For New York City restaurants, winter weather carries several risks. In addition to the risk of a decrease in revenue, winter storms can create safety hazards on sidewalks and in parking lots. If customers or employees fall while attempting to navigate these dangerous conditions, restaurants can quickly find themselves facing personal injury lawsuits. 

Restaurants need to stay on top of winter weather in order to minimize risks and protect their staff, patrons, and business. Luckily, winter weather management doesn’t need to be complicated — the key is to hit the ground running before it’s covered in ice. In fact, most of the steps that a restaurant should take to protect itself from snow- and ice-related personal injury lawsuits can be summarized in a handful of winter safety tips:

Know Who’s Responsible

Whenever it snows, who is responsible for clearing your restaurant’s sidewalks or parking lot? If you rent your business space, your landlord may be responsible. However, there is also a chance that sidewalk maintenance falls on the tenant —  you should always check the lease if you are unsure. If you own the building where your restaurant is located, you’re likely the one responsible for snow and ice removal.

Regardless of who you should be turning to when the snow starts to fall, it’s important that you figure it out before the temperature starts heading south. By making yourself aware of who needs to be contacted and what work needs to be done ahead of time, you can ensure that your walkways are cleared for customers and employees in a timely manner. Planning for the winter weather ahead of time also gives those responsible for snow and ice removal enough of a heads up to:

Bulk Up

Restaurants should always be prepared to handle the worst-case scenario. Even if your restaurant isn’t solely responsible for snow and ice removal, it’s important to have at least some winter weather supplies on hand in case a storm is too bad for your landlord to reach you. High-quality snow shovels, snow boots, and a supply of ice melt should always be on hand in case of an unexpected bout of winter weather. 

Catch Their Eye

Once the snow begins to fall, restaurants should do their best to make both patrons and employees aware of potential hazards. Standard caution signs or traffic cones are one simple yet effective way to alert pedestrians of a slippery sidewalk or parking lot. Such warnings shouldn’t be limited to areas outside the restaurant either, as business entryways are often slick and slippery due to ice and snow carried in via foot traffic.

Those tackling snow and ice removal should also be easily visible to those on the sidewalk, as well as to those on the street. In order to prevent traffic-related accidents and injuries, employees clearing the walkways should be provided with reflective safety vests to increase visibility.

Stow Snow Responsibly

Regardless of who is physically handling snow and ice removal, your restaurant will likely be the one held liable if the snow is displaced to an illegal location. For this reason, it’s important that restaurants remain aware of where you can legally pile their excess snow. 

Generally, snow can not be piled in any areas intended for your customer and/or vendor traffic, or in locations near high-traffic areas. Snow also cannot block storm drains, fire hydrants, or gas, meters, for safety purposes. Depending on location, however, additional restrictions may apply. To obtain a full list of rules and restrictions, it is recommended that restaurants contact their local government.

Winter weather can create risk for all restaurants, especially when it comes to personal injury lawsuits. Restaurants that plan ahead, however, can quickly gain control of the situation when a winter storm strikes. With a snow and ice removal plan in place, restaurants are able to minimize the likelihood that an employee or customer will slip and fall on their property.