3 things to do when a crisis strikes

How to handle the fallout before negativity goes viral

Sara Rush Wirth, Senior Editor

crisis recovery

Whether dealing with food contamination (like Chipotle’s recent E. coli and norovirus troubles) or simply an angry guest, negative PR can put an operation’s image—and bottom line—at risk. Experts agree: Developing a protocol before disaster strikes—especially in today’s social media-fueled world—is crucial, says Ellen Hartman, CEO of Hartman Public Relations. Here are three steps to follow—fast—in the face of crisis.

1. Get your message out first

The first response should be to accept and admit that the incident happened and assure customers you are taking measures to find out more, says Linda Duke, CEO of Duke Marketing. And this should happen quickly, says Rick Van Warner, president of consulting firm The Parquet Group. “Our rule of thumb is no later than 15 minutes from the time you learn something happens,” he says.

2. Be consistent, contrite and concise

Van Warner says operators shouldn’t be afraid to update social channels with the same statement they are using for the media and internal stakeholders. “Be consistent, keep it simple and be sure to put the human concern and appropriate sympathy for any victims first,” he says.

3. Monitor social media

After issuing the initial statement, it’s important to stay an active part of the conversation. Extremely negative comments and posts can be removed and blocked, says Van Warner, but he cautions operators to be careful in getting too aggressive with deletions to avoid looking like they’re hiding something.

—A version of this article appeared in the December issue of Restaurant Business, FSD’s sister publication.

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

The University of New Mexico’s proposed on-campus taproom has officially been approved by the school’s Board of Regents.

Construction on the $650,000 student union taproom will begin this summer and is expected to finish in August when students return to campus. The school’s food vendor, Chartwells, and UNM’s Dining & Food Services department will split the cost of the taproom evenly.

Designed by students in the school’s architecture department, the space will feature a rotating selection of beer and wine, and will also welcome guest brewers. Chartwells will be...

Ideas and Innovation

Three years ago, Colonial School District in New Castle, Del., started a pilot supper program at its high school. The goal: To make sure the district’s students, 57% of whom are on free or reduced-priced meals, would not be hungry when school is done for the day.

Since its inception, the program has expanded to 12 schools and now provides afterschool meals to children participating in YMCA activities. And it's just one of many such programs popping up in districts throughout the country, as operators add supper to the list of daily meals they provide for students.

Ideas and Innovation

We put our hydroponic gardens in a spot where students can watch them grow, but at the same time it’s safe from being tampered with. At one of our elementary schools, the gardens are in the kitchen, but there’s a window where students can look in as they walk down the hallway. Some even stop to count how many cucumbers they see.

Ideas and Innovation
food snap

We started a 50-member vegan team in response to students expressing the need for more vegan options. Between our monthly meetings, students are asked to take photos of foods they eat in and out of the dining halls to give us a true picture of the kinds of things they like and the kinds of foods that cause disappointment. This exercise has sparked a lot of conversation and given us more insight into what we could do better.

FSD Resources