November 27, 2022

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.5 Million Lesson: Small Businesses Responsible for Customer Behavior?

$5.5 Million Lesson: Small Businesses Responsible for Customer Behavior?

In our ever-changing and complex world, it can be hard for businesses to navigate certain obstacles and keep their eye on the “prize”. One such obstacle is actually a question: are (should) small business owners be responsible for customer behavior? A recent incident has thrown this question to the forefront and has many business owners taking a hard look at how they do business.

In 2019, Texas-based restaurant La Fogata Mexican Grill, found itself asking this very question. Following an unfortunate situation, the restaurant was  ordered by a court to pay a customer $5.5 million after filing a civil suit alleging that he had been given too much alcohol. 

An article by Houston Chronicle shared that the incident took place in 2019 when Daniel Rolls visited the restaurant, knocked back too many drinks, quarreled with another drunken customer and hit his head in the parking lot. He suffered a head injury during the incident. Rolls went on to sue the restuarant. His claim was that the bartender served him and the other individual involved too many drinks, and then failed to call an ambulance after he was injured.

As per the article, this was not the first time Rolls was in trouble for public drunkenness. He has a “history of excessive drinking”, was imprisoned twice and was arrested in a case of drunk driving. However, according to Rolls, in this incident, he suffered a “serious head injury” that was partly due to the restaurant’s “uneven parking”. 

So, what is the takeaway here for small business owners? Small businesses do indeed have a big responsibility when it comes to the behavior of their customers. Should the customer have been disconnected sooner for safety reasons? Yes. Did the restaurant owners and bartenders drop the ball by ignoring obvious signs of drunkenness that could (and did) lead to a problem? Yes. 

More than ever before, companies are expected – demanded – to demonstrate social accountability. Consumers and employees have high expectations for companies today to drive change through their culture and values and help build a healthy future. This story is a reminder that small businesses can and are held liable, regardless of irresponsibility. For the Fogata Mexican Grill, this is a $5.5 million lesson they won’t be forgetting any time soon.Author Bio: Michael Hollis is a Detroit native who has helped hundreds of business owners with their business loan solutions. He’s experimented with various occupations: computer programming, dog-training, accounting… But his favorite is the one he’s now doing — providing business funding for hard-working business owners across the country.

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