A restaurant may have greater exposure to a virus or infectious disease simply because patrons remain on the premises longer than most businesses. Plus, food is typically handled by cooking assistants, cooks, and servers before making it to the customer's table. Restaurant employees' touch many surfaces, creating many opportunities for viral infection. This situation may make you wonder how your insurance policy will respond if a customer claims they contracted a virus (COVID19) from your establishment. A loss of this type may be handled as bodily injury under a General Liability policy. However, you will want to consult your policy and/or contact your agent to discuss coverage because some policies may exclude infectious or communicable diseases.
So, let's talk about what you can do to help prevent a loss from occurring. Your first line of defense is to keep your customer's safety in mind at all times. In this case, protecting your customer means safeguarding them from infectious diseases by maintaining a sanitary environment. To do this, proper sanitation and implementing strict employee guidelines are imperative. Keeping a sanitation log with dates, times, and with whom performed the task is essential if a loss should occur.
If an employee is preparing food and is sick or lacks proper hygiene, you are at considerable risk of a liability loss. There are many instances of customers contracting a disease due to a sick employee, improper food handling, or lack of sanitation. Keep in mind, not only do you have to recover from the loss, but you also have to overcome negative publicity and loss of income that can result. Sanitary food prepping and cooking is essential to keep your customers healthy, along with proper cleaning of hard surfaces. The latter is the most vital component during this unpredictable time.
Obviously, the act of eating creates many virus transmission opportunities. People, often without washing their hands, are placing food in their mouths, licking their fingers, touching their faces and surfaces around their dining area. Therefore, it is crucial to continuously, and after each use, sanitize tables, chairs, napkin holders, condiments, menus, etc. This will assist in halting the transmission of viruses and diseases, preventing losses for your business.
Maintaining a sanitized and safe environment for your customers is just doing the right thing. Also, remember, even when you are insured, your business benefits when you take responsibility to prevent losses.
Please see "Restaurant Sanitation Recommendations" for details on keeping your business safer.