Seven Essential Questions to Ask An Insurance Agent
Written By: Steve Gregov

Every industry comes with its own unique set of challenges when it comes to insurance, and the food industry is no exception.  Each restaurant is different, and there’s no one-size-fits-all insurance solution. While it’s certainly possible to work with an agent who’s either a friend or family member, it may be advisable to look for an agent who has specialized knowledge in the food service industry and the unique risks and challenges that come with it. 

Getting to know your agent and the areas they specialize in is an important part of protecting your business. You don’t want to wait until something inevitably goes awry, raising the need to file a claim to realize your agent isn’t fully prepared to deal with the unique challenges of the restaurant industry. As you start shopping for the best coverage for your business, consider these seven questions when consulting a new insurance agent. 

1. What Carriers Do You Represent that Specialize in the Food-Service Industry?

The coverage available to you and the protection your business receives will depend partially on the insurance carriers your agent represents. Your agent’s ability to articulate why they represent certain carriers can tell you a lot about the level of service you’ll receive from them, and the protection your business can expect from different carriers. Most carriers have a niche of business they represent, so if you fall under that niche you can expect knowledge and expertise. Also you should look at if they have a protective safeguard endorsement. This endorsement excludes certain coverage and can put you and your restaurant at risk.

2. What Kinds of Coverage are Unique to the Risks Restaurants Face?

If you’re new to running a restaurant, you’ll want an agent who is highly knowledgeable about the restaurant industry and who can provide insight into the risks you’ll face. Restaurants are complex businesses; the risks they face are unique and often change rapidly.  Choosing an insurance provider who has risk analysts that know what to look for when checking your restaurant is important. They should be able to explain why the risks are important to take care of or could potentially cause big issues for your restaurant.  You also need to be aware that if your agent can’t elaborate on the specific types of coverage you could need, you may be better served by an agent with restaurant industry knowledge. If you work with an agent lacking that knowledge, you could be leaving yourself vulnerable to unnecessary levels of risk. Between their training and from other similar clients, they should have the confidence to answer your coverage questions. 

3. How Will my Coverage Apply to Off-Site Events?

Food service businesses, such as caterers, face additional risks. If you are a caterer, you’ll face traditional restaurant risks like equipment breakdown and damage to your property; however, you may have a greater interest in coverage such as hired and non-owned vehicle insurance. Some other coverages that would be beneficial are spoilage coverage, outdoor property, and contamination coverage.

Additionally, with the transportation of food, contamination is a higher risk. You’ll want to know that your business is protected in case a customer becomes sick due to food you prepared. Asking your agent about what coverage you may need to protect against these unique risks can lead to the best protection possible for your business. 

4. If We Have an Opportunity for Curbside Dining, is that Space Considered our Premises?

Outdoor dining and patios have become increasingly popular over the past few years; however, because these spaces are often rented from local municipalities, you’ll want to check with your agent to be sure your insurance coverage can accommodate the space.

Specifically, you will want to ensure your liquor liability, general liability, and umbrella policies are in place and ready to protect you if problems arise in your outdoor dining area. 

Agents who are invested in the restaurant industry and familiar with your area will have a good idea of whether or not your curbside dining will be an issue for your coverage. In addition, they’ll be able to guide you through the processes to protect that area, whether that be through new types of coverage, updating existing coverage, or another solution. 

5. How and When Do Local Liquor Laws Apply to my Bartenders?

Each local area may have specific laws regarding the sale of alcohol and liquor. Ensuring your staff are properly trained, certified, licensed and able to be covered by the appropriate insurance is essential to keeping your customers safe and protecting your business from costly fines.

If the agent is unaware of the training needed in your area, and has no training resources available, you’ll probably be better served by another agent who is a restaurant insurance specialist.

6. What is the Claims Process Like?

As the saying goes, hope for the best, prepare for the worst. While filing a claim will always be the last thing you want to do, it’s crucial that if the time comes, the claims process is as smooth as possible. Both your business and mental health will thank you later  

When your agent can walk you through how they’ve helped businesses with the problems you may face, you can trust that your business will be a priority for them as well. A good agent should be able to tell you about the specific resources available to you when managing claims, billing, and auditing issues, and answer any other questions relating to what the claims process will look like. They should also be reliable with communication about your claim. 

7. What Factors Will Affect my Coverage and Price?

Finally, you’ll want a clear understanding of what’s impacting the cost to cover your business. These factors will include things like:

  • How long your business has been in operation
  • Your business’ hours of operation
  • How big your business is—in every way:
    • What are your annual sales?
    • What’s your building’s square footage?
    • How many people do you employ?
  • What your existing claims history indicates
  • Insurers may also be interested in any unique features about your restaurant that draw customers, such as specials, happy hours, entertainment features, and more, which could potentially lead to additional risk

Understanding these factors can give you insight as to where your business or coverage can be altered in the future to reduce costs while still remaining thoroughly protected.

Need an Agent? Society Insurance is Here to Help

The most important quality of an agent is that they want to and are capable of helping you manage your business’ risks. When you start looking for an agent and an insurance carrier, the above questions are a surefire way to find the right agent for you and your business.

Don’t know where to start? Contact your local agent today to learn more about how Society Insurance can protect your business.

This information is provided as a convenience for informational purposes only.  It does not constitute legal or professional advice. It is provided to assist you and not to establish compliance with any law, rule or regulation.

Author

Steve Gregov has over 30 years of experience in the insurance industry helping business owners, agents and insurance carriers manage the exposures of small- to mid-sized businesses. He has maintained his Certified Insurance Counselor designation since 1999 which focuses on all major fields of insurance, agency operations and insurance management. Steve also maintains a Certified Risk Management designation.

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