From the Front Lines: Restaurants

DDeLorenzoDavid DeLorenzo

CEO
Ambassador Group Insurance
Phoenix

How did you get started at your agency?

When I graduated from college, I went to go work for Warner Brothers records. I got into entertainment and eventually owned my own company, working with record labels and bands and all that. Then, when the records labels went south, they didn’t have the money to employ people like me.

My dad had been in insurance for decades, so I looked at him and said, “Wow, you do pretty well for a living—what is it that you do?” Lo and behold, I ended up buying his agency from him nine years ago.

Why restaurant insurance?

I wanted to focus on something that brought me some passion in life. I’ve always been passionate about music, entertainment, bars, restaurants and the hospitality industry—just the communal effect of people getting together, which is quite honestly one of the last things people really have to go out and do together now that so much stuff is online.

I made that commitment 15 years ago, and it’s taken many, many years to become an expert. I’ve owned 12 restaurants and nightclubs in that period. I speak the lingo.

Greatest restaurant insurance challenges?

A lot of expenses go into just keeping a restaurant open. For restaurant owners, their bottom lines are just tough. You go in and you’re trying to sell them stuff to protect them from exposures in cyber, employment practices and all these other line items that were really not an issue 10 years ago.

I’m seeing stuff like people utilizing pictures they didn’t know were watermarked, and now there’s attorneys suing them for intellectual property. I’m having to sell active shooter polices to nightclubs—it’s scary. These clients are having to buy more and more coverage, which cuts into their profitability.

Biggest restaurant insurance changes?

The main changes are the types of claims that we’re seeing. These places are holding more and more accountability because there’s less personal responsibility out there.

The other thing is that we see policy form changes every second of the day. You really have to focus on those changes to understand what’s covered or not.

Future of restaurant insurance?

I think you’re going to see your main insurance carriers do 30% liquor or less. You’re going to see them adding more endorsements onto your policy and adding on maybe $1 million of employment practices and cyber. They’re going to charge more of a premium for it, but they’re going to somehow package all of this together to make it more convenient.

Advice for a restaurant insurance agent?

Starting a niche is all about educating yourself, really becoming creative with it and making yourself known as the person in that market. Then, take part in associations and just be part of the community. Show that you're there as not only an insurance person, but also someone who cares about the industry.

Will Jones is IA assistant editor.