For many franchisees, especially among those of us in the northeast, spring can’t come fast enough. This winter’s deep freeze and near-record snowfall took a toll on our weekly sales. I am dreading this year’s common area maintenance (CAM) invoices with all of the snow plowing and salting that was required. Now that it’s spring, we can stop complaining about the weather. At our shops, we welcome spring by focusing on store safety.
In February, emergency responders on Long Island, New York responded to a report of people getting sick at a Legal Sea Food restaurant. In all 27 diners had to be hospitalized as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning. Tragically, the restaurant manager was overcome by the colorless and odorless gas in the basement and died at the scene. It turns out, a faulty flue pipe from the hot water heater was the blame; as the gas seeped upstairs diners started feeling sick, which prompted calls to 911.
This is a tragedy that never should have occurred. It doesn’t cost a lot to buy CO detectors and place them in our restaurants—especially in the basement, and near any gas fired device. That way, if a flue is damaged or blocked, the alarm will sound and people will know to get out of the store before it’s too late.
It’s also a good idea to check all your flues because sometimes small animals will take up residence in the pipes that come from hot water heaters, furnaces and fryers. Animals and their nests can block the flues and cause gases to back into the building. When you have your HVAC serviced to get ready for summer, have these flues inspected and, if necessary, cleaned and capped.
Now that the snow and ice has melted, it’s a good idea to take a closer look outside your shops at the walkways, curbing and the parking lot itself. Chances are you have broken pavement, loose concrete and potholes. These are more than inconveniences, they can cause a customer to trip or fall. And, while you’re outside, check the fences around your dumpster. Continued pounding by snow plows can weaken the hinges on your gates. They should be checked and replaced before they fall on a crew member’s foot
Spring time is also a good time to remind your crew what to do if a customer begins choking. Hopefully you have a poster in the back of your shop that details how to help an adult or child who is choking. Be sure all crew members – especially those recently hired – are familiar with the information and know they should always call 911 in case of an emergency.
Sometimes the emergency requires crew members to call you as well. This past winter, I had one of those situations. One of my managers called me to say, “Boss, sorry to bother you, I have a small problem…there is a car in the store.” Not completely grasping what he was trying to convey to me, I looked at the cameras from that store, and sure enough an SUV was clearly inside the front of the store. Glass was blown out, the door caved in, tables ripped out of the floor and the only thing that stopped the SUV was a pole inside the store that holds up the roof. Luckily there were no injuries. Had the incident occurred an hour earlier when the store was packed and the sidewalk was crowded, it would have been devastating.
We closed the store for three days after the incident. A month later we were still waiting for a new front facade to be custom fabricated. I am now working our various landlords to investigate the installation of bollards strategically placed in front of the stores to stop a vehicle from jumping the curb onto the sidewalk and through the glass. Each pre-painted bollard is around $50 and can be easily installed by most concrete professionals for less money than you think. Spring time is the perfect time to have those installed.
As business owners we all carry various insurance policies to help mitigate the financial impact of a business interruption, property damage or personal injury. Still, the best insurance is taking the time to review the danger spots in your shops so you can take the necessary action before something tragic occurs.