preload image
Skip to main content

If you own a bar, café, restaurant or other food service business, Public Liability (PL) cover is essential. You are responsible for the welfare of every customer that comes into your restaurant. Accidents can happen and compensation claims can run into thousands or even millions of pounds, so you will need insurance or similar cover in place to protect you if things don’t quite go to plan. By having Public Liability insurance or similar cover in place, you can protect your business against any claims made by a customer for an injury, illness or damage to their property as a result of your business activities. In fact, there are very few businesses that can operate safely without this protection in place.

What is Public Liability Insurance?

Public Liability Insurance is designed to protect you if a member of the public is injured or their property is damaged. This applies when they are in your restaurant or cafe or if the injury or damage was a result of your business activities. It can cover compensation claims and your legal costs.

The law regarding Public Liability

  • Public Liability is not a legal requirement
  • However, it is your responsibility to provide a safe environment for the public
  • Some businesses may not work with you if you do not have Public Liability
  • Some local councils demand you have Public Liability in place before the commencement of trading

Identifying the risks to the public in your restaurant

As the business owner, you have a ‘duty of care’ to ensure members of the public stay safe in your restaurant. Therefore, it is your responsibility to carry out a comprehensive risk assessment and conduct health and safety checks on a regular basis. This is a legal requirement, and if you have more than five employees it must be written down. It is, of course, good practice to record it anyway. To begin your risk assessment, you will need to make a list of things that could cause harm or injury to a customer. Dividing your restaurant into areas can make this easier, for example food storage, kitchens and front of house. Once the risks have been identified, you will then need to take steps to protect your diners against injury or illness.

Main risks to the public at a restaurant and how to minimise them

Slips and trips

A customer could slip on spilled or dropped food. They could potentially trip over furniture, frayed carpets, loose flooring, or steps. It is important to clean as you go and properly maintain and clearly highlight potential trip hazards.


Customers obviously cannot let themselves into the kitchen, but customers could still be burnt by hot plates, hot food or beverages, heat lamps and hot surfaces from heat cabinets. Your waitering staff should be fully trained and confident when carrying food out to customers. All hot surfaces should have a clear, visible warning to all customers.

Food safety

There are strict protocols around food hygiene and storage, and it is vital that you and your staff adhere to them. Food poisoning can cause serious illness and in extreme cases, even death. Failure to protect your customers from food poisonings such as e. coli, listeria, salmonella or norovirus may result in a claim being brought against you. Ensure food and menus are clearly labelled, keep food storage areas spotlessly clean, ensure you are on top of pest control and insist on good hygiene standards from your staff at all times.

COVID-19 and keeping customers safe in your restaurant, bar or takeaway

The pandemic has meant that restaurants have had to be even more thorough regarding cleaning and sanitising equipment and frequently touched areas in order to keep customers safe. A COVID-19 specific Risk Assessment will need to be carried out to determine any extra safety protocols that will have to be followed and carried out. When permitted to open, you will need to determine the maximum number of customers that can safely be in the restaurant at any given time in order to follow social distancing guidelines.

Reservations should be by appointment only and you will need to take details so a temporary record can be kept to assist Test and Trace. Customers may be required to wear a mask when not seated at a table, unless they have a medical exemption. The COVID-19 pandemic is a rapidly evolving situation and it is important that you are aware of the latest guidance regarding restaurants and other food service businesses at all times.

General safety adhering to COVID-19 regulations

  • Ensure your restaurant adheres to social distancing regulations – maximum number of clients
  • Tables and chairs should be well spaced
  • Clean all surfaces with the appropriate sanitiser between sittings
  • Disinfect equipment before and after every service
  • Provide as much ventilation as possible
  • Ensure all your staff are equipped with full PPE including masks, visors, gloves, aprons etc. as appropriate

Does the Retail Mutual offer Public Liability insurance for your restaurant?

Restaurants, cafes, and takeaways are full of potential hazards for customers. It’s vital to assess the risks to the public and take as many precautions as possible to keep everyone safe. A claim from a customer can be very expensive so make sure you are covered in the event this scenario arises. It is usual for restaurant owners to take out Public Liability insurance or similar protection for their business. The Retail Mutual offers an alternative to insurance with Public Liability included as part of its business cover plans. Call 0333 2121 280 to discuss your options or click here to start your quote.

Opening times

Sales0333 2121 280
Service0333 2121 006
8.30am to 5.30pm, Monday – Friday
Closed Weekends and Bank Holidays

Claims0333 2121 008
9.00am to 5.30pm, Monday – Thursday
9.00am to 5.00pm, Friday
Out of hours 01424 850 333
Special Offer
Business Cover Offer Stamp

Take out business cover with us and receive a £20 gift card*

Call us now on 0333 2121 280 quoting ONLINE20 for an immediate business cover quote

Find Out More