Restaurant Insurance – Current Market For Commercial Insurance Favors Restaurant Owners

The insurance industry enjoyed record profits of $60 billion less than two years ago. In the wake of these prodigious returns, the commercial insurance market was flooded with hundreds of millions of dollars worth of capital. This created an increase in the amount of carriers, as well as a greater capacity to take on risk. Ultimately, the influx of capital into the insurance market has resulted in an insurance environment that is extremely soft, with prices falling quickly. For restaurant owners who approach this soft commercial insurance market correctly, some of the largest premium decreases in years are available.

To understand why such attractive premiums are out there, understand a couple points:

First, insurance pricing is cyclical. The inflated prices simply cannot be maintained in the new commercial insurance environment of 2008. A major reason for this is that most commercial insurance companies are public companies. Thus, their shareholders demand growth. In order to grow, prices must be reduced to entice new clients and retain current ones. In addition, insurance carriers must enter new areas that they have no been active in historically. These carriers are then forced to write new lines of the coverage for industry segments like foodservice, hospitality, and franchise programs.

The second point to understanding the reason for the availability of lower premiums is that in the world of commercial insurance foodservice and hospitality is a niche area. Consequently, there is a limited amount of insurance carriers competing against one another to write a restaurant insurance account when the market is stable or hard. Now consider the reality of 2007 and 2008. You may have found that the number of carriers seeking your business doubled. The impact of this insurance market on niche industry segments like foodservice and hospitality can be exponentially greater than what is happening in the standard insurance market. This large supply increase as demand stays static leads to the falling prices that restaurant owners are now finding.

Why is it that buyers are usually the last people to realize the state of the commercial insurance market? Most policies only get renewed one time each year. The can lead to an information gap because the reality is that buyers rely on their brokers to let them know this critical information about the direction in which the market is headed. With markets shifting course substantially, and quickly, insurance buyers sometimes are not made cognizant of the shift until nearly a year later.

Furthermore, select industry groups, brokerage houses, and insurance carriers themselves usually are the ones formulating reports about the insurance industry. Oftentimes, these reports can lag six months behind. Rarely do they portray a precise picture of the current environment in the market. However, consumer expectations are driven by these reports. Many large companies who settled for a 10% pricing reduction will find out later than they could have gotten reductions of 25-30% instead.

There is no doubt that this inefficiency is the Achilles’ hell of the commercial insurance industry, especially at a time when the industry seems to be cannibalizing itself. For foodservice and hospitality companies it is also a situation that should be taken advantage of, especially in light of the fact that it will eventually swing the other way.

While we are currently in a buyer’s market, do not allow yourself to become careless when it comes to risk management. You can keep your insurance expenses at levels 25-40% lower than your competition by paying close attention to details and working with an expert. Controlling the basic elements of your risk will allow you to enjoy the benefits available in the market regardless of what cycle it is in.

Here are three additional questions you should be asking that your broker might not be answering adequately, or at all:

1) What is my renewal strategy? Keep in mind that you want to work the commercial insurance cycle, not the other way around. In soft markets, it is sensible to cancel a current policy in an effort to capitalize on lower rates. However, when the market hardens, you may want to negotiate 18-month or multiyear rate terms. You have the potential to reduce your restaurant insurance costs by 20-40% over a five-year period simply by paying close to attention to insurance cycles and acting appropriately.

2) Am I overinsured? You have little to no chance of losing every building you insure in any one single event. However, some people continue to purchase coverage for that very unlikely occurrence. If you have ten $1 million buildings in a state, you do not need a $10 million insurance policy. This is wasted coverage and can be extraordinarily costly, especially in a hard market. Your broker should run a Probable Maximum Loss to determine what the appropriate loss limit should be. Depending what your locations are, you realize that you only need between a $2-$3 million policy to cover the $10 million in buildings.

3) How can I effectively manage my loss history? A good broker will assist you in this endeavor, but most do not even mention it. Understand that your insurance losses stick with you for five years, regardless of whether you have two locations or 1,000 locations. Commercial insurance companies use these past losses to help them predict what your future losses may be. This can have a tremendous effect on your insurance prices. If you are like most companies, you have limited knowledge of the details behind the insurance companies’ loss runs. In essence, you are still being charged for a claim that occurred three or four years prior. Have them audited to be sure that details and numbers are accurate.

One point that cannot be overstressed is the importance of choosing the right broker to partner with. Unfortunately, most brokers simply do not handle enough restaurant insurance claims to maintain up-to-date knowledge on the insurance market for the industry. Obviously, the firm you partner with must understand your business, but you need to also be confident that they also are competent in understanding the environment and knowing the markets.

