Looking Ahead

Pre-planning to weather restaurant risks this winter.

By Scott Milnes

With reports of snow still coming in from early May, it’s hard to fathom even bringing up the discussion for pre-season winter weather planning for restaurants. However, just like the fashion industry, we are a season ahead in the Exterior Services Maintenance® (ESM®) world, and it’s our duty to bring up pre-planning strategies for the winter season in the middle of the summer.

Forecasting the Weather

When talking about winter, we look at the season like a meteorologist: occurring between November 1 and March 31. Looking at that time period keeps our data organized and consistent from year to year. We are also transitioning from El Niño to La Niña. El Niño brought us some heavy weather swings like 70-degree days in New York around the holidays and snow in May in Michigan. We’ve witnessed 40-degree shifts in temperature in a matter of days and gone from very little snow fall to historic records.

ThinkstockPhotos 480339207La Niña is characterized by unusually cold ocean temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific, compared to El Niño, which is unusually warm ocean temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific. What does that mean to us when planning for restaurants’ exteriors and the winter?

According to the Farmers’ Almanac, which we actually refer to often, the winter of 2016-2017 is looking like a repeat of last winter, at least in terms of temperatures with unseasonably cold conditions over the Atlantic Seaboard, eastern portions of the Great Lakes, and the lower peninsula of Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, most of the Tennessee and Mississippi Valley, as well as much of the Gulf Coast. With a monstrous and record-setting El Niño on the wane, the implications of its disastrous worldwide consequences are starting to settle in. But there’s new evidence that, on its heels, a potentially strong La Niña could emerge later this year — bringing with it a renewed stretch of extreme weather.

Pre-plan Now

It’s mid-year and you might have missed some ESM goals in the first two quarters, but not to worry — some of these ESM quick tips below will get you into planning early for the winter season. Refer to these when making the exterior service decisions that will impact the next season or when your current exterior service plan is failing you:

• Logistical considerations can be eliminated through implementing a mid-season action plan (MAP) and thorough site assessment.

• Contractual concerns can be addressed through ESM portfolio analysis, specification development and liability assurance.

• Budgetary impact can be alleviated by an ESM through cost analysis, service selection, and often result in savings.

• Seasonal considerations are eliminated by a MAP and allow for a smooth transition that provides seamless customer service.

Snow & Ice Bring Risk

A professional ESM company will have a solid handle on risk management and be able to discuss your concerns in great detail. With winter come higher risks tied to Mother Nature and pitfalls that are typically out of human control. Slip and falls, fender benders, pothole damage, and a variety of other accidents do and will occur. But these risks can be managed and reduced by a solid ESM plan and a responsible partnering company.

ThinkstockPhotos 119920212Make sure to look at all legal aspects with regard to your exterior service needs. Unlike the busy restaurant manager, district manager, regional manager or understaffed facilities maintenance department, an ESM company knows the importance of controlling liability issues and can focus on reducing the customer’s exposure. An ESM company can manage this very important aspect and provide one policy to its customer. Your people will no longer be chasing dozens of certificates of insurance and attempting to verify proper coverage. Your risk management and/or legal departments will be impressed with your decision to manage the company’s exposure in this way. With the ESM managing your national or regional exterior needs, there is one entity with one umbrella policy. Contractors are all managed by this entity, the ESM assumes all the responsibility, gets the job done correctly and allows for your company’s peace of mind. It is the job of the ESM to collect all the insurance paperwork from contractor partners and any associated vendors performing the exterior services on all your locations. Safety of your patrons is and should always be the top priority of any ESM.

In-season Services

If you’ve always relied on a local contractor to handle snow removal for one restaurant or a nationwide company to handle 500 locations, understand that pre-planning and forecasting winter weather and having a solid plan in place is more than half the battle. Also remember that those who do not plan ahead will also be relying on many of the same service partners in emergency situations and the rules of supply and demand will become apparent quickly. Keep in mind that large-scale snow removal is often performed with jumbo-sized front-end loaders and a variety of other large specialty vehicles that are booked months in advance for large brands that are prepared for the worst. Partner with an ESM now, plan ahead and have peace of mind later for your patrons, employees and yourself.

If your restaurants are experiencing quality assurance issues with exterior maintenance, you might want to consider calling a national ESM company. Look for one with consistent experience, quality assurance, long-standing client retention and 24/7 support, and you should be able to short list some pretty solid contenders to handle all your ESM needs regionally or nationwide.

— Scott Milnes is the president of DENTCO®, the nation’s first Exterior Services Management® company. Milnes’ career includes more than 20 years in hospitality management.

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