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Thoughtful Safety Can Mean an Insurance Discount for Restaurants


Restaurant businesses can be dangerous, with their slippery floors, repetitive tasks and the endless peril of delivering food. And all those dangers can be costly, as outlined in a new report from insurer AmTrust. 

According to the 2018 Restaurant Risk Report, cuts and punctures make up the most claims. One third of all claims are related to cuts and burns and employees miss an average of 18.3 days after such an injury. 

The most costly payouts, however, are slips and falls. According to the report, slips and falls pay out $198.4 million annually. The average injured employee is out for 32.7 days after such an incident. 

Motor vehicle incidents, as one might expect, account for the longest period of lost time, 47.4 days is the average time out for vehicle injuries. 

Coffee shops have some special dangers that could mean a lot of time lost. Coffee-forward concepts have 45 percent more lost time than all other restaurant types. Why? While slinging coffee might not be as dangerous as kitchen knife work, repetitive stress injuries can really add up. Wrist injuries are the biggest cause of lost time, on average, baristas who develop such an injury are out of work for more than a year: 366 days on average according to the report. 

But the good news is that losses to workplace injuries are actually down in the last 10 years. It seems restaurant owners are taking safety a little more serious than they have in the past. And that’s good for the bottom line, said AmTrust SVP of Workers’ Compensation Strategy Matt Zender. 

“For those restaurants that are willing to commit, I think they’d see some immediate savings,” said Zender. “If you’re a restaurant that hasn’t put any thought to this, just by saying, ‘I’m going to focus on this,’ you could expect 10 percent insurance savings.” 

While premiums vary greatly from concept to concept and individual restaurant to restaurant, 10 percent saving can be another area to shed costs in this increasingly competitive restaurant environment. Labor isn’t going down, nor is rent, so savvy operators are looking to costs like this to carve out a little more profit or at least stay even. Of course, it’s a matter of finding time to do it. 

“There's so much going on, to find that extra time is not easy,” said Zender. “But those restaurants that do take that little extra time can separate themselves so easily from the pack because so much of their competition pays so little attention to it.” 

Insurance premiums are one of those things that a lot of operators just assume are going to be a small weight on the P&L regardless what is going on. But when doing the math, it starts to make a lot of sense. 

If a restaurateur with 10 percent profit margin can save $2,000 by taking the time to figure out some safer operations, it’s functionally the same as adding $20,000 in topline sales. 

“It looks much more important when you look at it after the profit margin,” said Zender. “Then you start to think how many bagels I’d have to make to make that up.” 

That’s a lot of bagels. 

Zender had a few key tactics that have proven to cut claims and ultimately costs. 

“There are some obvious examples like gloves that can prevent cuts. And those are not always routinely used as you’d expect them to be,” said Zender. “There’s thinking a little more strategically about shift work for the employees so they’re not having to do a bunch of prep work under a really obscene timeframe.” 

Just moving prep time to another shift can be especially beneficial for dinner-shift injuries. When back of house employees are watching the clock after a brutal dinner shift, they’re not watching their fingers. 

Mats and proper footwear is becoming more standard, but helping employees get the right tools is a newer trend that Zender has seen. 

“Those restaurants that provide at least a discount or the footwear themselves, they see some pretty dramatic differences,” said Zender. 

And just getting rid of some clutter or arranging workspaces different can make a big difference for strain injuries. That’s especially useful for those repetitive tasks in coffee shops, avoiding movements and properly maintaining equipment to reduce the need for excessive force can reduce stress dramatically. 

Of course training around safety is a universally important. Restaurateurs can’t assume that new employee was taught the safe way to cook or clean. Open communication around safety can also inspire employees to act safer and alert operators of potential dangers. 

“If they’re doing it to demonstrate that they’re caring for their employees as an extension of the band then I think the employees feel empowered and are more likely to help in this process,” said Zender. “If you have a workforce that starts to say hey, I know you’re helping us work more safely, have you thought about this? Because they see this every day.” 

He said he loves hearing about safety updates from clients and potential clients. Just showing that they’ve done the work can be a big boon for the next insurance bill or premium. 

“The ability for one restaurant to tell its story to me, it can become pretty powerful. If I’m looking at two different inquiries, maybe one doesn’t explain the different things they’ve done, but another offers a discount on non-slip footwear, you can imagine which AmTrust is more interested in writing and possibly providing some credits.” 

See the full restaurant risk report here

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About This Blog

The latest news, opinions and commentary on what's happening in the franchise arena that could affect your business.

Laura MichaelsLaura Michaels is editor of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3210, or send story ideas to lmichaels@franchisetimes.com.
Beth EwenBeth Ewen is senior editor of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3212, or send story ideas to bewen@franchisetimes.com.
Nicholas UptonNicholas Upton is restaurants editor at Franchise Times. He can be reached at 612.767.3226, or send story ideas to nupton@franchisetimes.com.
Mary Jo LarsonMary Jo Larson is the publisher of Franchise Times Magazine and the Restaurant Finance Monitor.  You can find her on Twitter at




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