Keep in mind that these people are your representatives. You should choose them as meticulously as you would choose your legal representation. Try not to be a firm’s lone client, but also make sure that you are not a “small fish in a big pond.” A great broker will keep you ahead of your competition, keep you safe, and ultimately add to your bottom line.

You should also make every effort to meet your insurance carriers. Have a relationship with them, in addition to your broker. The carriers need to know you and understand what expectations you have. Not to mention, being on a first name basis will be a big help if you ever need a favor; inevitably you will at some point.

Finally, make sure you are maintaining open dialogue with both consultants and internal employees regarding customer-and-employee injury issues. You have to be tough on claims; but remember that communicating proactively and listening empathetically can turn cut fingers and strained backs into loyal employees and lifetime customers.

An Outline of Personal and Business Loan Categories and Their Uses

The number of loan products have increased over the past 20 years as economic necessity and a demanding public in need of specialization to solve financial circumstances. From personal loans, educational loans, business loans and even municipal loans. The entities that took part in the creation of the various financial products are actuaries, risk management professionals, “information and informatic engineers” and Wall Street amongst others. It was necessary to create, enhance or break down for better or for worse loan services and products to keep money fluid in a diverse marketplace that required funds to address niche demographics.

  • Personal Loans

Signature Loans – A signature loan is just as it sounds. One applies for a loan and gives a signature on a promissory note to repay the loan in a certain amount of time. That amount of time is called a “loan term ” and may be from six months to five years. Signature loans usually require good credit and the criteria for loan approval are mostly based on the borrower’s credit and and to a lesser degree on assets. Not all signature loans have the same parameters for qualifications. Some loans may require the borrower even with good credit to account for assets to show the lending institution for underwriting purposes. The institution may or may not place a lien on the assets but nevertheless wants to have documentation proving that there are indeed financial or physical assets owned by the borrower. Signature loans usually come with lower interest rates than other types of consumer loans like payday loans, credit card advances, title loans and some car loans. More on these topics later. Who are the lenders in signature loans? They range from large subsidiaries of auto manufacturers to banks, savings and loan institutions, finance companies and payday loan companies.

Credit Card LoansCredit Card loans or cash advances from credit cards are another form of personal loans. These quick loans are more readily available to the general public and does not require a credit check. To obtain the initial card more than likely required a credit check or at least the process of identification for secured credit cards. Credit card loans or advances usually come with higher interest rates and also other fees for having access to the cash. Various entities allow access to the credit card cash advances from bank tellers, check cashing facilities and automated teller machines (ATMs). The fees vary based on source used to access the funds. To lower the fees for cash advances some use check cashing facilities to have the card charged and receive cash back in turn for not having to incur the fees of ATM machines as cards are assessed a fee twice; first by the ATM company and also their bank. The interest rates on credit card loans or advances are usually higher than signature loans. There are some states that have usury laws that have lower interest rates on credit cards. The loan or advance on a credit card is not a “term loan” as with most signature loans. It is more or less a line of credit the borrower has access to when they need it as long as there are funds available on the credit card. Interest on consumer loans are no longer tax deductible as in previous years. They were designed for short term borrowing needs but many have come to use their credit cards as a regular source of funds in tight economic times or between paychecks.

Wedding LoansA relatively new form of loan to carve out a niche for the lending industry and meet the needs of the increasing costs of weddings is the Wedding Loan. Because of the expense of weddings which can range into six figures, it sometimes requires a personal loan or even a business loan of the families involved to provide a proper wedding. Wedding loans can be secured (using assets for collateral) or unsecured (signature loans) to obtain funds for the ever growing need to pay for the escalating wedding costs and all the various services and products that a successful matrimonial ceremony would need. The credit criteria and the term may vary based on the amount needed and financial status of the people involved.

Payday or Cash Advance Loans is a fast growing market because it usually requires the least of credit criteria used for loan approvals. One can have bad credit for a quick and instant loan. Just having proof of income, proof of identity and a checking account is all that is necessary to secure funds. Even today many have checking accounts without checks one can still obtain a cash advance by asking their bank to produce a one time check to give to the payday loan agency. Many payday loan companies and stores can get approval with no faxing of documents as they utilize other means for proof of income. Although payday loans come with very high annualized interest rates they sometimes are the only source of emergency cash loans for those in need.

