According to insureon, the leading online agent for small business insurance, a growing trend toward "gluten-free" menu items at America's restaurants and catered events is increasing the demand for a special kind of insurance designed to protect food-service businesses against lawsuits arising from bad reactions to food products.
The "gluten-free" trend is helping many establishments appeal to millions of Americans who are seeking gluten-free options for a variety of reasons, including gluten sensitivities (claimed by up to 10 percent of Americans, according to the National Institutes of Health) and celiac disease (diagnosed in about 1 percent of the U.S. population, or 3 million people). While offering more options for these customers makes for good public relations, it also opens the door to a new level of potential liability.
While any restaurant could face a lawsuit arising from alleged food poisoning or food allergies, those promising "gluten-free" menu items are at even greater risk of a lawsuit if a customer should choose these options and still have a reaction. Because there are currently no standards that define exactly what constitutes "gluten-free," some restaurants may be promoting a "gluten-free" product that is prepared in the same area as foods containing gluten, raising the potential for cross-contamination. While many people with sensitivities may not have reactions to small amounts of gluten, others with higher levels of sensitivity could have a severe reaction, raising the potential for lawsuits.
Thankfully, food service businesses -- including restaurants, catering businesses, and other food service providers -- can protect themselves against the high cost of lawsuits by purchasing a type of insurance known as "product liability and completed operations" coverage, available from insureon as part of a special insurance package designed for food service businesses. This insurance not only covers lawsuits related to gluten reactions, but also those related to other food allergies, food poisoning, or other injuries or damages caused by the products a restaurant or caterer sells.
"As with most insurance claims, one small misstep can cost an owner the restaurant that took a lifetime to build," said Ted Devine, chief executive officer of insureon. "Insurance is not a luxury -- even for the smallest of restaurants. The new specialty insurance for restaurants will start restaurateurs out on the right foot to protecting their livelihood."
Insureon offers specialty coverage to address both common and unique needs of restaurants. Insureon's affordable products protect restaurant owners from their most urgent insurance needs, such as:
- Product Liability & Completed Operations - Storing and cooking food properly is no easy task -- it requires diligence and training on the part of the restaurant and its staff. Yet, even with strict diligence to cleanliness and hygiene standards, food poisoning and allergic reactions can happen, and lawsuits often result. For restaurants offering "gluten-free" or "allergen-free" menu items, the risk is even greater. This insurance covers restaurants for injuries or damages caused by the food products they sell.
- Liquor Liability - Depending on specific state laws, restaurants that serve alcohol could be on the line for bodily injury or property damage resulting from furnishing a customer with alcohol, even if damage arises outside the establishment. Liquor liability covers the high costs associated with lawsuits arising from such cases, including those in which the restaurant inadvertently serves underage persons.
- General Liability (Premises and Operations) - From front of house to the kitchen and deliveries in the back, restaurants are hotbeds of activity. The combination of high traffic, dim lighting and crowded walkways make slips and falls commonplace, while there is also an increased risk of less common disasters such as fire. General liability insurance protects food service operations against such bodily injury claims as well as claims related to others' damaged property. Business Owner's Policies, which include general liability, may also cover equipment breakdown, such as freezer or refrigerator failure, food lost to spoilage, and loss or damage to covered property caused by backed-up drains or sewers.
- Business Interruption - Many restaurants and businesses have protection against property losses resulting from fire or other damage, but the income that is lost during the period of downtime can be even more substantial than the damage. Business interruption protection ensures that this interruption does not materially affect the owner's way of life.
- Workers' Compensation - Food service is a business with many ways for employees to get hurt on the job, from burns to knife cuts, strained backs, and even injury from robbery. Workers' comp covers employees' medical expenses and part of their lost wages if they are hurt on the job or suffer a work-related illness. If a restaurant or catering business has employees, state laws may require the business to purchase workers' compensation insurance.
With insureon as their online insurance agent, restaurants and caterers gain access to the nation's most respected, A-rated business insurance carriers as well as licensed insurance agents trained to identify the best possible insurance products to meet their needs. For more information, visit insureon's small-business insurance agency, Business Insurance Now.