Terry's Restaurant Insurance Blog


Is This Silent Killer Lurking In Your Restaurant?

It is silent and deadly, it can strike without warning.  It can kill your employees, your patrons, even you.  It is odorless, colorless and can’t be detected by human senses.  Nearly every restaurant uses this gas in bulk form to create the fizz in soft drinks.  I’m talking about CO2, carbon dioxide.  Without careful precautions, this innocent gas can become a killer.

In recent years, several deaths have occurred at restaurants as a result of CO2 poisoning.  The victims have been restaurant employees, patrons and CO2 delivery drivers.  An 80 year old woman in Florida died in the restroom when gas seeped into the bathroom while CO2 tanks were being refilled.  In this case, a line that was designed to funnel excess CO2 out of the restaurant was disconnected.  Nine other people were sickened in the incident including three firefighters and two other patrons who were found unconscious after trying to help the dying woman.  In another case an 18 year old McDonald’s employee and a CO2 delivery driver both died from asphyxiation from a leak near a fill port which was located in a small room with no ventilation.

CO2 exposure can cause cause dramatic effects in a person quickly and silently.  Here are some of the warning signs that you may be exposed:  labored breathing, severe headaches, increased heartbeat, faintness and dulled awareness or poor judgment.   If the exposure is strong enough or lasts for a long enough time then a victim might experience unconsciousness, rigidity, tremors, convulsions, asphyxiation or even death.  And all of this can occur without warning and in the presence of normal oxygen levels.

CO2 poisonings in restaurants are most often related to leakages in older or retrofitted installations or fill ports, or in lines in or near enclosed spaces.  CO2 is heavier than oxygen and so it will tend to be trapped closer to the ground.  For this reason, your CO2 alarms should be mounted close to the ground near your fill ports.  Consult your supplier for the most appropriate type of alarm for your particular restaurant.

OSHA has published a list of guidelines for safer use of bulk CO2.  Here’s a short list of those recommendations.  People handling liquid CO2 should be thoroughly familiar with the hazards.  New CO2 receptacles should be installed at ground level.  Properly ventilate fill areas to allow exhaust to leave at the lowest level and replacement oxygen to enter the room at a higher point.  Develop and implement a procedure to monitor CO2 levels near all fill ports.  Display warning signs outside areas where high concentrations of CO2 could build up.  Establish and implement procedures for inspection and maintenance, at regular intervals of all piping, tubing, hoses and fittings.  Make sure that you have proper lighting at the fill ports to allow servicing workers to use these systems safely.

Some simple precautions and education of your employees could help save a life.  CO2 is not often thought of as a killer by most people in our society.  It is up to you to take the precautions needed to keep others safe in your restaurant.

Clinard Insurance Group, located in Winston Salem, NC is a niche player in the restaurant insurance market.  We want all restaurant insurance buyers to be informed consumers.  If you would like help with your restaurant insurance, please call us, toll free, at 877-687-7557.


Employees Driving For Your Restaurant – Could Their Cell Phones Bankrupt You?

Restaurants have employees driving on their behalf all the time.  The obvious case is food delivery but think about the other times when you ask one of your employees to run an errand for you, to the bank perhaps or to pick up supplies or drop something off at the bank.  The minute they drive off, they are taking with them your potential liability for any damage that they cause while on that errand.  If they use their cell phone during this errand, then they are 4 times more likely to cause an accident.  You wouldn’t let them engage in activities in your restaurant in ways that are 4 times more likely to cause accidents so why should you allow this behavior when they are driving for you?

Take a look at a few high dollar settlements against companies whose employees were on the phone when they caused an accident.  A lumber salesman crippled a a 78 year old woman.  The lumber company was forced to pay $16.1 million in settlement.  A driver on an errand for his company didn’t react when traffic slowed and rear-ended a Honda in a chain reaction that killed a 32 year old woman.  A Florida jury awarded the woman’s family $21.6 million.

The real problem for you, the restaurant owner, is the smoking gun of the cellphone records.  Trial lawyers are very aware of this piece of evidence and in any bad accident, they will be there with the records, ready to waive them in the jury member’s faces.  And unfortunately for you, juries seem eager and ready to scold companies for letting their employees engage in phone use on the road.  Juries don’t seem to want to let everyone out there use their phone and drive at the same time.  It’s ok for them, but apparently not ok for everyone else.  They see it as protecting themselves by encouraging corporations to not allow their drivers to use the phones on the road.

It doesn’t really matter if your employee is using a company owned car, or their own car with their own private cell phone.  In each case the jury loves to pin the blame on the company and punish them with a huge jury award.  Because of this, most experts now believe that out of court, pre-trial settlements are the best options for companies caught in this trap.  The jury environment right now is pretty hostile to the corporation.

