7 Tools to Help with Restaurant Crisis Management
What is crisis management?
It’s the strategies you use to deal with a “sudden and significant negative event.”
That crisis could be one of any number of things – health trouble (think roach in the soup), PR issue, customer service problem or natural disaster. Most importantly, a crisis is an unpredictable event, or one you didn’t see coming.
Ultimately, a crisis poses a risk to your restaurant, your staff and your customers.
To help you in the event of a major crisis, we look at seven tools to help with restaurant crisis management.
#1: Know the Goals of Your Crisis Management Plan
First, let’s look at the main goals of crisis management. You’ll use these to guide your strategy for dealing with the unexpected.
- Your over-arching goal is to get back to business as quickly as possible.
- You want to either reduce or completely eliminate (if possible) the negative impacts of a crisis on your restaurant. This would be anything that affects your diner traffic, your earnings, your building’s structure, or your staff.
- Next, you want to make sure your brand image stays intact. It is possible for you to come out on the other side of a crisis in a positive manner and with your reputation intact.
#2: Have a Crisis Management Team
One of the best things you can do for your restaurant is to have a crisis management team in place before disaster strikes. (tweet this)
This team can include your most trusted employees, your marketing team, PR staff and human resources (if you have it) and even your attorney.
Create a plan that follows your goals of crisis management. Everyone should be thoroughly familiar with the plan so it can be put into motion at a moment’s notice.
These people can work your crisis management plan and make sure that everyone on your team and in your employ is confident in the response from your restaurant.
Your crisis management team can get to work quickly crafting your response so it’s unified across all platforms.
#3: Get Out in Front of The Issue
In the case of a food disaster in your restaurant like Chipotle’s food-borne illness issues and other crises, you want to get out in front of the problem.
Don’t wait for social media or the news media to tell the world what’s going on.
If something negative is affecting your restaurant, you want to be the first one to announce it.
The last thing you want is to get caught playing catch-up and defending yourself.
Break your own story. Why? Because when you tell the community what’s going on, you control the spin of the message.
You’ll find there are several ways to inform your customers about the crisis. You can always use traditional formats such as news conferences or press releases.
A faster method is to use the digital arena. You can post a message on your website as well as your social media platforms. Utilize your email list to broadcast your crisis response.
When crafting your response, be sure to have several people proofread your comments because once it’s out there, it’s next to impossible to take back.
#4: Be Proactive
Let’s say you didn’t have time to get out in front of the crisis.
For most people, restaurant owners included, the fight or flight response kicks in.
Unfortunately, some people choose flight. This isn’t your best option.
If you remain silent, someone else has power over your story. You want to make sure that even if someone else brings the crisis to light that you respond to it.
Sure, it may be devastating to your restaurant, but if you stay silent, you let others frame the narrative which doesn’t meet the goals we mentioned above such as maintaining your restaurant’s reputation and getting back to the business of serving meals.
#5: Be Calm at All Times
Regardless of what transpires, you want to keep a level head.
You may not like what people are saying about you. It may make you crazy that your customers are upset.
The bottom line is that you don’t ever want to be rude or attack people during a crisis. This puts everyone on edge, and it doesn’t do anything positive for your restaurant.
Do your absolute best to keep calm. Provide empathetic responses to all queries and do everything in your power to respond to each one in the same manner.
#6: Cut Off Social Media Account Access
In the middle of a crisis, you only want approved people to have access to managing your social media accounts as well as your website. (tweet this)
Generally speaking this should only be members of your crisis management team. It’s too easy for well-meaning employees to post something about your restaurant that isn’t in keeping with your crisis management goals or plan.
In fact, while crafting your crisis plan and your team, you might want to take a long, hard look at who has access to your social media accounts. This can help you avoid an extended crisis down the road.
#7: Manage Your Communications
When drafting a plan for your crisis communications, follow this checklist as best practice:
- Ensure your messaging is clear and concise. Put one person in charge of disseminating all print and digital communication.
- Assign one person to do all communicating with the news media.
- Have someone monitoring all social media platforms and online news outlets for mentions of your restaurant. Consider setting up a Google alert.
- Ensure your entire staff knows your plan.
- Give your staff a set of “talking points,” but ask them to refrain from speaking or posting anything about what’s going on. Ask them to refer all questions to your crisis management team.
- Contain the messaging and maintain all control.
- Apologize when necessary.
Crisis management is always challenging, but as long as you’re prepared, and you use these seven tools to help with restaurant crisis management, your restaurant is well-poised to weather the worst circumstances.
To sum it up, create a crisis management team, make a crisis management plan and make sure you control the narrative. This helps contain leaks and misstatements and ensures you walk away from the crisis with your restaurant’s brand and trustworthiness intact.
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