The restaurant industry is one of the toughest to break into—and even tougher to succeed in. Getting customers through the door and setting yourself apart from the competition is just the start. There are also countless risks you must navigate, from spoiled food to slip and fall injuries.
A risk management plan could be your key to success. Understanding where your restaurant, cafe, or catering business is vulnerable and responding to those risks before they happen could mean the difference between cooking up success or closing your kitchen forever.
What is a risk management plan?
A risk management plan (sometimes called a risk mitigation plan) is a strategy for avoiding hazards that could threaten your business. It’s basically a way to help you and your employees prepare for the worst and take steps to make sure these scenarios do not happen.
Risk management plans typically contain:
- Standard procedures for how to avoid common risks to your restaurant (i.e., slip and fall injuries, food allergies, kitchen fires, etc.)
- Instructions for how to respond if a worst-case scenario does happen
- How the business will handle the fallout from accidents or complaints (i.e., public relations strategies, business insurance, etc.)
Risk management in the restaurant industry
There are many steps you could take to help avoid accidents and serious issues in your workplace. Here are some of the most common that restaurant owners typically include in their restaurant, catering, or cafe risk management plans:
1. Provide regular employee training
A risk mitigation plan is useless if no one in your restaurant knows it exists. Providing your staff with regular training to educate and refresh them on proper procedures gives them the knowledge they need to keep their workplace safe and respond to incidents.
Key topics to include in restaurant safety training may include:
- Proper handling, preparation, and storage of food
- How to safely lift and carry heavy objects
- What to do in case of a fire
- Responsible service of alcohol (this training may be mandatory in your state)
- How to respond to a robbery
2. Follow health and safety codes
Restaurants and foodservice businesses are subject to routine inspections by their local health department to ensure they are following health and safety regulations. You and your staff should know, understand, and comply with these laws.
Regulated areas typically include:
- Employee hygiene – This generally includes regular hand washing and wearing appropriate equipment (i.e., gloves, hairnets, etc.) while preparing food.
- Cleaning equipment and surfaces – How frequently areas of the kitchen must be cleaned and acceptable cleaning supplies for equipment that comes into contact with food
- Storing food – How different foods must be stored and how long you can keep them before they must be disposed of
- Safety equipment – Restaurants typically need certain equipment on hand, such as fire extinguishers, to comply with Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OHSA) regulations.
3. Keep your workplace clean
“Slip and fall” accidents are common in restaurants and cafés, as food and drink are often spilled by customers and staff. Cleaning spills immediately and using appropriate signage (i.e., “Caution: wet floor”) can help reduce the number of potential injuries caused by spills.
However, keeping the front of the house clean isn’t your only priority. The kitchen, bathrooms, and outside walkways should also be kept clean of clutter, water, and ice to help prevent falls. You should also focus on cleaning grease traps to prevent fires, properly storing knives when not in use, and other sources of potential injury.
4. Maintain your restaurant’s equipment
Restaurants often rely on equipment to store and prepare food, transport dishes to customers, and keep diners and staff comfortable. Without proper maintenance, you could be putting customers and your business at risk.
Schedule regular maintenance for all essential equipment that your business relies on. This might include refrigerators, freezers, food trucks or delivery vehicles, and your heating and cooling systems.
5. Teach employees how to respond to customer complaints
Any staff who regularly interact with customers should have strong customer service skills. They should know how to respond to complaints and when it is appropriate to get a manager involved. Laying out guidelines for how this works in your restaurant can help ensure that every customer is treated equally.
6. Secure your online systems
Restaurants may not seem like a target of cybercrime, but if you have any devices that connect to the internet, then you could be vulnerable. If you store sensitive customer details, such as credit card numbers, on a point-of-sale device, computer, or tablet, you should take steps to secure your system.
Steps to consider include:
- Installing anti-virus software
- Setting up password-protected wi-fi for business purposes (separate from the account shared with customers)
- Train relevant staff on phishing and other online scams that target business staff
Business insurance for your protection
A risk management plan incorporating the steps above and others could help you prevent many accidents and incidents in your restaurant. However, it may not be possible to avoid them all. Business insurance can help protect your business when the unexpected happens, despite your best efforts.
There are many types of insurance that restaurants, cafés, and catering companies consider. There is coverage available for almost anything that can go wrong in your place of business:
- General Liability insurance – This policy covers third-party claims and lawsuits of bodily injury and property damage. For restaurants, this would include a customer getting injured after slipping and falling in spilled water or an employee accidentally damaging a customer’s belongings.
- Workers’ Compensation – This policy covers employee workplace injuries and serious illnesses. It typically pays medical bills and replacement of lost wages while the employee recovers.
- Cyber Liability – This policy covers malicious software attacks, malware, viruses, and phishing scams that might target your business.
- Business Owner’s Policy (BOP) – This insurance package can be customized to include different types of coverage. Your restaurant’s BOP might include coverage for business interruptions, property damage, equipment breakdown, and other protections.
Restaurant insurance can help keep your restaurant running even if the worst happens. Rather than pay legal fees, compensation, repairs or replacement costs from your own pocket, your policies would cover these expenses for you. That way, you can focus on what you do best, feeding your community!
Creating your own risk mitigation plan
A restaurant, catering, or cafe risk management plan can help your business avoid accidents and other incidents. You might decide to adopt some of the suggestions detailed above and add your own based on how your restaurant operates.
But if accidents still happen, business insurance could be the backup plan you need to keep your kitchen open. General Liability insurance and other forms of coverage can protect your finances, your business, and your employees. It can also give you important peace of mind as a business owner.
Now you can compare General Liability insurance, Business Owner’s Policies, and more for your restaurant, cafe, or catering company with BizInsure. We’ve made it easy for small business owners to get covered quickly—often in 10 minutes or less!