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Family-Style Restaurant Insurance in CNY: Proper Liability and Property Risk Protection

June 17th, 2024 | 8 min read

By Daniel J. Middleton

Family-style restaurant insurance in Central New York, proper liability and property risk protection

You've worked hard to build your family-style restaurant into a cornerstone of the Central New York community. From perfecting your signature dishes to creating a warm, inviting atmosphere, you've poured your heart and soul into every aspect of your business. 

But with so much on your plate, it's understandable if insurance considerations have fallen by the wayside.

At Horan, we know that the thought of navigating complex insurance policies can be overwhelming. You're not alone in worrying about making uninformed decisions or purchasing coverage that doesn't quite meet your unique needs. 

That's where our expertise comes in. As an independent agency working with multiple carriers, we have the knowledge and perspective to guide you toward the best insurance solutions for your restaurant.

In this article, we'll explore the essential types of coverage your establishment needs, from property damage and liability protection to business interruption insurance and beyond. 

We'll walk through real-world scenarios that highlight the importance of having the right policy in place, and we'll provide practical tips to help you safeguard your business against unexpected disasters.

What is a Family-Style Restaurant?

When we speak about family-style restaurants in Central New York, we're referring to the kind of place where families can sit down and enjoy a meal together in a casual, relaxed atmosphere. 

Think of a restaurant like Spaghetti Warehouse in Syracuse—that's a quintessential family-style eatery. It's not fast food, and it's not fine dining either. Instead, it's a comfortable middle ground where you can take your time, savor your food, and engage in conversation with your loved ones.

Family-style restaurants come in all shapes and sizes, from cozy mom-and-pop joints to larger chains like Tully's. Liverpool and Baldwinsville boast single location favorites like The Retreat, and Angry Garlic. What they all have in common is a focus on hearty, satisfying meals that can be shared among the whole table. 

You'll often find classic American fare like burgers, pizzas, pastas, and salads on the menu, as well as a selection of appetizers and desserts to round out the experience.

The Rhythm of a Family-Style Restaurant

Like any restaurant, family-style eateries have their own unique rhythm and flow. Nights and weekends tend to be the busiest times, as families gather for dinner or brunch after a long week of work and school. 

During these peak hours, the dining room is abuzz with chatter and laughter, as servers weave between tables delivering steaming plates of food and refilling drinks.

The effect of a water main break on a family-style restaurantThe Importance of Proper Liability Coverage

As a restaurant owner, you rely heavily on consistency and continuity to keep your business running smoothly. 

You need to know that you can expect a certain level of business, so you can staff accordingly and allocate the right amount of money toward food costs, labor costs, and other expenses. But what happens when the unexpected strikes?

Imagine a scenario where a water main breaks and shuts down your restaurant for three days. You can't open because you can't even turn the water on, and now you're facing a significant loss of revenue. This is where proper restaurant insurance comes in.

Breaking Down the Coverage

When it comes to protecting your restaurant from unexpected disasters like a water main break, there are a few key types of coverage to consider:

  1. Business Property Coverage: This type of insurance covers the cost of repairing or replacing any physical damage to your restaurant caused by the incident. In the case of a water main break, this could include things like flooring, walls, equipment, and inventory that were damaged by the flooding. This is usually part of commercial property coverage or a typical business owners policy (BOP).
  2. Business Interruption Insurance: Also known as income replacement coverage, this type of insurance helps to replace the income you lose while your restaurant is forced to close due to a covered event. It can help cover ongoing expenses like rent, utilities, and payroll, as well as the profits you would have earned if you had been able to stay open.
  3. Utility Services Coverage: This is an often-overlooked but important type of coverage for restaurants. It provides protection in the event that a utility service like water, electricity, or gas is disrupted due to an off-premises event (like a water main break down the street). Without this coverage, you could be on the hook for losses related to spoiled food, damaged equipment, and lost income. Learn more about business interruption and utility services coverage.
  4. Food Contamination Coverage: If the water main break results in contaminated water entering your restaurant and spoiling your food inventory, food contamination coverage can help. This type of insurance typically covers the cost of replacing spoiled food, as well as any related clean-up expenses.

