vendor contracts, and contact information when possible.
In cases where a customer or employee is injured on-site: Before anything else, attend to the injured person. Seek medical attention on their behalf as soon as possible. In situations where the injured person feels slighted or ignored, litigation may become a more prevalent outcome; it’s imperative to act with empathy and compassion.
Prior to cleaning or making any repairs, staff should take well-lit photos and videos of the area—with multiple angles and depths. This will create a more accurate record of what occurred for the insurer, helping improve the claims process.
Additional information to gather and prepare for the insurance company includes:
- Insurance account name and policy number
- Date, time, and location of the incident or damage
- Name and contact information for the person reporting the incident/damage
- Detailed account of what happened and who was involved, including statements from witnesses when possible
- Police report if one was filed
Depending on the type of incident, it may be necessary to include additional information in the claims package sent to the insurer.
In cases of foodborne illnesses or claims like dental fractures: a restaurant owner will need to provide a detailed list of suppliers to include with the claim information.
In cases where equipment has failed and caused injury: a restaurant owner should provide equipment purchase receipts and applicable vendor information, when possible.
2. Contact the insurer ASAP
Immediately following an incident in a restaurant, contact the insurance agent. The first notice of loss (FNOL) is the initial report to the insurance company, and it begins the claims process. Some insurance companies require the FNOL within a specific timeframe based on the policy—regardless, it’s important to act right away.
The way a claim is filed can also influence the timing and outcome. A phone call placed to the insurance agent could start the process faster. If a claim is submitted via email or an online portal, it can add up to 48 hours for the process to begin.
After a claim is submitted, an insurance representative assesses the information and gathers any additional materials necessary to evaluate the claim.
3. Documentation for internal use
Restaurant owners are the best advocates for their business. They should keep good records with duplicates of all claim information, including an incident report for their own records.
- Record the details of the incident
- Keep an accurate timeline of the claims process as it progresses
- Check ongoing reports to catch inaccuracies or errors
- Promptly bring discrepancies to the attention of the insurance company
- Contact the insurance company for updates if they haven’t provided them
Rely on the insurer for help
Accidents can be chaotic events, especially in restaurants where many people—including customers and vendors—could be involved. Don’t be afraid to rely on an insurer’s expertise to help navigate the claims process. Trained professionals handle similar claims every day and help determine what vital information they need.
Being proactive can help the claims process proceed more efficiently, potentially bringing a quicker resolution for all. Insurance is designed to help restaurant owners protect their bottom line and provide peace of mind, so they can focus on what they do best—serving customers.
4. Understand insurance coverages before an incident occurs
Part of being proactive is setting aside time to go through policies and understand what is—and isn’t—covered by insurance. It’s important to review policies before an accident or damage occurs. That way, if you have any questions, an agent can help explain the coverage and how it applies to the business. It’s also important for owners to review their plans regularly with their insurer to identify any gaps in coverage. I recommend talking with a local expert or your agent to develop a plan specific to your business.
Lastly, develop a safety plan if you haven’t already. Have employees do sweeps before and after shifts to ensure supplies are out of the way and floors are clean and dry. Also, to help prevent slips and falls, have employees wear proper footwear. Make documenting and submitting incidents part of your protocol.
Insurance can be the safety net that protects your restaurant from the unexpected.
With an emphasis on safety and the right protections, you can focus more on welcoming the customers who walk through your door every day.