9 Restaurant Insurance Exposures You Need to Know

Restaurants face several exposures, including those that all businesses face and others specific to the industry and their operation. Restaurant insurance claims stem from property, liability, cyber, crime, and employment practices-related exposures. The key is to ensure the right insurance program and protocols are in place to transfer and mitigate these risks.



Large fire exposures for restaurants generally originate from the kitchen and the utilization of cooking appliances. The extent of the fire exposure depends on the type of restaurant. For example, a restaurant that uses deep fat fryers and stir-fry woks generate more flammable grease and will therefore have greater exposure to fire than those that don’t.

It’s important to ensure appliances are modern and updated to meet UL 300 certification. UL 300 certification requires fire-extinguishing nozzles in the hood, ducts, and above each cooking appliance, automatic fuel shut-off capabilities for gas and electric power sources, and a manual fuel shut-off switch for all power sources. It also requires a wet-chemical fire extinguisher (K-type) in a commercial kitchen. These extinguishers use extinguishing agents that separate the fuel from the oxygen and help absorb the fire triangle’s heat elements (fuel, heat, oxygen + chemical reaction). 

NFPA 96, the National Fire Protection Association’s fire code, also specifies minimum fire safety guidelines for cooking equipment, exhaust hoods, grease removal devices, exhaust ductwork, and all other components involved in the capture, containment, and control of grease-laden cooking residue.

Another fire hazard in a restaurant is its grease-soiled linen, rags, etc. They can combust if they are not properly stored in a metal container. Proper laundry and containers to hold dirty linen and contain the grease are critical for the operation’s safety.

Water Damage

Like any building, water damage can occur, particularly in the winter months, due to frozen pipes. It can also occur in a remodeled restaurant if the insulation is not properly done. Water damage can lead to a significant loss for a restaurant as it will be forced to close temporarily. It’s important to survey all visible plumbing for drips and leaks and schedule an annual plumbing inspection to avoid problems. A restaurant can also experience a business interruption due to a sewer or drain backup.

Equipment Breakdown

Equipment breakdown exposures can easily temporarily halt a restaurant’s operation. From the restaurant’s POS to its refrigeration and HVAC system, all type of equipment is subject to hazards such as power surges, short circuits, centrifugal force, boiler overheating or cracking, and mechanical breakdown. If, for example, there is food spoilage due to refrigeration malfunction or a power surge, the restaurant will lose its supplies and suffer a business interruption loss. At the same time, repairs are made, or a replacement is delivered.


Premises Liability

The most frequent restaurant premises liability claims are trips and falls. You have patrons constantly coming and going and moving around with the potential to trip over something. If a restaurant has stairs or different levels, there is even greater exposure to trips and falls. They must be well-marked and well-lit with handrails for staircases.

Patrons can slip on a piece of food or a drink that a server or customer dropped. The restaurant’s manager must circulate throughout his or her shift to look for potential hazards and ensure that they are immediately taken care of. Employees should work as a team to ensure the appropriate procedures are followed to help prevent injuries.

Wet floors in restroom trips and falls also bring an added exposure. Restaurant staff should inspect the restrooms regularly throughout the day and evening.

Another consideration to help prevent potential trips and falls is to actively think about risk mitigation during the design phase of a restaurant. Install non-skid, non-slippery flooring and ensure appropriate lighting at crucial spots where increased exposures exist. Restaurant owners can maintain the establishment’s aesthetic while also doing what they can to reduce liability exposures.

Products Liability

Salmonella, E. coli, and other food-borne illnesses are a big concern for restaurants. Food safety is critical to prevent losses. This means having proper refrigeration and food storage policies. It involves employee training on food preparation and management oversight. Also important is for restaurants to contract quality suppliers to help avert having foreign objects in the food.

Liquor Liability

Liquor liability has by far the greatest potential for loss severity, depending on the type of restaurant. Overserving and underage serving can result in a catastrophic loss where a patron under the influence is involved in a car accident or in some type of fight or assault. It’s imperative that employees are trained in proper controls. A bartender or server should be able to tell when customers have had too much alcohol and when to stop serving them, when to get the manager involved, and when to offer to call a cab or Uber.


An environment in which cyberattacks are more commonplace, combined with a business model that increasingly depends on digital orders and payments, has made cyber liability an exposure every restaurant should consider. The threat of cyberattacks and data breaches for restaurants has grown significantly as businesses become increasingly dependent on new technologies. Restaurants are a potential goldmine for cyber criminals because of the large number of online credit card transactions and customer information stored.


In any work environment, employment practices are an exposure. Restaurants have the added factor of having employees interact with the public. Workers are at risk for harassment or discrimination claims from a patron or supplier in addition to management.


With wait staff handling customer credit cards and cash, there is an added layer of exposure for employee dishonesty. In addition, bookkeepers who have access to the restaurant’s accounts and banking information are exposed to theft and fraud.

To address these and other exposures, it’s critical to put together a comprehensive restaurant insurance program for clients. Restaurant insurance policies should include Property along with Business Interruption and Equipment Breakdown coverage, General Liability, Liquor Liability, Cyber Liability, Employment Practices Liability, Crime, and Commercial Umbrella insurance. An Umbrella policy will step in to provide additional limits to the underlying primary policies, which today are simply not sufficient to fully protect a restaurant.

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Distinguished Programs is a leading national insurance Program Manager providing specialized insurance programs to brokers and agents with expertise in Real Estate, Community Associations, Hotels, and Restaurants. Property and liability products are distributed through a national network of agents and brokers. Serving the same core markets and partnering with the most stable and reputable carriers, Distinguished Programs’ high-limit umbrella programs remain the clear choice in its specialty areas for superior coverage, competitive pricing, and attentive service. Through thoughtful innovation, stemming back to 1995, Distinguished Programs fosters growth and opportunities for its brokers, carriers, and employees.

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