By working with your insurance agent to create a customized policy that includes these key types of coverage, you can protect your restaurant from the financial fallout of unexpected disasters. 

That way, you can focus on getting back up and running as quickly as possible, rather than worrying about how you'll pay for the damages.

The Risks of a Busy Saturday Night

Let's say it's a bustling Saturday night at your restaurant. Couples, families, and groups of friends are all streaming in, eager to enjoy a delicious meal in a warm, welcoming atmosphere. The wait times are a bit longer than usual due to the high volume of customers, but everyone seems to be in good spirits.

One family in particular catches your eye—a mom, dad, and their three young children, who have been waiting patiently for around 40 minutes. When they're finally seated at a round table, the kids are practically bouncing with excitement. 

As is customary at your restaurant, the server brings out a basket of freshly baked bread for the table to nibble on while they peruse the menu.

Dylan and the choking incidentThe Choking Incident

The five-year-old boy, Dylan, clearly starving after the long wait, eagerly reaches for a big chunk of Italian bread and shoves it into his mouth without hesitation. At the same time, his brother grabs a piece of bread and holds it up to his face like a mustache, eliciting giggles from the other siblings. 

Five-year-old Dylan starts to laugh, but suddenly, his laughter turns to choking. The bread is lodged in his throat, and he's turning blue.

Panic ensues as Dylan falls to the floor, hitting his head on the table leg on the way down. Thankfully, one of your quick-thinking staff members rushes over and performs the Heimlich maneuver, dislodging the bread from the child's airway. 

Crisis averted—but now there's a new problem. Little Dylan has a nasty gash on his head from where he hit the table, and blood is streaming down his face.

The Lawsuit

Despite the fact that the choking incident was an accident and the child's own inexperience with eating bread was partially to blame, the restaurant is still liable for his injuries. 

The parents, while initially grateful to the staff member who saved their son's life, are now extremely unhappy and have decided to sue the restaurant for endangering their child.

This is where liability insurance comes in. Even if the judge ultimately throws out the case, determining that there was no wrongdoing on the part of the restaurant, there will still be legal fees to contend with. 

A case like this could easily rack up 175 hours of attorney time, which the restaurant would be responsible for paying. Liability insurance is there to cover these costs and protect the business from financial ruin.

The Dangers of Trivia Night

Another scenario to consider is the ever-popular trivia night. As a restaurant, you've found that hosting a weekly trivia event on Tuesday nights is a great way to draw in customers on an otherwise slow evening. 

In fact, your trivia night has become so well-known in the area that even other restaurant owners in the village come to your place to participate, since their own establishments are practically empty.

One particular Tuesday, you've got a full house, with regulars and new faces alike packing the tables, ordering food and drinks, and having a great time. One larger table catches your eye—a group of six moms who have clearly been enjoying the evening, knocking back Imperial IPAs with an ABV of around 10%. 

As the night wears on, it becomes clear that these women are getting more and more intoxicated, but they keep ordering drinks and participating in the trivia (albeit poorly, given their state).

Group of moms in the tragic accidentThe Tragic Accident

At the end of the night, the group of moms piles into one of their minivans to head home. They all live close by, so it seems like no big deal—but what happens next is a nightmare scenario. 

As the driver hangs a left turn just a few blocks from the restaurant, she hits a woman walking her dog in the crosswalk. The woman is knocked down and slightly injured, but her dog is crushed and killed instantly.

When the police arrive on the scene, it quickly becomes apparent that the driver of the minivan has been drinking heavily. When questioned, she admits that she and her friends had been at your restaurant for trivia night. 

Suddenly, your establishment is implicated in a tragic accident that resulted in 

  1. property damage
  2. injury, and 
  3. the death of a beloved pet.

The Importance of Liquor Liability Coverage

In a situation like this, having appropriate liquor liability coverage is absolutely essential. Even if you have trained your staff to monitor customers' alcohol intake and cut them off when necessary, there's only so much you can do. 

