As a fish and chip shop owner, you never want to get the call that tells you your livelihood is on fire and then have to contact your insurance company to start the process of claiming and repairing.
Not only can fire destroy your business, but it is also a risk to yourself, your employees and your customers. The outcome of a fire can have a detrimental effect on your business and once loyal customers may decide to go elsewhere.
Over the years, you will have set procedures to protect your business, investment and staff. However, we are all human and left unchecked the risks come back as procedures are all too often forgotten about.
Insurance companies place conditions on a policy, normally under the heading ‘Warranties or Endorsements Applicable’. I cannot stress the importance of ensuring that you have satisfied each and every warranty. It may be dull ‘small print’ but should the unthinkable happen, you will have a better chance of a speedy settlement and getting back up and running quickly.
We hope these tips will reduce your chances of encountering a fire:
Industry statistics reveal that 70% of fires in commercial premises originate in extract ventilation systems, often due to the build-up of fats. Always ensure that you read and understand your insurance kitchen duct warranty. All good insurance policies have this specified and you need to ensure an independent specialist subcontractor is employed to clean and service the cooking fume extraction canopies and ductwork as stated in your warranties. Usually this is every 12 months, but if your shop is a busy one some policies specify every six months or even every three. Obtain photographic evidence and a certificate to prove this has been carried out.
Filters, traps or other grease removal devices should be cleaned on a regular, scheduled basis, at least weekly and records kept of such activities.
Should the worst happen, having evidence that these activities have taken place will help the insurance claim process, devoid you of blame and, hopefully, settle your claim more quickly.
Another common cause of fire in a fish and chip shop is the oil in the range catching fire. Oil reaches flash point just before it reaches 400°C and frying equipment should be fitted with a thermostat designed to prevent the temperature of cooking oils and fat from rising above 205°C.
These thermostats are probably the most important piece of machinery in your premises. They may be small and difficult to see, but if they fail or are overridden, your premises are at risk. Look after them, have them checked regularly and temperature test them yourself, because if you look after them, they look after you.
If you have removable lids for your pans, keep them nearby so you can put over the pan in the case of a pan fire.
It may seem obvious to those who know, but the frying range must never be left unattended. In the event of a fire, most insurance policies will state that you have to be within so many meters of the frying range and if you’re not, this will invalidate your insurance at a stroke.
Another common cause of fires is friers turning on the range while a pan is empty of oil. Always ensure there is adaquate oil in a pan to prevent it from catching fire.
If you are not sure who should service your frying range, we have put a handy list of manufacturers together.
Many local fire brigades offer a service whereby they will visit businesses to give advice of further fire prevention methods. This is usually free so take advantage of everything they have to offer to maximise the safety of your business.
Never underestimate the importance of staff training, something that may seem obvious to a more experienced frier might never cross the mind of an apprentice. The best practice is to have a standard training pack and for yourself and your employee to sign when each appropriate stage is trained and understood.
Always take the time to ensure that your employees are fully aware of the warranties and endorsements on your insurance policy and the importance of complying with them. Something that may seem unimportant can be the difference between being paid out in the event of a claim or not.
The more the staff understand the fire procedure the less likely they will panic in the event of a fire that will take them by surprise. A regular meeting for fire training and knowing the correct course of action that should be taken in the event of a fire would be a good idea. This could be the difference between a small fire being contained in the pan or one that devastates your business.
Fried batter waste can be a huge risk to fish and chip shops yet is often overlooked. Left in the shop after closing time, they can easily and quickly spontaneously combust, leaving the whole business ravaged.
Our advice is to treat fried batter waste as if it was flammable – just because it seems like it can’t do any damage doesn’t mean it won’t.
Here are some tips on dealing with scraps:
➡️ Give them away were possible, this means they can be eaten instead of binned. This is also cost effective, especially if you’re paying by weight for waste to be taken away. You can either charge for them or offer them free with chips.
➡️ Many modern frying ranges don’t have scrap boxes or spare chip boxes but if you do, leave them to drain off before discarding.
➡️ Using an empty potato sack is a great way of discarding scraps, but don’t over pack them and hose down the scraps with cold water.
❎ Never leave scraps inside overnight. Make sure they are put in an outside bin – preferably a dedicated steel bin – and well away from the main building.
If your fan starts making a noise or doesn’t run quite right then turn it off and seek advice from an electrician or your range manufacturer. The motor could overheat and ignite fragments which may cause a fire to extend into the ceiling or walls.
Make sure all electrical equipment is PAT tested regularly.
Multipurpose fire extinguishers or other materials suitable for extinguishing oil and fat fires should be maintained and close by, ready for immediate use. Make sure you and your staff know which ones should be used for different types of fire and that they are comfortable handling them.
Having a contract where a company can provide you with everything you need and keep it maintained is one way of offering peace of mind. As is having a fire suppression system fitted to your range that on detecting a fire will discharge an agent and put it out within as little as 30 seconds. They do cost a few thousands pounds but it could be the difference between having some simple smoke damage to clean up or a complete business to put back together. It’s also peace of mind as suppression systems don’t panic like staff may well do.
I really don’t want to advise you on what insurance company to use, we have many dedicated insurers covering the fish and chip industry. One thing I will say, however, is don’t be tempted to try and keep the price down by not declaring everything. Really spend the time to make the quote as likely as possible, insurers will be looking for every way possible to avoid paying out, but if you have adequate coverage then all being well you should be okay.