An outbreak which is alleged to be associated with your restaurant can be a brand impact event. But it can be handled in a professional manner which emphasizes some advance planning and transparency in your dealings with stakeholders, government authorities and your loyal customers. Here are some things to consider as you develop and implement a food crisis response plan:
- Things move very quickly after you learn that authorities are investigating a large outbreak which may be associated with your restaurant. Therefore, it is critical to have a team already in place to immediately address the operational, legal and media issues which will arise. It is especially important to have someone available who can “speak the language” of public health authorities.
- Everything you do should be in furtherance of the goal of protecting the health of your customers. But getting customers back in your restaurant is also a critical goal, and if handled thoughtfully and with care, the two goals are not mutually exclusive.
- You can always buy insurance to protect your assets from claims or lawsuits, but you can never buy enough insurance to protect your brand. Lawsuits and lawyers can be dealt with at the appropriate time, but your first priority should be to achieve the two goals discussed above.
- In our opinion, it is never wrong to say “I’m sorry” to an injured customer, regardless of the connection of their injury to your restaurant. Just as an example, who wouldn’t feel sorry for the parents of a very sick child who developed E. Coli ?
We have worked with many restaurant clients on putting together crisis response plans and would be pleased to assist you and your team in thinking through these critical issues.