Restaurant Risk Management: Parking Lots, Sidewalks and Back Doors

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This post was written by Heffernan Insurance Brokers’ restaurant insurance practice leaders. They are a leading insurance broker in the nation covering a wide variety of business/personal insurance and employee benefits.

For GGRA members, Heffernan offers an exclusive Workers Compensation program for restaurants, along with a complimentary risk assessment.

Every restaurant’s risk management program should include a loss prevention strategy for parking lots, sidewalks and back doors.

Why? Here are three good reasons:

  1. Liability claims: A customer leaves your restaurant and trips on your cracked sidewalk. He falls and breaks his hip, which consequently aggravates his preexisting back injury.
  2. Property loss: Your back door is left propped open by a delivery driver. During a busy time, a pair opportunistic thieves enter through the back, stealing inventory, supplies and cash.
  3. Work comp claims: An exterior light burned out and your parking lot is dark. An employee is assaulted when taking out the trash and has to be hospitalized.

The Basics of Reasonable Care

If you open your doors to the public (as all restaurants do), you must take reasonable care to protect the public from harm. If you are sued because conditions at your property resulted in harm, you will need to prove you did everything that could be expected to keep the public safe. Documentation is key. You need a written policy and a thorough checklist that is used every day. When problems are identified, be sure to carefully document the actions you took to eliminate the hazards.  

In addition to preventing injuries, providing reasonable care helps protect you against scammers. The Coalition of Insurance Fraud says that 10% of P&C claims expenses are caused by fraud each year. This video by a contractor faking a work comp claim provides an example of how it happens.

Your Checklist

While every restaurant is different, your exterior checklist should include checking lighting, signs, sidewalks, entrances, steps, drains and parking lots for potential hazards. You can’t control the weather, but you are responsible for the way it affects your property. Make sure to immediately remove any ice or snow on your walkways and provide slip-resistant mats by your entrances.

Your interior checklist should prompt team members to monitor and immediately resolve any hazards in your lobby, dining room and restrooms. Focus on the areas where water and spills are most frequent – typically by entrances, drink stations and garbage cans. Use caution signs to mark any slippery or hazardous conditions while you are tending to them.

Your interior and exterior checklists should be completed by team members several times a day – once each hour if possible.

Back Door Policies

Your restaurant’s back door can be a gateway for shrinking inventory. In 2018, 33% of retail shrink was caused by employees. Just like retailers, restaurants must be vigilant. As part of your profitability strategy, you probably monitor portion sizes on the front-end of your business. Likewise, you need to be equally careful to control inventory going out the back door.

Unmonitored back doors can also let criminals in.  Consider the following safety measures:

  • Set delivery windows for vendors so that the back door isn’t open at all hours.
  • Require employees to use the front door when they start and end their shifts.
  • Prohibit leaving the back door propped open.
  • Install back door security cameras and alarms.
  • Change the locks and passcodes when an employee quits or is fired.
  • Provide good lighting.

As you can see, careful monitoring of your parking lots, sidewalks and entrances is an essential part of controlling your total cost of risk. Need assistance? Ask about Heffernan Insurance Brokers’ restaurant insurance program.

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