A look at restaurants and bars from the ‘inside-out’

July 2, 2007

When people get to talking about America’s food hot spots, the same handful of cities come up again and again, including New York, Los Angeles and New Orleans, the epicenter of Cajun Cuisine. But in the Midwest, Chicago keeps the carnivores happy with a delicious meaty fare.

My appreciation for the restaurant industry is not by accident, but through training, education and life-long experiences. I was indoctrinated to this business at the age of 12, when my father, a second generation grocer, had me bagging orders in his grocery store and unloading 100-pound potato sacks. In later years, my brother put me to work in his restaurant in Chicago. At that point, I decided that taste-testing Grecian chicken was far more palatable than serving, so I decided to start my own insurance agency.

My thorough grounding in the restaurant and food sectors has always shaped my approach to insurance and risk management. Many years ago, I enrolled in a food sanitation certification class and everyone in the room talked about what restaurant or hospitality-related company they worked for. When asked about my affiliation, I responded, “I am an insurance agent, and I am looking to learn more about your business.”


Having grown up in the business and now a restaurant owner with my brother, I see things from the inside-out. Through my experience and my partner Ted Pirpiris, we are able to relate to restaurant owners and assist them with insurance products and risk management techniques.

The most rewarding aspect is educating clients about effective risk management techniques. Although insurance policies are comprehensive sources of protection, they have limits, especially where nightclub and bar owners are concerned. As a result, we educate and help clients implement safety fundamentals to protect them against frivolous lawsuits.

A quick phone call to Bob Chinn’s Crab House, located near Chicago, is proof enough.

“We provide fresh food and great prices, and we never sacrifice quality for quantity,” says Chinn. The restaurant’s 350 employees serve more than a million customers a year, and this requires the right balance amongst food purchasing, preparation, employee training and safety. “We offer our restaurant patrons the best in food, beverage and service, and we expect nothing less from our vendors and business partners.”

Understandably, without the proper controls in place, a lot of unexpected accidents can occur in a fast-paced restaurant environment such as Bob Chinn’s. Controlling “slip, trip and fall” exposures is critical in all restaurant environments, especially those with heavy foot traffic. Entry ways, restroom facilities and parking lots are three prominent areas that demand constant attention from management. Food handling safety is also a key area of concern. But paramount above all is to insist that ownership and senior management take a hands-on approach with all safety-related activities, including accident investigations. If patrons and employees know that those at the top are concerned and involved, problems and trends can be mitigated favorably.

Best practices agents should know

The following list highlights certain best practices that every agent should review with their clients.

Identification checking system. Implement a system that verifies the authenticity of driver’s licenses for all 50 states. This will result in fewer claims by reducing underage drinking, credit card and check fraud.

Emergency plans. For the safety of employees and customers, post evacuation plans, including diagrams illustrating the location of fire extinguishers, fire fighting equipment, fire alarms and egress routes. Employees should participate in evacuation drills that include turning off equipment and leading customers to safety.

Safe food handling guidelines. Train employees to be knowledgeable of safe food handling practices. Food handling compliance manuals can be purchased from local health departments or state restaurant associations. Safe food handling includes Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) documentation, including other topics such as pest control, employee hygiene and garbage disposal.

Restaurant equipment use. Train employees before using any restaurant equipment and in using personal protective equipment such as gloves, mitts, and goggles. Employees should turn off and unplug equipment before cleaning, be careful of sharp parts and edges, and use the dishwasher whenever possible. Equipment should be maintained regularly and in proper working order.

Crisis management program. Always provide clients with the option to purchase Foodborne Illness Business Income Coverage. In the event of food contamination, this coverage provides crisis management expertise to deal with media relations, the health department, other matters on food and public health law. The above stated coverage can be purchased on a stand-alone basis or by endorsement on a package policy.

Each restaurant has a personality of its own. Today’s restaurant environment is more complex than ever, so it is essential to help clients truly understand what coverage they have in the event of an unexpected occurrence. With the right list of ingredients, agents can help restaurant owners who have complex needs but limited resources create safer workplaces, control costs and improve employee productivity.

Topics Training Development Restaurant

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Insurance Journal West July 2, 2007
July 2, 2007
Insurance Journal West Magazine

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