What are the risks of offering valet parking for your restaurant?

You might decide to hire a contractor to do your valet parking.

Atlanta is a car city, there’s no denying it. There are always lots of vehicles on the road, and that means that there are a lot of people in need of parking. To solve this problem for the customers who will visit your restaurant, you might be thinking about offering valet parking services. It makes life much more convenient for your guests if they’re able to pull up to your restaurant instead of having to circle Midtown or Downtown looking for a parking spot. But before you decide to go for it and start parking people’s cars, there are a few things you need to know about offering valet parking.

There are two options when it comes to valet parking, and both of them present their own risks. The first option is to hire drivers yourself, and the second is to bring in a valet contracting company. Now, even though both of these options have the same outcome—the cars get parked—there are different risks that you need to consider when weighing which route you want to go.

Valet parking isn't without its risks.

If you hire your own employees…

When you hire your own valet drivers, you take on the responsibility for your customer’s cars. Keep a few things in mind as you go through the hiring process:

Hiring practices are the best defense against risk.

You need to find people that you can trust to drive your customers’ cars, so you have to be pretty diligent in screening your applicants. Valet parking is a high-speed, fast-paced job, so you want to make sure that you hire careful, trustworthy people.

  • Look into the history and record of the applicant. This is the best way to see how much of a risk they represent.
  • Is their driving record clean, or have they had tickets or license suspensions?
  • Does their criminal background check look good? It would not be good if customer’s belongings started mysteriously growing legs and walking away.
  • Have they done a drug test?

Have a trial or training period.

During this time, have a seasoned valet employee ride with your new recruit. Your veteran valet can show them the ropes and make sure that they have good driving habits.

Ask whether or not the applicant can comfortably drive both manual and automatic cars.

You want to make sure that your valets are able to easily drive both a stick shift and an automatic car. It would be a bit awkward if no one was able to drive a manual car left in your drop-off lane.

Make sure you’ve got the right insurance coverage.

If you’re in charge of your valets, you need to make sure that you’re protected from all of the risks that come along with valeting your customers’ cars. The people dining at your restaurant are trusting you to bring their vehicle back in exactly the same condition that they left it.

The coverages you should consider are:

  • Garagekeepers: This covers any damages that might happen to a customer’s car while it’s in your care.
  • General liability: This protects you from the damages that you’re legally obligated to pay if you cause harm to someone’s person or property.
  • Employee dishonesty: This covers you from any stunts that your employees might pull, like stealing.

You might decide to hire a contractor to do your valet parking.

Talk to your insurance carrier to see how offering valet services will affect your coverage. They’ll be able to help you make sure that you have the right coverage to protect you from all of your risks.

If you use a contracting service.

If you’ve decided that you don’t want to worry about the risk of hiring your own valet drivers, you might consider getting a service instead. Before you do, there are a few things that you should pay attention to:

You don’t control who the company hires.

When you contract out the valet work, you’re giving up a measure of control over the service. You don’t have any say in who the contractor hires, so make sure that they have safe and thorough hiring practices. Make sure that you can trust their employees.

Safety should be their priority.

Make sure that the company is reputable and has a strong reputation for safety. You don’t want them to hurt your business’s reputation. The valet is associated with your restaurant, though they don’t technically work for you, so they should be a good representative of your business.

The contracting company takes on the risk, so they need to have proper insurance.

One good thing about hiring a valet parking company for your restaurant is that you free yourself from risk, as the company takes on responsibility for their employees and the cars. However, you need to make sure that they have the right insurance coverage so that if something did happen, they’d be covered.

Don’t leave anything up to chance. Do some research before making any decisions.      

  • Check that the company has proof of insurance.
  • Make sure that you won’t be responsible for any damages.
  • Call the valet company’s insurance carrier to double check that everything’s in order.
  • Be aware of any risks or gaps in the coverage they could leave you open to risks.

If you hire a valet parking company, make sure that they're insured.

