Reopening your restaurant after a natural disaster

After a disaster like a hurricane or flood, these best practices can help you get back up and running.

There are many challenges that restaurant owners face after a natural disaster. Damage equipment, unsafe building conditions and damaged or spoiled food can make reopening the doors to your establishment very difficult. Here are some best practices to use before you start serving dishes to hungry customers again. 

With food products:

  • Discard all food and packaging materials that have been in contact with flood water. An exception would be if the food is sealed in a hermetically sealed container that hasn't been damaged.
  • Condemned food must be disposed of according with federal, state and local regulations for solid waste storage, transportation and disposal regulations. These products can never be used for human consumption. 
  • Remove refrigerated and frozen foods that may have been in flood waters. 
  • Inspect canned food and throw away any damaged cans. If you can't stack or open with a manual or wheel-type can opener it is likely damaged. Other signs to look for include any swelling, leakage, punctures, holes, fractures or rusting on the can. 
  • Don't serve food with water damaged packaging, such as plastic, paper, cardboard, cloth or similar containers. 
  • Commercially prepared food may be saved if it was packaged in all-metal cans or retort pouches.
  • If in doubt, throw it out.

With your equipment: 

  • Confirm all open-top, refrigerated display cases and walk-in refrigerators will consistently hold temperatures below 41 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Make sure your freezers can still operate at the required temperature.
  • Certify cooking equipment can heat food to proper temperatures.
  • Replace any equipment that is damaged beyond repair.

Invest in repairs now to save money later
Repairs and restocks can be expensive, but a lawsuit for a foodborne illness can be worse. Make sure you're at 100 percent operating ability before you open your doors. 

Sources: FDA
State Auto Insurance makes no representations or guarantee as to the correctness or sufficiency of any information contained herein, nor guarantees results based upon use of this information. State Auto does not warrant that reliance upon this document will prevent accident and losses or satisfy federal, state and local codes, ordinances and regulations. The reader assumes entire risk as to use of this information.

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