Food industry brands trade on their reputation and are more vulnerable to negative publicity than others. With the explosion of social media and news providers’ relentless mission for breaking news, the warp speed that negative publicity can impact a restaurant’s reputation and its customer base, can blindside restaurant executives like never before.
From July 2015 through April 2016, Chipotle had six food safety scares, including cases of norovirus, E. coli and salmonella, from Seattle to Boston. The news of the breaches in food safety resulted in a loss of more than $11 billion in market capitalization.
Here in Hawaii in August 2016, Genki Sushi was forced to close all ten of its Oahu and Kauai outlets because of a Hepatitis A outbreak that was traced to frozen scallops served raw at the company’s restaurants.
There is a lot to be said with regard to investing in your community and building a goodwill bank account as standard business practice, rather than waiting until you are facing negative or adverse publicity.
Here are 5 important steps to “get back to business as usual” – the primary goal of any crisis plan:
- Keep track of your brand with a reputation monitoring service. There are affordable options which enable you to know what is being reported in real time. The quicker you know what’s happening, the quicker you can react to avoid damage.
- Prepare your team and plan to handle potential issues.
- Brainstorm the most likely issues and situations you may face.
- Devise a communication chain so employees know how to redirect media inquiries.
- Know what you can and can’t say to the media or public from your legal counsel.
- Professionally media-train company spokespeople for such situations.
- Know the facts and stick to the relevant talking points that address the issue. A good spokesperson and leader focuses on the facts and doesn’t jump to conclusions or react emotionally.
- Move quickly to address false or malicious claims to your brand’s reputation. Take the hit if need be, but always provide the solution that will be implemented immediately, and don’t blame others. Remember, the customer is always right.