So what can you do?  First of all, make sure that you have adequate insurance on your business auto insurance policy if your restaurant owns any vehicles.  Next be sure that you have high enough limits to protect you on your non-owned auto insurance as well.  Make it clear, both verbally and in writing, signed by your employees, that they will not use their cell phone in any way while driving a company car or while driving a private vehicle on behalf of your restaurant.  You should consult your attorney for the best way to accomplish this.

Clinard Insurance Group, a niche player in the NC restaurant insurance marketplace wants all restaurant owners to be informed insurance buyers.  If you would like help with your restaurant insurance in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee or Virginia, please call us, toll free, at 877-687-7557 or visit our restaurant insurance web page at


Online Reviews – How Should A Restaurant Owner Handle An Attack?

There are many ways these days to glean reviews forf a business or product before you buy.  Restaurants are no exception.  The big players for restaurant reviews are Google and Yelp.  But what if one of your patrons decides to unleash an attack on your restaurant?  How should your respond?  What can you do to repair the damage?

Many of our restaurant clients tend to have a love hate relationship with services like Yelp and Google reviews.  There are even those out there who believe that Yelp will extort money from restaurant owners in the form of higher level memberships before removing a bad review.  In fact, according to Richard Torrenzano, CEO of The Torranzano Group, Yelp has developed and uses algorithms that punish members who provide only negative reviews by moving their review further down the list or by hiding them completely. 

So what should you do if you are attacked on one of these review sites?  How can you respond in a way that doesn’t create more bad press for your or simply make it worse?

First of all, try to approach the bad review as an opportunity.  You may learn something about your restaurant that you can improve that will over time be a benefit to you.  Also, the bad review can give you an opportunity to turn a negative review into a compelling story that can generate positive press for your restaurant.  So begin by allowing your emotions to ebb before you respond.  If you allow a little bit of time to pass before you reply then you are less likely to do so emotionally and perhaps make things worse.  So, no name calling, no threats and no arguing.

Before you plan your response to the criticism, keep a few things in mind.  Remember that the reviewers are your paying customers.  Remind yourself that they are also human beings and like all of us can have unpredictable feelings and sensitivities.  It is also often true that those who might actually take the time and effort to write a review are often opinionated and vocal people.  Plan your response by empathizing with their feelings and their experiences.

One mistake that many businesses make is fashioning a response that comes across as highly impersonal or corporate.  People like to do business with people, not faceless nameless corporate entities.   People will tend to side with the individual over the corporate image so make sure that you meet them with your response as another human being, empathetic to their feelings.  Another mistake some restaurant owners make is to publicly promise coupons or freebies to the complaining reviewer.  If you want to offer something to them along these lines, it is best if you do it via a private message to them.  If possible, you should also assure your reviewer that he or she has in some way helped you improve your business or contributed to positive changes in the way that you will run your operation.

Sadly, when attacked, you do need to respond.  Leaving no reply at all still leaves you mired in the negativity.  Just remember that when you respond you are getting the chance to be in control of the issue and the conversation.  Your response should be carefully calculated.

At Clinard Insurance Group, located in lovely Winston Salem, NC, we insure more than 100 restaurants all across NC, SC, GA, TN and VA.  We will be happy to help you with any questions you may have regarding insurance for your restaurant.  Please call us, toll free, at 877-687-7557 or visit us on the web at


Restaurant Insurance and Employee Dishonesty Coverage – Building A Bank In Your Cash Drawer

Have your employees been building a bank in your restaurant right under your nose?  I’m not talking about construction with bricks and mortar, but rather the art of stealing from you and from your customers.  If you find it by accident, you may think you have come into some additional money.  More than likely the opposite will be true; someone will have been stealing from you.

The bank building process begins with a dishonest cashier.  This cashier will find ways to build up an overage in your cash drawer which he or she will steal later.  If your cashier has a good understanding of your cash register operations, your audit routine and the supervisory skills of you management team, then that person can find opportune times to steal from you and from your customers while never leaving a shortage in the cash drawer.

This scheme typically starts with some opportunistic manipulation of the cash drawer during a sales transaction.  The sales cashier will manipulate the transaction in some way that leaves the cash drawer with an overage.  This may mean that they don’t give the customer credit for a special or a coupon, or that they simply void a transaction after they have charged the customer for the food.  Either way, they are stealing and building up an overage in the cash drawer.  They then create some way to keep up with the amount of overage in the drawer so that they can put that amount of cash in their pocket later when no one is watching.  They may use coins to keep up with the amounts – a nickel represents five dollars and a dime ten, or they may use sugar packets or toothpicks but they have to have some way to keep up with the amount of money in the drawer that will be over so that they can take the overage before the shift ends.

