Food provider? Then Make sure you are well insured!!

Do you run a restaurant, sandwich bar, fast food takeaway? Or are you thinking of doing so? Best make sure that you are well insured then. It is a dangerous world out there!

Should toothpicks be banned under the Geneva Convention?

Did you hear about the airline passenger who claimed that he had swallowed a toothpick that was in an in-flight meal he was served? the airline gave him compensation and then sued the company that prepared the meal. They in turn pointed out that it was very difficult indeed to see how a toothpick could have got into one of their prepared meals and how it was far more likely that the customer had used his own; but how do you prove that? Apparently the case was eventually settled out of court with, as usual, the lawyers being the main benefactors.

Insurance shouldn't cost the earth. Prudent Plus Limited provide very reasonably priced Public Liability Insurance as well. For those who deliver takeaway meals such as Indian and Chinese meals, pizzas and burgers, they sell cheap fast food delivery insurance. They can also get some very Cheap Car Insurance too!

Let us now look at the other side of the coin. in 2010 a diner at a top restaurant in Chester had a great meal but then found he had some meat stuck in his teeth. He asked a member of staff for a toothpick, he was told they couldn't supply these because of health and safety regulations, but the diner was not happy – he complained to the health and safety authority and the local council carried out a full investigation of the restaurant. The complaints were eventually dismissed but they still caused a lot of hassle as well as bad publicity in the press.

To hot, too cold, too much, too little?

We have all heard of how McDonald's were sued in 1993 when a woman spilt hot coffee on herself - it must have been really hot since she suffered 3rd° burns, had to have skin grafts, and finished up permanently disfigured. In an attempt to avoid similar accidents Starbucks stopped filling coffee cups up to the brim but then they were sued in an American class action suit for allegedly providing less than they should. Here's the catch then. Should they fill them to the top again, and get sued for any spillages that result?

A class action suit was also brought against Starbucks because their iced tea contained - well, ice. These were often bought by children who, a lawyer claimed, didn't realise that ice had a volume and took up space that otherwise would have been filled with coffee. The case was eventually thrown out but not before a fortune had vanished into the pockets of various law firms.

What are teeth for?

Again in America a customer bought a fried chicken dinner from a drive-through. He was given a spork with it (that is a cross between a fork and a spoon, for the uninitiated). The customer (who just happened to be a lawyer) subsequently claimed that he choked on the chicken because he wasn't given a knife to cut it with - that case is still, as far as I'm aware, going through the American legal system with costs mounting on both sides.

Oh to be an American lawyer.

Health and safety- can't be too careful!

Here in Britain fundraisers have been banned from providing cakes for local appeals on the grounds that they may contain ingredients that can affect people with allergies or diabetes. Coffee mornings have been stopped in case elderly attendees spilled drinks on each other. Starbucks, again, as face court action because their iced coffee contains ice which cuts down the amount of coffee; this case was eventually thrown out but not before the lawyers, yet again, had filled their coffers.

In the meanwhile the Internet is absolutely full of advice sites on how to sue a restaurant if you find, or claim to find, something foreign in your food; if you develop, or claim to develop, and upset tummy after a restaurant meal; or if you suffer an allergic reaction from a red-hot king prawn vindaloo. Who would run a restaurant under these conditions?

Thank the stars for insurance

Luckily there is insurance to cover all these issues and more. Let's leave the food to one side; what happens if a customer who has been out 'celebrating' falls over and claims to have tripped over a carpet? If a menu wonders too closely to a candle and the customer gets burnt? If a harassed server is bumped by a customer and spills food or drinks onto another one? Not a problem if you are properly insured.

If you run a restaurant you will of course have employers liability insurance; this is a legal obligation for anyone who employs staff. You really should be covered by public liability insurance as well. This could not only settle compensation claims against you if a member of the public claim to have been injured in your restaurant in some way, but it could also provide legal assistance to help you fight any unreasonable claims.

Defending a claim can be very expensive but that is not the only problem you could face; they tend to drag on for months and sometimes years with legal costs constantly mounting. A good public liability policy could take all the worry of your mind to let you concentrate on running your restaurant – which is difficult enough without adding compensation claims to the mix!