Valet parking is a convenience for your Atlanta customers who would otherwise struggle to park in Midtown or Downtown, but it also presents you with some significant risk. Before you start valeting any cars, make sure that you fully understand the risks and responsibilities, and think about whether hiring your own employees or hiring a contracting valet service is best for your business.

Want to talk more about insurance? Great! Give us a call or fill out our quote form. We’d love to chat with you about any of your insurance needs.

How to choose a company to install a water filtration system for your business

If your business needs quality water, you might be thinking about getting a water filtration system installed at your business. Today, we interview Scott Stirrup of EcoWater of Atlanta, who has been providing water filtration units for Atlanta businesses for the last 8 years. We asked Scott for some tips for our readers for choosing a company to install a water filtration system at their business.

Let’s dive in and get started.

Why did you select EcoWater of all of the water treatment manufacturers to represent?

There are many brands of water filtration system to represent. We were curious about why Scott chose EcoWater. “There are many different water filter manufacturers out there,” Scott said. “[But] the majority of them are made in China. EcoWater products are made right here in America. I liked the idea of creating my business around American-made products. Plus, I believe it is a better product. They have been in business since 1925. That shows reliability and that they stand behind their product. They’re also owned by Berkshire Hathaway. With Warren Buffet and all of those smart people perfecting the water filter technology, I figured how can you go wrong?”

What are some of the biggest water concerns Atlanta business owners face?

 What’s the deal with the water in Atlanta? Scott told us that, overall, we have good water here in Atlanta. “Our local water sources here in the greater Atlanta area include Lake Lanier, Lake Allatoona, and the Chattahoochee River,” he said. “Water is a universal solvent. This means that everything it touches will carry away with it.” That means that pollution, prescription drugs, and commercial run-off all affect the water that we drink, bathe in, and cook with.

“We have a moderately hard water issue here in this area,” Scott said. We asked Scott why business owners should be concerned about their water. He answered, “Two reasons: chlorine and moderately hard water issues.”

Let’s take these one at a time.

First, let’s chat about chlorine. Thankfully, we have chlorine added to our water here in the United States. This provides us with some of the safest drinking water in the world. Chlorine kills all the dangerous bacteria that can make us really sick. However, many people are concerned with the health risks of drinking chlorinated water. Scott made it a point to say that he never stoops to scare tactics to get a new customer.

The truth is that most people don’t like the taste of chlorine in their water, juice, coffee, or tea. That’s why many businesses opt to invest in a commercial water filtration system that removes chlorine from the water. For example, restaurants, taverns, sports bars, and coffee shops want their customers to come back because of how good the drinks taste. To remain competitive, the hospitality industry uses filtered water every day. You might immediately notice the difference when you order a glass of water that wasn’t filtered at a restaurant.

Now let’s talk about the level of water hardness here in the greater Atlanta area. Scott told us that moderately hard water causes spotting on glasses, dishes, forks, spoons and knives. This affects all of the great restaurants, cafes, pubs, and sports bars in Atlanta. After all, we want to eat off of clean dishes and drink out of clean glasses, right? Spots like these are bad for business in the hospitality industry. Finding a dirty fork or glass might be a complete turn-off.

Speaking of the hospitality industry, did you know that filtered water causes hotel linens, sheets, and towels to last longer? Plus, your guests will enjoy softer towels and cleaner hair. Many places report that they also save on chemicals, detergents, and coffee and other beverages made from concentrate.

But the hospitality industry isn’t the only one concerned about hard water.

What industries use water filtration systems and why?

Scott told us that car washes are also prime candidates for using water filtration systems. “Imagine spending $12 on a car wash only to see water spots or a white film on your car’s paint,” he said. You’d never go back again, would you?

Car washes depend on repeat customers that come back each week. That means that auto detailers, car dealerships, and car washes that want to impress their clients should be concerned about moderately hard water spots too. Another benefit to car wash owners is that when the water is filtered, it means they won’t need to use as much soap and cleaning chemicals to wash their customers’ vehicles.

