Insurance for Restaurants: Three Key Policies to Protect Your Business


Running a restaurant is a rewarding venture that comes with a unique set of risks. From bustling kitchens to lively dining areas, the restaurant environment demands comprehensive insurance coverage to protect against potential liabilities and financial losses. Any interruption to your business—from natural disasters to equipment failures and health emergencies—can halt operations, lead to reputational damage, and result in loss of income.

Navigating restaurant insurance is a crucial investment in your business’s stability and future. In this blog post, we’ll explore a variety of coverages every restaurant owner should consider when safeguarding their business. Central’s Director of Small Business Underwriting, Anne Russo, also shares real-world examples demonstrating the importance of proper coverage when the unexpected happens.

Coverage #1: General Liability

General Liability is one of the most crucial types of insurance for restaurants. This coverage protects against claims related to third-party bodily injury and property damage. For instance, if a customer slips and falls inside the restaurant or if a kitchen fire damages a neighboring property, General Liability insurance can cover the associated legal fees and medical costs.

Three Key Liability Hazards

#1: Accidents on Your Premises

High foot traffic inside and outside a restaurant increases the risk of customer-related slip-and-fall accidents. These incidents can lead to serious injuries, resulting in costly medical bills and potential lawsuits. General Liability insurance covers the medical expenses, legal fees, and settlement costs associated with bodily injury claims, protecting your restaurant from potentially substantial financial loss.

#2: Food-borne Illnesses

Food safety and contamination risks are a unique consideration for restaurants. Given the nature of the business, any incident involving food-borne illness can lead to significant financial losses, legal liabilities, and damage to the restaurant’s reputation. General Liability insurance for restaurants provides protection in the wake of food-borne illnesses or contamination incidents, covering customers’ medical costs if the food you serve causes an illness or injury.

Real-World Example: Russo recalls a claim where a restaurant served contaminated mussels, resulting in food poisoning. Had the restaurant kept proper records, they could have passed liability to the responsible party, the supplier. Fortunately, the restaurant’s policy covered medical costs for patrons affected by the incident. 

#3: Liquor Liability

Serving alcohol brings significant risks, including the potential for overserving patrons, which can result in DUI incidents and other alcohol-related accidents or injuries. If an intoxicated customer causes harm to themselves or others, a restaurant could be held liable for damages. As part of General Liability coverage, Liquor Liability provides crucial protection by covering legal fees, medical costs, and settlement expenses related to these incidents. 

General Liability coverage helps restaurant owners better manage these risks and focus on providing an exceptional dining experience without the constant concern of potential lawsuits.

Coverage #2: Property Insurance

One of the most common insurance claims small restaurants make results from damage to business property. Given the extensive use of cooking equipment and the presence of flammable materials, the fire risk is ten times higher in restaurants than in other commercial businesses. Commercial Property coverage is essential for covering costs associated with repairing or replacing damaged equipment, furniture, and even the building itself in the case of fire or other losses.

Three Key Commercial Property Hazards

#1: High Property Exposure

Cooking and fire suppression equipment require regular maintenance to prevent or mitigate fires. Additionally, refrigerators and freezers need proper airflow and upkeep to function effectively. Restaurant furnishings, prepared raw food, and liquor stocks also have significant value. Losses in any of these areas can be detrimental to a restaurant’s well-being.

#2: Fire Risk

Using flammable materials and high-temperature cooking methods significantly increases the risk of fire, making fire damage a major concern for restaurant owners.

#3: Natural Disasters and Vandalism

Property insurance also provides coverage for damages resulting from natural disasters or vandalism, ensuring that your business can recover from unexpected events.

Real-World Example: In Russos’ experience, property claims can often arise from unexpected sources. For example, a restaurant experienced spontaneous combustion from stacking recently laundered linens. “The restaurant had an on-site washer and dryer to launder aprons, cloths, and towels used for cooking and cleaning. Over time, these articles develop a buildup of oil residue that is not fully removed via laundering. One evening, an employee took the warm laundry out of the dryer, folded it, and stacked everything. The resulting spontaneous combustion from the combination of heat and oil residue caused a property fire.”

Commercial Property is a safeguard and a crucial investment for any restaurant. By having comprehensive coverage, restaurant owners can protect their assets and ensure business continuity even in the face of unexpected property damage. 

Coverage #3: Workers’ Compensation

The fast-paced nature of a restaurant environment significantly increases the likelihood of accidents and injuries among staff. Restaurants account for 40% of all workplace injuries in the hospitality sector. Given the physical demands and potential hazards of restaurant work, Workers’ Compensation is a vital form of coverage for any restaurant that employs staff.

Two Key Reasons to Have Workers’ Compensation Coverage

#1: High-Risk Environment

Heat sources, hot liquids, knives, and other sharp objects, along with slippery floors, create a high-risk environment for employees.

#2: Legal Requirement

In many states, Workers’ Compensation insurance is not only advisable but also a legal requirement for businesses with employees.

Workers’ Compensation ensures injured employees promptly receive the necessary medical attention and compensation for lost wages while protecting the restaurant from workplace-related injury lawsuits. By investing in this coverage, restaurant owners create a safe, secure working environment, fostering a positive company culture. 

Additional Coverages to Consider

Russo explains that while every restaurant needs core coverages, it’s important to consider how other losses might negatively impact the business. In addition to the essential coverages listed above, Central offers several other important coverages and endorsements, providing added layers of protection and peace of mind. 

Cyber Suite

Cybersecurity threats are increasingly relevant for restaurants, especially those handling online reservations or payments. Data breaches can compromise customer information and lead to significant financial and reputational damage. Cyber liability insurance like Cyber Suite covers the costs associated with data breaches, including notification expenses, legal fees, and credit monitoring services for affected customers.

Equipment Breakdown

Restaurants rely heavily on equipment for daily operations. Equipment Breakdown provides coverage for losses related to damaged equipment, such as computers, refrigerators, and HVAC systems in the event of mechanical failure. Causes could include power surges, electrical arcing, or motor burnout.

Business Interruption

Closing for days, weeks, or months because of an unexpected event, such as a kitchen fire, can cripple a restaurant’s revenue stream. Business Interruption provides financial support to cover lost income and operating expenses when the restaurant cannot operate due to unforeseen events, such as natural disasters or major equipment failures.

Fine Art

Fine Art coverage protects against loss and damage to fine art collections, decor, or luxury furnishings found in many fine-dining restaurants.

Garagekeepers Endorsement

If your restaurant offers valet services, a Garagekeeper’s endorsement provides coverage for customer vehicles during transport between the restaurant and off-site parking lots.

Fire Protection Device Coverage

In the event of a fire, Fire Protection Device Coverage helps cover the costs of recharging or refilling fire suppression systems after an incident, ensuring your restaurant complies with safety regulations and is prepared to handle future emergencies.

The Central Difference

At Central Insurance, we understand the unique challenges and risks of running a restaurant. We offer various coverage options tailored specifically to meet your business’s needs. In addition, we strive to provide exceptional customer service to maximize your time and minimize disruption to your business. We answer over 90% of claims calls in 10 seconds or less. 
Find an agent to explore coverage options and learn more about how Central can help protect the business you’ve worked so hard to build.

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