Automotive, Motorcycle, RV (recreational vehicle) and Boat Loans – These personal consumer loans are usually not signature only loans but asset based loans. In other words a financial lien is placed against the asset to secure a loan to purchase or refinance the car, boat et al. These consumer loans may sometimes require a down payment of five to twenty-five percent to secure enjoyment and use of ownership. Because these are not funds that are already available as with credit cards they come with a “loan term” from one to six years depending on the choices of the consumer, the marketplace and the credit status. The interest rates can range from very low usually offered by manufacturers of cars, motorcycles, RV’s (recreational vehicles) and boats to very high if the borrower uses a credit card, a finance company or a “buy here – pay here” lender – or the car dealer who finances the purchase of the car by giving the borrower a term of months and years to pay the balance of the loan off.

  • Business Loans

SBA (Small Business Administration) Loans are loans that are given to small businesses which are not able to qualify for a loan from a financial institution for various reasons from lack of business history, lack of collateral to “secure” the loan or not having an adequate credit history. The SBA is not a direct lender but acts as an underwriter on behalf of the bank that funds the loan for the business entity. If the borrower defaults on the loan the SBA will pay the bank a percentage of the balance for taking the financial risk to loan the funds to the business. There are various types of SBA loans which will not be covered in this article but a future article will explain in more detail.

Conventional Business Loans are loans that are either unsecured meaning no asset is used to approve the loan or secured and called “asset based loans” where assets from inventory, equipment, accounts receivable or real estate are used for underwriting for loan approval. Conventional business loans are given to business entities that have great banking relationships, established business credit history with trade lines with other businesses they do business with and good standing with various credit reporting entities like Dun & Bradstreet. There are short term loans with interest only payments with the balance due at the end of the loan usually referred to as a “Balloon Loan”. There are also longer term loans that are fully amortized (principal and interest in each payment) paid over one to five years or more.

Equipment Leasing is a financial instrument which technically is not a loan. Meaning based on tax ramifications and who owns the equipment – leasing is just that – leasing an asset owned by another entity. Leases are usually from large corporations or a bank. The lease term can vary from one to five years or more and there usually are tax benefits to the business entity in leasing new or used equipment.

Equipment Sale Leaseback is a transaction to use equipment that is already owned by the business or municipal entity to secure funds for the present need for operations. The term can vary from one to five years and the amount of funds can vary based on credit history and a percentage of the fair market value of the equipment. The company then in turn leases the equipment back in usually a monthly payment. The company or the lessee normally has different choices on what they want to do with the equipment at the end of the term. They can roll the lease transaction into newer more updated equipment or software. They can buy the equipment for one dollar or ten percent of the fair market value of the equipment.More and more companies are leasing today as opposed to paying cash or using bank lines or loans.

Merchant Cash Advance is used by businesses that need fast cash and can’t qualify or don’t want to go through the process of getting bank approval for needed funds. A Merchant Cash Advance is also not a loan product but it is the selling of assets or credit card receipts at a discount. In other words the Merchant Cash Advance company buys the credit card receipts and then attaches a fee usually every time the business “batches”, settles or closes the day’s or week’s sales until the funds advanced are paid off. There is no term with merchant cash advances as it is not a loan so there is no set payment amount or period. The paying off of the advanced funds vary based on a the credit and debit card transactions of the day or week.

Factoring Accounts Receivable Invoices enables a business entity that normally has to wait 30 days or longer to be paid by other businesses or governmental entities. Again factoring is not technically a loan but a selling of invoices at a discount for cash now. In a typical transaction the company applies with a Factoring Company and the company looks primarily at the credit of the other business or governmental entity that the company is doing business with. Based on that as long as the client of the company is a solvent business or government agency the invoices are bought and funds are dispensed to the business usually within three days of due diligence on the company they are transacting business with. In other words the funds are dispensed after there is a credit check and processing of the other company. The dollar amount that is advanced can vary from fifty percent of the invoice to eighty or ninety percent depending on various factors such as the size of the invoice to the credit criteria of the other company or governmental entity whether it is a city, county, state or federal agency.

Medical Factoring is a financial transaction that benefits medical entities like hospitals, clinics and various health care professionals that have to wait to receive funds for services performed on patients. Like Factoring and Merchant Cash Advances Medical Factoring is the selling of assets in this case invoices for cash now. In many instances the health care industry receives payment from third party entities like insurance companies, Medicaid and Medicare and state entities that provide funds for those in need of medical procedures. The medical facility or professional in turns sells the invoice(s) on a on going basis or one time for cash now. Once there is an interest is selling the receivables then a Factor steps into analyze the billing so that funds can be advanced. This process can vary in length but is usually shorter in length than the process of getting bank financing.