Other industries that use water filtration systems:

  • The printing industry
  • The paper manufacturing industry
  • Beer and soda manufacturers
  • Hospitals
  • Health clubs
  • Office buildings
  • Car washes
  • Restaurants

How to get your water tested

If you are concerned about your water quality, here are two options for you. Scott said, “First, you can go to your local Georgia Cooperative Extension. They’ll be happy to test your water for you. Expect to pay around $22 to have them test it. Your second choice is to go to our website and contact us for a free water test.”

What are some things to look for in a commercial water filtration company in Atlanta?

Look at the reputation of the company. You want someone that installs proven products and that will be in business tomorrow to service it. Take the time to read on-line reviews and talk to your industry peers.

Should I buy my water filtration equipment on-line?

 It may be very tempting to buy your commercial unit online. After all, every small business owner wants a good deal, right? But before you click Add to Cart, here are some hidden costs and risks to think about:

Who will install it for you?

“So let’s say you buy your filtration unit from the Internet. Who will install your business water filtration system?” Scott asked. “If you find a plumber, make sure they’re licensed and have experience installing business water filter units.” Scott informed us that all of his installers work under a Georgia-licensed plumber. This means you can have peace of mind knowing that your equipment is installed per the national plumbing code and the Georgia code. Otherwise, you could risk leaky pipes, flooding, and an increase in your premiums.

Who will warranty the product for you?

Next, you need to figure out who is going to warranty the unit for you. Most Internet deals come with a 30-day warranty. But you want a unit that is protected for longer than that, don’t you? For example, depending on the commercial unit a business owner chooses, some of Scott’s products are warrantied for up to five years. That means you know that your investment is safe and protected.

Who is going to fix it or maintain it for you?

We asked Scott what kind of maintenance is required on a good commercial unit. “Many of the commercial units we install clean themselves with a brine solution,” he explained. “This means that you will not have to replace your filters as often. However, the process discs have to turn freely to clean the system. Eventually, the O-rings have to be replaced. These need to be maintained just like your car’s engine needs regular oil changes and tune-ups to keep it working in tip-top shape.” So it’s good to work with an installer that will provide annual maintenance on your system. That way your system will always be up and running for your customers’ enjoyment.

We asked Scott if he ever gets phone calls to repair or maintain water filtration systems that he did not install. “Yes, all the time,” Scott said. “When a restaurant or car wash filtration system goes down, they want it fixed immediately. So sometimes we get emergency calls from frustrated business owners that can’t get their filtration company to help them right away. We try to drop what we’re doing and reschedule things as much as possible to accommodate new customers in a jam.”

So, even if you have an existing water filtration company that you like working with, it’s a good idea to have a trusted back-up service company to maintain your equipment in an emergency.

What’s the company’s customer service mindset?

Scott quickly added, “Not all plumbers like being in the customer service business. Sure, they’ll install your unit, but will you be able to get them to come back to service it for you? On the other hand, we recognize that the installation is not the END of our customer service, but is instead merely the beginning.”


We hope this article will give you a few things to think about before buying a commercial water filter system and choosing someone to install it for you. We want to thank Scott of EcoWater of Atlanta for answering our questions. If you would like to ask him a question you can check out his company’s website here.

Need insurance for your business? Great! Give us a call or fill out our quote form today and we’ll get you a free business insurance quote. We’ll make sure that your business is protected from whatever life might throw at you.

How to be prepared for an Atlanta summer as an employer

There’s a reason that Atlanta has earned itself the nickname Hot-lanta. Summers can be absolutely brutal, with temperatures skyrocketing into the upper 90s. We also have to combat the humidity, which is its own struggle. The constant state of feeling sticky and sweaty are occupational hazards of being an Atlantan in the summer. But the sweltering temperatures and heavy air aren’t just uncomfortable—they’re also dangerous. For people who work outside, the heat can become a killer if it causes heat stress.

