Times are changing, and with the rise of social media and consumer awareness, has come the rise of litigation related to foodservice businesses. As a Personal Chef or Private Chef, you are at just as much risk as a restaurant or caterer to being sued. Here are just some of the ways that your business and your personal/business assets could be at risk.
Did you conduct adequate pre-screening for allergies and dietary restrictions for your clients? How often do you re-assess for changes?
It’s important when you are first contracted by a client to assess all allergies and dietary restrictions for all family members or people that will be consuming the food that you are preparing. Have each client sign off on and date your questionnaire or intake form. Revisit this at least once a year to assess if there are any changes such as food intolerances, high blood pressure etc., that can affect the food that you prepare.
Even if local laws and health department requirements don’t demand that you have your food safety training and certification, it’s a good idea to get it and keep it updated. This training will teach you, among other things, how to hold food at safe temperatures, how to prevent cross-contamination and reduce the risk of food borne illnesses etc.
Culinary training or foodservice experience (such as working in a restaurant) is a good idea, but not essential. It helps you work more safely and efficiently, such as learning how to cut and cook ingredients without harming yourself or property.
It’s important to refrain from health, nutritional and supplement counselling unless you have been formally trained and have the appropriate designations, i.e. you should not practice medicine or other healthcare disciplines. If you are cooking for allergies or health restrictions, keep good records of where you get your recipes and nutritional information from, so that should a claim arise, you can provide this evidence.
If you work with dieticians (whether you include the service in your fees or your clients pay for this separately) to create meal plans catered to your clients’ needs, the advice should be well-documented. Should the need arise, you could issue a claim against these professionals if the advice they provided was incorrect or led to the claim being issued against you.
In addition to your standard client questionnaire when you first sign up a client, you should also consider having release forms, liability waivers etc as part of your client package. It’s always advisable to have a legal professional draft these, as they will best know how to protect you. After all, you wouldn’t consider having your car mechanic carry out a surgery on your loved ones! Some things to consider: