Limiting Liability

By Daniel Thor, Bellissimo Foods

All businesses are fragile and capable of collapse at any time. It is not enough to worry about maintaining and growing a business, you also need to worry about the wide-ranging causes of business closures that could arise. One of the most heart  wrenching for business owners is liability.

Most of the articles that we tackle give ideas on how to build business – increase sales, market share and most importantly revenue. It is also important to try and look at some of the potential risks to your business and how to mitigate them.

One of those inevitable risks is liability. Liability comes in multiple forms. From food spoilage and allergens, to product storage procedures, and ADA compliance, there is an ever-growing list of items to be concerned with.   Just recently a small Mediterranean restaurant, Zlfred’s, closed after being sued for being in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act – and they didn’t have the funds to rectify to violation. Here is a list of some of the most common liabilities that should be taken into consideration:

EXPIRATION DATES: Make sure you have a system in place to track expiration dates. Also make sure your inventory management system is set up to use the items with the closest expiration date first. This will relieve the liability of a customer getting sick on food that has gone bad.

ALLERGENS: Make sure that allergens are clearly stated on your menu, website, kitchen displays, or anywhere a customer might be looking. Make sure to update timely.

MAINTAIN ACCESS/GROUNDS: Maintaining sidewalk, street access and property lines within your restaurant is crucial. In NY, failure to maintain a sidewalk can be considered negligent. Please check your local ordinances. Security cameras are also becoming popular to try and mitigate the risk for slipping, accidents and ADA compliance law suits.

ALCOHOL: The most common liability claim related to alcohol relates to over-service to patrons who then get behind the wheel. Make sure you have measure in place to mitigate intoxicated customers,

 MISC: Make sure your exits signs are properly up to code, as well as all possible fire codes. Make sure that your insurance and workers comp is all up to date with an insurer that you trust. Make sure employees are well trained and abide by the safety rules put in place – especially during the dinner rush. There are many other unforeseen events that are out of our control. If you live in an area that is prone to natural disasters make sure you are as prepared as you can be.

We never know where a liability suit will come from, or how hard it will hit. In order to reduce the threat of liability lawsuits keep these four simple rules in mind. Attention (maintain a safe environment of awareness), prevention (regular walk throughs and checkups), cooperation (formalized policy for cooperative relationship), and mitigation (treat accidents quickly). Hopefully with these in mind your risk of liability will be greatly reduced. And for Zlfred’s restaurant, the Law Firm handling the case, have filed more than 1,000 ADA cases, and is now now being sued for racketeering and abusing the ADA compliance laws.

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