If you’re an employer who manages employees who work outside, there are a few things that you can do to make sure that your employees are safe in the summer heat. Of course, it’s important to remember that even employees who work inside can suffer from heat sickness. As an employer, it’s your responsibility to provide a safe workplace for your workers. But that’s not the only reason to practice heat safety—as we said before, the heat can be fatal.

How can people get sick from the heat?

The body has natural methods of regulating its temperature. When the body gets too hot, it tries to cool itself down. However, if the temperature and humidity are high (as they always are during Atlanta summers) the body might not be able to cool itself off. That’s how people can get sick.

How bad is heat sickness?

There are different severities of heat stress. We’ll go over them from least severe to most severe. Note that any of these conditions warrant attention, if not professional medical treatment.

Heat rash: Heat rash is caused by sweating profusely. It presents as bumps on the skin, particularly in areas that sweat a lot.

Heat cramps: Cramps are caused when salt is lost from sweating. It presents as pain in the muscles. To treat heat cramps, get the worker to a cool place and give them a sports drink or water to drink slowly. Let them rest for several hours. If you know they have a heart condition, get them medical attention.

Heat syncope: Dizziness or faintness from long periods of standing. Dehydration can sometimes cause syncope. If one of your workers becomes faint or dizzy from the heat, let them rest in a cool place and give them water—but make sure they drink slowly.

Heat exhaustion: This occurs when someone loses too much water and salt through sweating. The symptoms are excessive sweating, weakness, dizziness, nausea, clamminess, pallor, muscle cramps, and rapid/shallow breathing. If one of your workers presents with these symptoms, have them rest, drink water, and cool them off.

Heat stroke: This is a potentially fatal condition. It occurs when the body gives up the fight and stops trying to cool itself. The signs are hot/dry skin, hallucinations, chills, headache, confusion, vertigo, or high temperature. This is not to be taken lightly and requires medical attention immediately. Call 911, get the person to a cool or shaded area, and do everything you can to cool them down—you can use wet towels and fans.

What are some risk factors for heat stress?

It’s important to remember that heat illness affects workers who are indoors, too. Workers who are around machinery or objects that emit lots of heat or who come into contact with hot objects are also at risk. 

If your workers are required to wear protective clothing or suits, they can also overheat. A lot of the time, protective clothing doesn’t breathe. This can lead to heat stress. Be aware of what your workers wear on the job and take appropriate steps to give them enough rest and breaks.

What can I do to reduce the risk of heat-related illness?

Train your employees and supervisors.

Make sure that your employees and your supervisors can recognize the signs of heat stress in themselves and others. If they know what to look for, they’ll be able to catch it sooner. Training is also a good time to talk about how vital it is to drink plenty of water. Also be sure to emphasize that workers need to tell the supervisor about any symptoms of heat illness ASAP.

Allow for workers to have time to build up a tolerance to the heat.

Workers who are new to outdoor labor, who are returning to work after time off, or who are facing the heat for the first time in the season are especially at risk for heat illness because their bodies haven’t had time to acclimatize to being in the heat. Allow for new workers to take lots of breaks and start them off slow—let them increase their workload over time.

Provide lots of water.

OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration) recommends one pint per worker per hour. Water is your friend. Dehydration, not so much. Let your workers drink lots of water.

Give lots of breaks.

Workers need time for breaks in cool, shaded, or air-conditioned places so their bodies get to rest from the heat.

Pay attention to the heat index.

The heat index calculates the outdoor temperature and humidity. This is especially important in Atlanta—if you’ve ever experienced an Atlanta summer, you know that the humidity is absolutely brutal. In a humid place, sweat can’t evaporate and leave the body like it’s supposed to. Make sure that you’re aware of the risk of heat illness by understanding the heat index and taking precautions.

Make the workplace more comfortable.

Use air conditioning and ventilation systems. Fans and exhaust ventilation for super hot or humid areas will also help. You can also use reflective shields. It’s also important to make sure there are no places for steam to leak.   

