Catering Risk Management: Avoid Claims During Your Busy Season

November 27, 2017

From the threat of foodborne illness to the danger of fire, the hospitality industry has more than its fair share of risks. When you’re on the move in the catering business, risk management is especially challenging. Now, in the busy season, it’s more important than ever to diligently manage the following exposures:

1.    Foodborne Illnesses

Foodborne illnesses are a major risk for everyone involved in the food industry. Food that is not cooked and stored correctly may become contaminated with bacteria that can cause sickness or even death, and employees who do not wash their hands or keep a clean work area add to this risk. A single incident can result in both liability issues and damaged reputations for the companies involved.

Due to the nature of catering, keeping food at the correct temperatures becomes more difficult. The USDA states that hot food needs to be kept at or above 140°F, while cold food needs to be kept at or below 40°F. Temperatures between 40°F and 140°F fall into the “Danger Zone,” where levels of dangerous bacteria can double in only 20 minutes.  Do a spot check to ensure your food stays in the safe temperature zone throughout every step of your process.

2.    Liquor Liability

Servers always need to be careful to follow all local laws when serving alcohol. This includes making sure that no minors are served alcoholic beverages. It may also entail other issues, such as cutting off individuals who are already clearly intoxicated. In a restaurant or bar setting, however, it may be easier to kick individuals out or to partition areas as off-limits for minors. Managing the situation at third-party location can become more complicated, but it is just as important. Refresh your team on appropriate procedures.

3.    Workplace Injuries

Catering companies that use part-time workers (often with higher turnover rates) may be especially vulnerable to injuries, as workers lacking experience may be more likely to make mistakes that could result in on-the-job injuries. Additionally, the fact that caterers are always working in new settings may leave them vulnerable to an increased risk of accidents. In an unfamiliar building, they don’t know which floor is slippery or which bump to watch out for. Setting up with limited time and space may amplify the chance of injury. Now is the time to review proper lifting procedures, burn and cut prevention tactics and other safety measures.

4.    Motor Vehicle Accidents

Some of the costliest claims in the catering business are caused by motor vehicle accidents. If drivers are in a rush or distracted by other tasks, the risk of an accident may increase. Although it may not be possible to prevent every accident, the risk can be reduced by hiring workers with good driving records, keeping the vehicles and tires maintained and ensuring that employees are driving safely and focusing on the road.  Strongly discourage your team members from using their smart phones while driving. If you have team members driving their own vehicles for work-related purposes, make sure you have the correct commercial auto insurance in place.

Heffernan is an experienced risk management partner in the hospitality industry. Find out what Heffernan’s Restaurant and Hospitality practice can do for you!