Flaming Drinks and Food Are Never a Good Idea
By Paul Worzella, SCLA
Liability Claims Supervisor
Illinois Casualty Company
Fire is used by many people as part of leisure activities and for entertainment. Occasionally, businesses in the hospitality industry have incorporated the use of fire to add to the experience and ambiance of their establishment by serving flaming drinks or food, such as flaming shots, bananas foster, crepes Suzette, or individual tableside hibachis.
Unlike some policies, ICC does not exclude claims resulting from the service of these products. However, in many cases we will advise the business to discontinue the practice. If they choose not to stop the service, Underwriting may decide not to insure that business.
Serving flaming drinks or food has the potential of resulting in serious injury to customers. Bad burns are among the most painful types of injury and may include permanent scarring as well as long-term anxiety and emotional issues. ICC has experienced a number of premises liability claims resulting from flaming foods or drinks. Typically, in those claims, the flaming drink or food was sloshed or spilled onto a customer, or liquor, used to fuel the flames, left its container, and the flames followed.
Consider this scenario
You and your family are on a much-needed vacation. You, your spouse, and your young child are hungry, so you stop at a local restaurant to have lunch. Since the weather is nice, you decide to eat outside. Before you order your meal, you both decide that you want to try their specialty drink called the Flaming Dr. Pepper. As the waitress brings your drinks to the table, she trips over a chair leg and spills the flaming drinks on your young child, burning her face and hands with second-degree burns. Not only that, but the restaurant’s wood deck now catches on fire due to the flaming alcohol. The fire spreads quickly and burns the restaurant to the ground. Your vacation is over in an instant as you rush your child to the Emergency Room for treatment. Could this scenario have been prevented? Absolutely.
Although ICC does not exclude claims like this one, it is not our intent to insure businesses that serve flaming food and drinks.
Regardless of insurability, if an establishment chooses to serve flaming items, there are some recommended safety considerations to protect customers and employees:
- Prepare the drinks or food away from the customers, preferably in the kitchen or behind the bar.
- Make sure lit drinks are filled below the rim to prevent the drink from spilling and spreading the flame.
- Have a server lead the bartender or cook to the table to clear a path and help deliver the food or drink safely.
- Refrain from serving flaming drinks or food outside, as seeing a flame on a sunny day is more challenging. If it is windy, the flame could be blown onto a flammable object, like a napkin, potentially causing property damage and injury.
In our experience, these types of claims are costly to settle, and often, the business is held liable for the injuries sustained. While the excitement of flaming drinks and food may draw attention to the business, those same drinks and food can cause irreversible damage. To avoid the risk, it is best to leave these items off the menu.
Editor’s Note: This story ran in the August 2023 edition of Pennsylvania Beverage Media, the official monthly magazine of the Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association. Illinois Casualty Company is the exclusive preferred vendor for liquor liability insurance. Qualifying Members can save up to 10% on their businessowners and liquor liability insurance. To find out more about our insurance programs and to locate an agent in your area, visit www.ilcasco.com/insurance-programs.