Use protective clothing that allows for cooling.

You can get protective clothing that’s tripped out to keep employees cool. For example, there are jackets that have compartments for ice packs.

Respect the power of the heat. Take measures to combat it and don’t underestimate how severe heat sickness can be. Atlanta is both a hot environment and a humid one, and those things together are a recipe for disaster when summer hits. Be mindful of how hot it is outside and take care of your workers.

If you have any questions about your business insurance, we can help! We’ll take the time to understand your business’s specific risks and insurance needs. We’ll even get you a free quote. Call us today or fill out this form and we’ll help you out!







What you should know before hiring a commercial security system company

It’s an unfortunate reality, but having a business in the city opens you up to a host of crime. Atlanta’s no exception. There are plenty of burglaries and other crimes committed within the ATL. To protect your business, you might be thinking about getting a security system and cameras installed on your premises. We caught up with Ty Williams of ADS Integration to find out what his advice is for getting a commercial security system. (Williams was a radar technician in the Navy before getting into the security industry, and then he started his own business in 1999.)

We asked Ty what you should know before having a system installed in your place of business.

He started off by listing a few questions:

Is there a monitoring contract involved?

Many alarm installation and monitoring services try to get you to sign a 36-month contract for your alarm system. Some might have a contract that lasts 12 or 24 months. It’s important to know if you’re going to be bound into a contract because three years is a long time if you’re not sold on the service you’re getting.

What happens if I want to leave my contract? What if I’m not happy with the service?

Let’s say that you sign a three-year contract, but you want to get out of it. Things change. You’re not happy with the service. Sometimes there will be a hefty penalty to you for breaking the contract. The company might even make you pay out the contract in full—and that can be upwards of $1,000 depending on how far into the contract you are.  

We also found out how some alarm companies are able to give away free security systems.

Security system companies can install a system for free or very little money down because of the three-year monitoring contract that we mentioned before. They charge between $33-$40 a month for monitoring services, which comes to about $1,200-$1,400 over three years. The alarm system pays for itself. It takes about a year and a half of you paying those fees for the company to get their investment back. Even after the contract ends, you’ll still be paying the same fees.

We learned that Ty doesn’t ask his clients to sign a contract.

Ty has built his business on not asking his clients to enter a long-term contract. If the alarm company has you pay on a month-by-month basis, there’s no contract for them to hide behind. You have the freedom to fire them if you’re not satisfied with the service they’re providing. If they have you sign a contract, you’re stuck.

Ty noted, “You pay a little bit more upfront for the equipment but you own the system and you can have anyone monitor it for you.”

What if you already have a security system but want to change monitoring companies?

Ty said, “Any reputable alarm company can take over the monitoring for you. Some existing systems can be reprogrammed while others cannot.”  Er, what does that mean, exactly? “All that’s required is to change out the main panel and keypad,” Ty explained. “This will give you a new system with a warranty. This means you can have peace of mind without having to buy everything from scratch.”

Oh, that makes sense.

Here’s how commercial security systems deter employee dishonesty.

Employee theft is a growing problem that many Atlanta-based companies face. We asked Ty how a security system might help businesses avoid being burned by their employees.

He said, “Each commercial security system provides every employee with their own unique alarm code. This means you will be able to identify who opens and closes your store or business every day by looking at the alarm code entered into the keypad.”

You’ll be able to tell if your employees are getting to work late or if they’re leaving early. All you have to do is check the report—it’ll give you the time and date that your employees arrived and left. If you receive a report of an unauthorized entry late at night or on the weekend, you can check and see whose code was used to access the building. If you suspect that an employee isn’t being truthful about their hours worked, you can rewind the security footage and check on what time they arrived and left. As a result, you won’t end up paying someone for hours they didn’t work.

