A Catastrophe Solved with a Plan
Business partners Josh Johnston and James Hall are doing something right. The pair has opened eight restaurants in Portland within 11 years, touching nearly every corner of the city. What started as a crazy idea while backpacking in the mountains of Peru became a successful restaurant group, caterer and consultancy called Independent Restaurant Concepts (IRC). The friends and co-owners started from scratch -- Johnston worked behind the bar seven days a week at the opening of their first restaurant, North 45 -- and they learned a lot about how to operate a business along the way.
One of those lessons learned was finding the right insurance provider for their restaurants. By referral of a friend, they chose Fournier Group, a Portland-based agency known for serving many restaurants, businesses and families in the Northwest. Together, they established a proactive approach to insuring the business.
“Independent Restaurant Concepts does a good job of really trying to be on the forefront of operations,” said Robert Hoover, Risk Management Advisor at Fournier Group.
But even when you’re doing things right, emergencies can happen -- and sometimes they’re impossible to prevent.
In January 2017, a winter storm whirled in and took all of Portland by surprise. With nearly 12 inches of snow piling up on every surface, the frozen snow weighed heavy on the outdoor tents at North 45 and completely crushed them both. And with a small indoor space at this neighborhood bar, those demolished tents accounted for two-thirds of the total seating.
“That could have been 60 percent of our revenue, lost,” Johnston said.
Amidst this realization, Johnston called Hoover at Fournier Group, who walked him through the initial necessary steps: take pictures, file a claim and plan for clean-up. In the meantime, Hoover immediately authorized Independent Restaurant Concepts to rent temporary tents to get the business back up and running as soon as possible. Because of this, North 45 was able to reopen its outdoor seating within 14 days and in time for crucial events like St. Patrick’s Day.
“In a situation that could have potentially put us out of business, they were able to get us up and running again in a very quick time,” Johnston said. In that moment of panic, Fournier Group was able to provide the reassurance of a step-by-step plan -- one that would save the restaurant group time and money.
"When a business has a loss, it’s all about mitigating the damage so the revenue engine isn’t compromised and moving quickly to help the business owner and team return to full strength as promptly as possible,” Hoover said. “When you’re a kid and something goes wrong, you call someone you can trust, like a parent. That’s the role Fournier Group and I desire to have. We want our clients to know, ‘We've got your back 24-7-365.’”
Fournier Group has also been a partner in helping IRC adjust its coverage as it continues to grow. Johnston admits that restaurants can be complex to insure, with various liabilities. But Fournier Group “helped us customize our portfolio to get the perfect blend and amount of coverage,” he said.
As IRC evolves, Hoover hopes to help the company move beyond just insurance coverage. He wants to work with them to create processes and policies that keep the company, its employees and its assets safe. These could include return-to-work programs in the case of an injured employee, or accident investigation -- examining the main causes of accidents in the workplace to prevent them in the future.
“That’s my M.O. for clients. I’m truly a risk manager and a partner,” Hoover said.
Though Fournier Group works with clients around the country, Hoover loves his Portland clients for their entrepreneurial spirit and their taste for the unique. “I’ve worked with clients where it started as a food cart, and now they have 40 locations,” he said.
Perhaps more important than the risk prevention tools and other services they offer, Fournier Group shows up when things go wrong. “We invest a lot in insurance,” Johnston said. “So it’s nice to know that it’s there when you need it.”
Learn more at www.fourniergroup.net