Restaurant Fire Safety: 10 Critical Ways to Protect Your Business

By: Diana Rodriguez-Zaba
Updated on: November 15, 2022

When customers dine at your restaurant, they enjoy delicious food and great service. Very few of them know that the number of restaurant fires across the country averages more than 5,000 every year.

In just a matter of minutes, a small electrical spark or open flame can start a fire that races from back to front of house. Like you, most owners and managers practice responsible fire safety in restaurants here in Chicago, but our teams help business owners that face the aftermath of commercial fires on a regular basis.

We know that you work hard taking care of busy operations every day, so we put together this checklist for your peace of mind. These 10 steps can make a real difference in reducing fire risks at your restaurant.

1. Maintain Sprinkler Systems

fire sprinkler at celing

Many commercial fire sprinklers contain chemicals that can eventually cause system corrosion. Remodeling work and infrastructure repairs can also indirectly affect a system’s integrity.

Fire sprinklers should be inspected at least twice a year by a certified professional. This ensures your property’s safety and protects it from water damage caused by unexpected pipe ruptures or sprinkler head failures.

2. Routinely Check Alarms

When you change out batteries on smoke alarms, follow through with testing. If alarm components have been affected by sudden electrical surges, they may not operate properly.

It’s especially important to verify the performance of all smoke alarms in a large restaurant. A smoldering cigarette in the restroom trash quickly becomes a major fire if the alarm fails to function.

3. Inspect Fire Suppression Systems

fire suppression system kitchen

This system controls back of house safety by shutting down kitchen equipment while it suppresses a fire. Automated UL 300 systems are highly effective, but they require regular certified maintenance.

If you’re currently operating with an older system, consider an upgrade. The investment can save the expense of recovering from a restaurant fire, and it can also reduce insurance premiums.

4. Know Your Fire Extinguishers

A fire extinguisher can often be your first and best defense against a restaurant fire. Always keep several Class K extinguishers in the kitchen in case your automatic fire suppression system fails.

Class ABC extinguishers belong in dining and storage areas. Make sure that employees understand the differences and the applications of each type of extinguisher.

5. Keep Equipment Clean

dirty kitchen hood

According to the insurance industry, more than 20 percent of commercial kitchen fires are the result of grease buildup in traps and hoods. This is one of the most preventable types of restaurant fires.

It’s often more efficient to hire an outside service for heavy equipment cleaning or oil spill clean up. Whether you take care of it in-house or outsource, keeping kitchen equipment clean is an important investment in restaurant fire safety.

6. Don’t Neglect Repairs

Don’t put off small repairs that can become big fire hazards. As soon as someone notices frayed wiring, a broken switch plate or sparking outlet, call in a professional to address the problem.

More than 50 percent of restaurant fires are caused by faulty cooking equipment. Ranges and deep fryers are most often responsible, so always take care of repairs immediately regardless of how downtime might affect service.

7. Keep Up to Code

construction helmet blueprints

Always be sure that you’re in compliance when you have any work done on your building. Whether you’re remodeling the restaurant or patching a leaky roof, hire a contractor who clearly understands local building codes.

This same diligence applies to electricians, plumbers and HVAC specialists. Always verify a contractor’s familiarity with commercial fire codes before you make the hire.

8. Consider Front of House Materials

Ensure customer and employee safety by using flame-retardant materials throughout your restaurant. Table cloths, cloth napkins and window treatments belong on your list of fire-safe materials.

Consider the restaurant’s furnishings too. Synthetic upholstery and padding are very flammable. When you replace older furniture and drapes, always check to make sure that fabrics meet NFPA 701 standards.

9. Practice Good Housekeeping

staff cleaning commercial kitchen

Even if you rely on a commercial cleaning service, employees are still responsible for shift cleanup. Clearly explain and stress the importance of keeping flammable cleaning products and materials away from kitchen equipment.

Extend good housekeeping practices to paper products, linens and cardboard boxes. Avoid storing these kinds of supplies around water heaters and any back of house electrical equipment.

10. Refresh Staff Training

When your employees are well-trained in fire safety, their ability to quickly respond to an emergency can save lives. At least twice a year, review and practice established plans for helping customers evacuate in case of a fire.

All employees should know how to activate fire alarms, handle fire extinguishers and determine several safe exit routes. Make in-house fire safety training a requirement for all new employees.

Count on Us 24/7

servicemaster fire damage expert

You do everything that you can to provide the best experience and a safe setting for customers and employees. We hope that our checklist serves as an outline that can help coordinate fire safety at your restaurant. We always welcome your input and feedback through our Comments Section.

If the worst should happen, you can count on ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba. Our certified teams bring years of industry experience to the fire damage cleanup process.

We’re proud of our reputation as the very best fire damage restoration service in Chicago and across the suburbs. We’re at your service 24/7 and always ready for your call.