Seeing the cameras serves as a visual deterrent for any employee that’s up to no good, whether it’s fudging hours or thieving. Ty told us about a warehouse operator who feared that one of his employees was stealing parts. The cameras served as enough of a deterrent to remedy the situation.

Security systems can also prevent your HVAC system from being stolen.

We didn’t realize how big a problem this was in the Atlanta area. “I recommend connecting your HVAC compressor into your security system with an outdoor wall siren overhead,” Ty said. “This prevents people from stealing the compressor and selling it for scrap metal. When someone goes to cut all of the lines, the alarm goes off and the overhead siren scares them away.”

Ty reports saving many air-conditioners this way. That’s a nifty perk to having a security system.

You can prevent burglars from incapacitating your alarm system by going wireless.

If a burglar’s smart, they know to cut the phone lines leading into your building to keep the police from getting the memo that your premises is being looted. To combat this problem, security systems can be monitored wirelessly. You can’t cut what isn’t there. This is also handy if a storm knocks out the phone lines in your neighborhood. Since you’re not using physical phone lines, you’ll still be monitored.

But that’s not all. Ty pointed out that, “Another benefit is that a wireless communicator will allow you to receive warning alerts on your phone. They will also enable you to arm or disarm your system remotely. There’s no reason to give out your alarm code to a service person. You can remotely turn on your system and turn it off.”

Hmm, but what can you expect to pay for this convenience? “About $200 for the communicator and an additional $10 per month for monitoring,” Ty replied. “This is about half of what many Atlanta alarm companies are charging monthly.”

Ty also explained that his company’s wireless communicators allow you to watch the security feed on your phone. Neat!

Say cheese!

Covert cameras can also be placed around your building to catch burglars in the act. If they skirt the visible cameras, chances are one of the hidden cameras will still catch them. Ty told us about a burglar who broke into a leasing center in Lawrenceville not too long ago. The thief ripped the security system off the wall, but they smiled at their reflection in the glass of a clock. Little did they know that there was a camera inside the clock’s face, so their face was captured for the business owner to see. The police were able to catch the guy.

Let’s recap.

Why are security cameras so important for your business?

  • They allow you to monitor your business.
  • They allow you to monitor your parking lot.
  • They deter shoplifting.
  • They deter employee theft.
  • They allow you to observe accidents and injuries. (Ty has been instrumental in resolving several fraudulent workers’ compensation cases because of the camera system that he installed.)

The best part of this is that the footage can be viewed on your cell phone, tablet, or home computer if you have Internet access, though Ty suggested that you have a minimum of 15 to 20 MG Internet speed to take advantage of this service. This means you can check on the office while at home, on vacation, or on the golf course!

One final bonus to having a commercial security system that we’ll mention before we sign off is that you might just qualify for a discount on your insurance. Talk to one of our agents to see if you’re eligible. You can also feel free to ask Ty any questions about commercial security systems by visiting https://adsintegration.com.

If you need insurance for your business, give us a shout! You can either call us or fill out our quote form and we’ll get you a free quote. Our agents will make sure you have the customized insurance you need.


The benefits of office ergonomics

The city of Atlanta is full of buildings that stretch for the sky. Those big, beautiful buildings are filled with offices and cubes, right? For city dwellers, office jobs are common. If you’re an employer who works alongside your employees in an office building, you might think that you’re at a low risk of workers’ comp claims. There’s not much risk associated with talking on the phone, typing at a computer, or getting a cup of coffee.

Or is there?

Having an office job that requires sitting at a desk for long, extended periods of time, while not involving physical labor, is still hard on the body. Joints and muscles get sore and strained. Repetitive motions, like typing, can cause stress to joints. Wrists, backs, and necks are all in the line of fire when it comes to musculoskeletal disorders, or MSDs. Some MSDs you might have heard of are carpal tunnel, lower back injuries or strains, and tendonitis.

But the good news is that there are things you can to do to take some of the strain off of your desk-bound employees’ bodies. You can help make your employees more comfortable and reduce their risk of injury.  

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