Restaurateurs strive to exceed expectations when caring for their diners’ needs.  Part of exceeding these expectations is accommodating their offerings with “special requests” due to dietary needs — reportedly, there are an estimated 15 million Americans with food allergies.  These allergy sufferers deserve a stellar dining experience too!

The service industry already knows the Big Eight – fish, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, wheat, and soy.  However, an emerging trend is branding menu items or entire restaurants as “allergy free” (i.e., “vegan”, “gluten-free”, “dairy-free” or “peanut-free”).  Such branding is opening up new liability.  Although (in most cases) restaurants have no legal duty to disclose particular ingredients in a dish, many restaurants voluntarily will provide information regarding allergens to the inquiring patron.  Where a restaurant chooses to disclose ingredients (or brands itself as “free” of those ingredients) the restaurant assumes a legal duty to serve with care.

If, after informing a patron of the ingredients, a mistake is made, a customer may sue for negligence and the restaurant could end up paying millions.  Since reactions to food allergens may happen within seconds or hours, restaurants need to be fiercely diligent in dealing with food allergies and risk controls.

As part of a risk management solution, securing excess limits for liability insurance is undeniably a smart choice.  At McGowan Program Administrators, we challenge ourselves daily to accomplish “special requests” for all your Restaurant Umbrella needs.

If you have any questions about restaurant umbrella coverage or any one of our programs, or are interested in our special program rates, please contact Ali Gates ( or Neil McGowan (