How to Avoid Culinary Industry Lawsuits

With restaurant ownership comes the possibility of culinary industry lawsuits. People in the culinary industry can educate themselves on common liability issues to prevent them from occurring. While an injury at an establishment is typical of culinary industry lawsuits, false advertising and incorrect staff wages are other important areas to consider. Every culinary school graduate should be mindful of these when training and educating staff.

Food Poisoning

Making a customer ill because of improper food handling is a fear every food service worker has. You want to deliver great tasting food, but it shouldn't be at the detriment of basic food safety. According to All Law, a negligence case can be brought up if a plaintiff can prove the restaurant caused the food poisoning. Damages against the operator can include medical expenses, lost income and any pain or emotional distress the food poisoning caused.

Always practice proper food handling techniques, as the Unites States Department of Agriculture lays out. Helping key staff members get certified in food safety is an easy way to make sure your business is knowledgeable about the proper food preparation, storage and cooking techniques.

Injuries

Ensuring safety for your diners means making sure the establishment is free from dangerous areas that could lead to falls or other injuries. Uneven walkways, poor lighting or plates that are too hot can all injure diners. Take reasonable measures to avoid accidents: Mop up a slick floor and put out a "wet floor" sign, install handrails on stairs and keep up on building maintenance. Otherwise, you might be stuck paying for a diner's medical bills, lost wages and lawyer fees.

Menu Expectations

It might seem obvious, but diners should be served what they purchased. Misrepresenting a special deal, ingredients or finished dishes can lead to a payout later. Subway learned this lesson the hard way when they reached a settlement deal for selling foot-long subs that only measured 11 inches, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Accurately representing your food goes beyond exaggerating your offerings. A diner's allergic reaction can cause serious harm or even death, so properly listing ingredients (and pointing out cases of possible cross-contamination) is necessary to alert patrons of allergy risks.

Fair Wages

Guests aren't the only ones who could bring a lawsuit against you — failing to pay your staff correctly could have big consequences. Accurate accounting of the hours staff has worked should be kept at all times, and employees need to be paid for the hours they have worked — including overtime. Stated benefits should be handed out, too, and if staff meals and paid breaks are included in the overall benefit package, they need to be served and honored.

Thorough record keeping works in your favor here. Invest in an electronic time card system to accurately track hours and provide you necessary data to present in court, if needed.

Auto Liability

If your restaurant makes deliveries or caters off-site events, it's a good idea to purchase additional insurance to cover damages or injuries of driving employees — even if workers are using their personal vehicles. Investing in insurance now could mean avoiding costly repayments to plaintiffs later.

Culinary industry lawsuits encompass both negligent acts and unforeseeable accidents, so restaurant owners need to be aware of current laws pertaining to the industry. Proper records should be kept and a safe environment should always be made for both the customer and the employee in every organization, especially in the culinary field.

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