One of the best ways to protect against this kind of theft is to perform random mid shift checks on the drawer balance.  If your drawer is over, don’t celebrate, you didn’t just find money, you probably just found a thief.   You can also find aberrant results in your POS exception reports.   One particularly vulnerable spot for this kind of problem is with drive through windows where a cashier may work in isolation for a long period of time.

You should be up front and clear to all cashiers about what your expectations are from them and what consequences will result from over or under cash drawers.  Let them know that you will be conducting random mid shift cash drawer audits and that anyone caught stealing will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

To go along with the above actions, you should also be sure that you have employee dishonesty coverage added to your restaurant insurance package policy.  But don’t stop there, take a close look at the limit of coverage provided by your policy and make sure that it is enough to protect you from the worst case scenario of employee dishonesty.  Also make sure that the deductible on your policy is one that is affordable to you.  Last of all, some employee dishonesty policies require you to prosecute the employee in order to collect on the claim.  If you are soft hearted and would never put a former employee in jail, then you should find a policy that doesn’t require this or you should stop paying the premiums for this endorsement  that you will never use.

Clinard Insurance Group is an independent insurance agency with a niche specialty in restaurant insurance.  We insure more than 100 restaurants all across North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia and Virginia.  We would love to help you with your restaurant insurance and help you obtain the coverage that lets you sleep at night at a cost that will truly bring a smile to your face.  Call us, toll free, at 877-687-7557 or visit us on the web at


Workers Comp Mod Calculation Changes Can Have A Huge Impact On Restaurant Insurance Costs

In the restaurant insurance world, the workers compensation insurance costs don’t typically swing the biggest bat.  The restaurant insurance package is typically a larger ticket item.  However, with new changes to the way that the experience modification factor is calculated, there are even more reasons to embrace safety in your restaurant.  Those work comp claims are now going to cost you more money on your next work comp policy as they cycle through your experience modification factor.

The workers compensation policy is an experience rated policy.  This means that if you have good experience, ie fewer losses, then you will pay less over time.  Of course this also means that if you have bad experience, then over time you will be forced to pay more for your workers compensation insurance.  The tool for handling this is your experience modification factor.  Beginning in January of 2013, the way that this factor is calculated is changing and those changes could mean that you pay more or you pay less in future years.  Understanding how this works may help you plan for this change and help you find ways to reduce your losses so that your workers compensation insurance premium stays lower.

The experience modification formula is a two part formula.  One part is designed to address small losses and the other to address your large losses.  By far, the most heavily weighted portion of the formula is the first part, designed to account for small losses.  For more than 25 years, this portion of the formula has only counted the first $5000 of any loss.  Beginning in 2013, this number will be increased to $10,000 and then increased again each year until it reaches $15,000 in 2015.  After that, the small loss limit in the formula will be adjusted upward each year to reflect inflation.

The impact of this change will be different for each restaurant.  Most restaurants will now have a bit more impetus to find ways to prevent small losses from occurring in the first place.  A second change is that it will be much more important to the restaurant owner to get the injured employee back to work and off of the disability payments as each dollar up to the new limits will count against your modification factor.  Let’s take an example of a large Florida fast food chain who only focused on reducing slip and fall claims to see how this kind of attention can help save money.

This case study is for a Florida fast food chain with a current work comp premium of $52,132 per year and an experience mod of 1.35.  Remember a 1.35 mod means an additional 35% increase on their work comp costs each year.  The study indicated that by reducing their slip and fall claims by 25% would result in a mod drop of 9 points, translating to an annual savings of $3716 per year.  I think they could buy a lot of no-slip tread shoes for that kind of money.  But what if they were able to reduce slip and fall claims by 50%?  Well in that case their mod would be reduced by 19 points, generating a savings each year of $7845.  If they were able to reduce slip and fall claims by 75%, then their mod would drop to 1.03, a reduction of 32 points!  That would cut their annual work comp costs by $13,213 per year.

It is clear to me that over time, the new mod formula will put a premium on safety.  Knowing about this now, rather than later could give you the edge that you need to beat your competition to the punch on safety issues and give you a competitive advantage by keeping your workers compensation insurance costs lower.

If you would like help with your restaurant insurance, please call us, toll free, at 877-687-7557 or visit us on the web at  We already insure more than 100 restaurants all across NC, SC and TN and would love to help you with any of your restaurant insurance questions.