How to Handle Crises at Your Restaurant

restaurant crisis management

Posted: Aug. 01, 2018

How to Handle Crises at Your Restaurant 

No dining or beverage entity is too small to go under the radar. Have a crisis plan in place.

Modern technology affords no restaurant or bar anonymity in times of crisis. If a disaster hits your business floors, it could easily get swept up by social media and make the rounds online.  

Do you have a crisis plan to mitigate disasters? If not, there’s no time like the present. Below, we show you how to prepare a comprehensive crisis management plan that shows you how to take control of the conversation and prevent significant damages to your restaurant’s reputation. Once finished, all that is left is a team meeting. Since your employees are an extension of your business, it’s critical they know the ins and outs of their new restaurant crisis plan.

“There’s a ______ in my soup.” 

Finding something unappetizing in the food can happen. An incident like this can be forgiven by the customer when handled well by the server or manager. Other situations need more attention, such as:

  • Food poisoning
  • Sexual harassment accusations
  • Worker injuries or death
  • Fires
  • Computer or power failures 
  • Lawsuits

It is very serious if a restaurant is accused of misconduct or dangerous food handling. Knowing how to control a situation that could harm your restaurant’s reputation is the primary reason for having a crisis management plan. 

How to Handle the Aftermath of a Crisis in a Restaurant or Bar 

Whatever the situation may be and however erratic a customer is, never lose your poise. And most important, don’t have a social media meltdown like these businesses. How you handle a crisis can determine the future of your restaurant or bar. 

First, evaluate the situation. Stay cool and call your owner, lawyer, insurance company, or public relations counsel, if you have one. Explain all the details of the emergency and take their advice. 

Second, implement an internal response. Depending on the situation, you might want to reach out to your inner circle immediately and assuage any concerns. Consider contacting vendors, family members, staff, lawyers, and other appropriate parties, and keep them posted that you have things under control. 

Third, keep a log. If the crisis is serious, start a log of events following the incident. Phone calls with the press, actions taken, times of incidents, and people contacted should be included on the list. This will show you who has what information, and who was responsible for what. 

Fourth, prepare a written statement. This allows you to explain the story to the public from your perspective; however, it is not an outlet to blame another party. The statement must be level-headed and professional. 

If the press wants to talk to you, then you know the story has escalated and it’s even more important to follow your restaurant crisis plan. They are used to going after people, but you are most likely not accustomed to cameras and insistent reporters. Here are some tips for handling the media:

  • Pass out the written statement.
  • Have a verbal statement ready that includes the same information as the written statement. 
  • Engage carefully, but do not share too much. 
  • Lack of engagement, stonewalling, or “no comment” will make things worse.
  • Prohibit staff from speaking with the press.

If your crisis has peaked, go directly to your social media followers. Keep them in the loop and pay attention to their comments. Your responses and activity can dispel rumors and retain loyal customers. 

If you do have a PR team, this is the moment to let them handle further press inquiries, and the owner of the restaurant should be in touch with both the legal and PR teams. Once the press has the information they need, the phones should go quiet. 

Lavu Pro Tip: Decide who is responsible for what and make a list. 

  • Who is on your crisis team? Pick people who can think on their feet, are good spokespeople and have related experience – do not choose the head of the organization.
  • Do you have a list of emergency numbers/cell phones to be able to reach key people at a second’s notice?

Schedule a Staff Meeting on Crisis Management 

Arrange a time for a crisis management meeting with your staff. If it’s possible to arrange for a guest speaker, such as a food safety expert, PR expert, or attorney, then invite him or her. Hearing from a third party about the gravity of responding professionally in a crisis will carry weight with your staff. 

In the meeting, pass our your newly printed crisis management manual, and review the following:

  • Identify your crisis team. Select employees that respond well under pressure or have experience and review their assignments in the event of an emergency.
  • Go over your checklist of actions,
  • Identify which departments to call in specific situations, like the police, ambulance, and fire squad. 
  • Explain how you want information to be gathered and distributed. 

Questions to Ask as You Prepare a Crisis Plan 

Identifying your business’s areas of vulnerability is crucial. Ask yourself these questions and be sure to make changes in areas where you don’t have an appropriate answer. 

  1. Who are the people who could help you in an emergency? List out names or reporters, inspectors, politicians, policemen, health department, and regulators. 
  2. How do you handle problematic employee relationships, safety issues, confidentiality policies, sexual harassment accusations, belligerent employees, or terminations?
  3. Do you have your business’s policies written down? 
  4. Do new employees sign a contract that states they have read and agree with the employee handbook?
  5. Do you know which emergency response teams to call in your area? 
  6. Is there a list of emergency numbers to call if needed?

Prepare a comprehensive restaurant crisis plan and train your team in the ways to handle a disaster. 

When was the last time you performed an evacuation drill? Schedule a fire drill with your staff within the next week if it’s been longer than six months. 

 

Posted: Aug. 01, 2018 | Written By: Emma Alois

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