By Karen Appold
As a business owner, you need to protect your investment. Obviously, you need to choose a good insurance company for the unfortunate times when something goes wrong.
Several things should be top of mind when selecting an insurer for your bowling center. Mark Voight, president and CEO of seven bowling centers in the metro Detroit area that operate under the name of Community Bowling Centers, advised choosing a company with a best rating. He suggested consulting the A.M. Best Company, which rates insurance carriers based on their financial stability. “Most of our lenders and landlords require us to have an insurance company with an A- rating or better,” he said. “This signifies that the insurance company has enough capital to cover a large claim.”
Randy Shank, proprietor, Sunnybrook Golf Bowl Motel, suggested getting at least three quotes from different carriers. “Compare the coverage to be sure you’re comparing apples to apples,” he said. The center is located in Sterling, Mich.,—a Detroit suburb—and is the fourth largest city in Michigan with a population of 129,699 as of 2010. More than 3,000 commercial and industrial businesses and services are located there.
When going through the selection process, Shank reaches out to fellow proprietors through the Bowling Center Association of Michigan and the local group, South Eastern Michigan Bowling Centers Association, to compare what coverages and prices others have obtained. In addition, the state association has an insurance agent that primarily covers bowling centers—which has been a great help. “After you have all of this in the mixing bowl, you can make a pretty informed decision,” he said.
Voight also researches an insurance company’s willingness to fight claims. “A few insurance companies are more interested in negotiating a settlement than fighting a non-worthy claim,” he said. “The end result for the insured is a higher loss history resulting in higher premiums in the following years (even if we change insurance companies).”
While having an agent who is familiar with the bowling business is a plus, Voight has found that it’s not necessary. Based in Livonia, Mich., each of the seven centers has a different type of demographic. They range from a fully urban center to several suburban centers in working-class, middle-class and upscale areas.
Steve Mackie, co-owner and center manager, Tenpins & More at Rio Rancho, in Rio Rancho, NM, said cost is a consideration. He asks the following questions when choosing coverage: Is the premium less costly (or at least the same as last year)? Do we have all of the necessary coverage, given that the center is now a year older? Are all upgrades we’ve done in the past year sufficiently covered? Does the insurance company support the bowling industry at large? The center is located in an urban community with a population around 90,000.
Shank advised telling each insurance carrier that you’re getting quotes from competing carriers. Give all prospective carriers the same data, such as financial information, type of risks and so forth. Look at past coverage and make sure you are not over-insured.
In an effort to prevent claims, Voight’s center employs a full safety program. This includes following a safety manual that is approved by the insurance company and having regularly scheduled safety meetings. “If you keep safety issues front and center with employees, they are less likely to make careless errors that result in damage or injuries,” he said. “We also have a zero-tolerance policy for drugs and alcohol. Anyone who has an incident and needs to go to emergency care must take a drug test.” After this policy was instituted, the center’s workers compensation claims decreased by almost 70 percent.
From a liquor liability standpoint, Shank trains servers using a program called TIPS (Training for Intervention ProcedureS). This skill-based training program is designed to prevent intoxication, underage drinking and drunk driving. “With a well-trained serving staff, your risk of liability is less and the insurance carrier looks at your risk better,” he explained. “We also train staff to look for potential injury possibilities, such as trip hazards or faulty chairs or tables. We salt the parking lot and entrances when they are snowy or icy.” Make sure that fire suppression certifications are tested and up to date, as well.
“By empowering your staff through training, it makes them accountable to reduce potential risk and claims,” Shank continued. “At the same time, customers see and recognize this and become aware that we are concerned about their safety and comfort.”
Mackie performs an annual inspection of the center and quickly fixes problems that suddenly arise. “We’ve added yellow metal stair treads, repaired parking lot pot holes, eliminated spiders and improved interior and exterior lighting,” he reported.
Pam DeMarce, owner/general manager, WOW! Zone Family Entertainment Center, Mankato, Minn., suggested looking at your facility with a proactive look versus a reactive eye. “Post necessary signage or warnings for customers,” she said, such as wet floor signs. The center is in a metropolitan area that serves up to a 100-mile radius.
Shopping for the right insurance company for your bowling center, from both a price and type of coverage standpoint, is a very important component of your business. Take the time to do your homework to ensure that you make the right decision. Then, implement best practices and procedures in an effort to prevent a claim.