As a business owner, you may feel a certain level of discomfort with the idea of refusing service to loyal, regular customers—but the consequences of over-serving can be devastating.

Liquor liability insurance is there to protect you in the event that an intoxicated patron causes harm to themselves or others after leaving your establishment. It can help cover legal fees, settlements, and other costs associated with an alcohol-related incident. 

And perhaps just as importantly, it can help protect your reputation in the community. The last thing you want is for people to associate your restaurant with irresponsible drinking and tragic accidents.

Of course, having the right insurance coverage doesn't negate the importance of responsible alcohol service. Training your staff to recognize the signs of intoxication, having clear policies around when to cut someone off, and creating a culture of safety and responsibility are all crucial steps in preventing incidents like the one described above. 

But even with the best intentions and practices in place, accidents can still happen—and that's where liquor liability coverage comes in.

Gearing Up for the Busy Days

As a restaurant owner, you know that the latter part of the week is going to be your busiest time. That's why it's so important to use your off days (like that Monday when you're closed) to get everything in order. 

You're placing orders, taking inventory, setting up schedules for the coming week—all the behind-the-scenes tasks that keep your restaurant running smoothly.

But before you know it, Thursday rolls around, and it's time to kick things into high gear. As a family-style establishment, you've likely got a few different offerings to bring in customers and create a fun, lively atmosphere. 

Maybe you have a bar area where people can gather for drinks and conversation. Perhaps you host weekly events like the aforementioned trivia night or karaoke. You might even bring in live music on occasion to add some extra excitement to the evening.

The Risks of Entertainment

While these types of entertainment can be great for business, it's important to know that they also come with some additional risks—and not every insurance carrier is thrilled about covering them. Things like dart boards, pool tables, and karaoke nights tend to encourage people to drink more heavily than they might otherwise. 

This increased alcohol consumption can lead to a higher likelihood of 

  1. accidents
  2. injuries, and 
  3. liability claims.

It's crucial to work with your insurance agent to ensure that your policy covers all aspects of your business, including any entertainment offerings. Some carriers may be hesitant to insure restaurants with activities that encourage heavy drinking, as they see these as added liabilities. 

You want to find a carrier that understands the unique needs and risks of family-style restaurants and can provide the necessary coverage.

So as you're reviewing your insurance policy, be sure to disclose all the different elements of your business—from the food you serve to the events you host to the equipment you have on site. By being transparent and working closely with your agent, you can secure the coverage you need to operate your restaurant with composure.

At the end of the day, your goal is to create a warm, welcoming environment where families and friends can come together to enjoy great food and great company. 

By taking the time to properly protect your business with the right insurance coverage, you can focus on serving up delicious meals and creating lasting memories for your customers.

We Work with Carriers That Can Craft Personalized Insurance Solutions for Your Family-Style Restaurant

In the fast-paced world of running a restaurant, it's easy to let insurance considerations slip through the cracks. But as we've seen throughout this article, having the right coverage in place can make all the difference when unexpected challenges arise. 

By taking the time to understand your unique risks and working with a knowledgeable insurance agency like Horan, you can give yourself the composure and security to focus on creating unforgettable dining experiences for your customers.

At Horan, we strive to be your trusted advocate, leveraging our expertise and relationships with multiple carriers to craft personalized insurance solutions for your restaurant. We understand that every establishment is different, and we're committed to finding the coverage that fits your specific circumstances.

Don't let the complexities of insurance hold you back from achieving your vision for your restaurant. With the right policy in place, you can navigate the challenges of the industry with confidence, knowing that you're protected against 

  1. property damage
  2. liability claims, and 
  3. business interruptions

Click the Get a Quote button below to start a conversation with our team and take the first step toward securing the future of your restaurant.

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Daniel J. Middleton

Daniel is an accomplished content creator. He has been working in publishing for almost two decades. Horan Companies hired Daniel as its content manager in November 2022. The agency entrusted its messaging to him. Since then, Daniel has written insurance articles, service pages, PDF guides, and more. All in an effort to educate CNY readers. He's helping them understand the world of insurance so they can make informed decisions.