Contract and Purchase Order Funding allows companies to bid on large projects for governmental agencies, hospitals, universities, prison systems and municipalities or also to sell to larger corporations even if the business does not have the credit or bank approval or the wherewithal to service or fulfill a large contract order. Similar to Factoring which works hand in hand with Purchase Order Funding it is not a loan but a simultaneous transaction that involves advancing funds based on the credit of the governmental agency or larger company and the size of the contract. The funds that are advanced are for the cost in completing the order of products or performing services. So the profit that will be gained is not advanced but the costs as in raw and finished material, transportation, production, labor, expertise and any other costs involved in completing the contract. Once the contract is completed or once an invoice is ready to be sent to the client a factoring company which is sometimes owned by the same company buys the invoice at a discount and the funds that would normally be advanced to the company are usually used to settle the amount advanced for the material and other services that were needed to complete the order. Contract and Purchase Order Funding usually requires large transaction amounts as opposed to factoring that can be utilized for invoices as small as one hundred dollars. With the use of Contract and Purchase Order Funding companies that were locked out of the process of bidding on large contract s may become players in multi-million dollar deals.

Commercial Real Estate Sale Leasebacks are similar to Equipment Sale Leasebacks featured in this article. Instead of utilizing owned equipment to secure cash when bank borrowing is not wanted or not available the commercial real estate is used to access funds now. This can vary from office buildings, medical buildings, retail franchises, industrial buildings and manufacturing to large utility plants. This frees up cash “locked” away in real estate. Many entities find that at the present time the business they are in whether it is retail, manufacturing or another field that the holding of commercial real estate is not in their best financial interest for now. They prefer to put to use funds for their industry. So a retailer selling retails goods decides to focus on the retail operations and to lease the space because that real estate when factored into a myriad of calculations does not fit their financial goals during the present time. Yes the ownership of commercial real estate is an asset and can be used as a security for a loan but may also be viewed as a fixed non-performing entity that does not meet the needs of the business, organization, group or individual that owns the building. Commercial Real Estate Sale Leasebacks are another form of getting access to funds and has increased over the years.

Commercial Insurance Quotes Online Pitfalls

It is a very straight-forward process today to compare commercial insurance quotes online for virtually every type of business and trade.

There are many very fast and efficient websites operated by insurance agents, brokers, companies and comparison sites that offer quote comparisons for both liability and property cover, However when buying commercial insurance for your business online there are many not so obvious considerations and often hidden costs, that you should be aware of before you purchase.

The major problem with all online quote comparisons is that products are differentiated by price, most often with the cheapest quotes displayed first. Inevitably this will mean that quality insurance products with more cover that maybe cost a little more, will often not make the top five results displayed.

Whether you are looking to purchase liability protection or commercial property insurance for your stock, buildings and contents the most important consideration when applying for quotes is to disclose all the material facts. Many policy contracts can later be deemed null and void because a business owner was not one hundred percent truthful when applying for quotes.

If you fail for example, to declare the full value of your buildings in an attempt to reduce the premium prices quoted, in the event of a claim for an insured loss, your settlement figure will be reduced by the insurer proportionally to the amount of under-insurance, invoking what is known as the average clause.

Another example is a failure to declare all your staff including part-time staff for liability cover purposes.

it is also equally important when comparing policies by price quoted, to compare the actual covers offered by these policies. Invariably there will be differences in the levels of indemnity for loss, sums insured and additional covers offered.

Likewise each commercial insurance company will also tend to have its own levels of voluntary and policy excess, set to attract or deter certain types of business.

Compare policy wordings and keyfacts documents so that you fully understand the levels of cover offered by each of the quotes, before you buy.

Avoid paying for additional covers that you do not need. For example, new businesses in their first year would not be able to claim on a business interruption section of a policy for loss of profits, as there is no trading history. Similarly businesses that do not give advice have no requirement for professional indemnity insurance which may be included in some all risks packaged polices.

Other hidden costs to be aware of, are companies offering monthly payments or credit facilities at high interest rates. Beware sites that do not display the monthly premium breakdown at quote stage for those wishing to pay by monthly debit.

Before purchasing or even obtaining quotes, you should check that the provider is regulated and authorised to conduct commercial insurance business.
For example in the UK the site should display an FSA registration number, which shows the site is covered by the Financial Services Authority compensation scheme, should things go wrong.