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October's Featured Speaker: Eden Gillott Bowe

The Real Life Olivia Pope 
 

Crash Course in Crisis PR: What to Do When the Soup Hits the Fan

“Am I putting myself at risk eating there? When do I know if it’s safe again? Can I trust that I’ll get good service?”

These are only a few thoughts that run through customers’ minds when they hear about lapses in safety or quality. No one wants to be in the hot seat and have to explain their way out.

Contrary to popular belief, not all of our clients call on us for crises, and most call us for issues that aren’t media-related at all. Even if the media isn’t involved, your customers will care.

BEFORE A CRISIS
Restaurants are no stranger to mishaps and upset customers (sometimes through no fault of your own). It’s Murphy’s Law. That’s why toast has a tendency to land butter-side down.

Plan. There are so many ways things can go wrong between your vendors, suppliers, employees, and customers. Be prepared now, and you can rest easier later. 

Don’t end up on the wrong side of reviews, the media, or the law, scrambling to clean up a mess you weren’t ready for.

Breathe. It’s terrifying when everything seems to be going wrong. Don’t lose composure, or mistakes will happen. How you react during the first few moments is critical -- it sets the tone for all that follows.

A bakery was involved in a recall after a vendor sold it contaminated flour. Instead of scrambling in a panic, they had a plan and called us. We took over communications and reassured their customers. Business was back to normal within hours.

DURING A CRISIS
Don’t focus solely on putting out the current fire. You must remember about its effects on your long-term strategy. Otherwise, all of your efforts will be for naught.

Inform. When people are scared, they crave answers. Don’t leave them hungry. Otherwise, they’ll speculate (which is often worse than reality). Inform your audiences early and often.

Reassure. Customers need to be reassured. When there’s a threat to food safety, the public cares about one thing: How does it affect me? You have many audiences: vendors, suppliers, employees, customers, investors, and the media. They have different concerns, but your messaging must be consistent.

A restaurant chain lost 60% of its employees overnight as immigration officials conducted an I-9 audit. They reassured the clientele and others that they valued all their employees and that there wouldn’t be an interruption in service. Not only did the restaurant not lose customers, but business was so brisk that it was able to expand.

AFTER A CRISIS
Congratulations! The immediate threat is over. Now what?

Learn from what happened. Don’t block the incident out of your memory. Examine what you can do better in the future. How can you stop the issue from happening again? How can you improve your response? How can you be a better restaurant?

Connect with Eden at eden@gillottcommunications.com or www.gillottcommunications.com.

 


More about Eden Gillott Bowe:
Eden Gillott Bowe resolves issues both in and outside the media’s glare -- from recalls and celebrity scandals to investigations and major management changes. She’s worked in Manhattan, Seoul, and Los Angeles. She’s been featured in the Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, NPR, Forbes, Huffington Post, Eater, Food Quality & Safety Magazine, and Food Safety Magazine. She writes a weekly blog and is also the author of two upcoming books A Board Member’s Guide to Crisis PR and A Lawyer’s Guide to Crisis PR. 



 
 

 

Archives: 

September's Business Builder - 5 Ways Servers Can Create Better Experiences
August's Business Builder - The Five F's
July's Business Builder - The Secret to Getting More Positive Yelp Reviews for Your Restaurant
June's Business Builder - 6 Restaurant Systems to Use to Avoid Failure
May's Business Builder - Take My Sage Advice: Count the Carrots
April's Business Builder - How to Choose the Foodservice Software that's Right for You
March's Business Builder - Are Restaurateurs Missing the Boat When it Comes to Accomodating Dietary Issues
February's Business Builder: Is Negativity Poisoning Your Workplace
January's Business Builder: 
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November's Business Builder: Top 20 Drivers of Restaurant Loyalty
October's Business Builder - It's In My Blood
September's Business Builder: Stop the Bleeding Now
August Business Builder - LeaderCHOICES - Unlocking Your Leadership Potential
July Business Builder - The Big Money Maker: An Intro to Full-Service and Off-Premise Catering
June Business Builder - Managing Generational Conflict
May Business Builder - Top 5 Reasons Why Your Business Needs a Video
April Business Builder - How to Lead Your Brand Into Menu Labeling
March Business Builder - 5 Best Practices to Improve Morale in Your Restaurant

February Business Builder - Four Steps to Build Your Network to Increase Your Networth by Kathleen Wood
January Business Builder - Defining Your Restaurant's Customer Experience by Joel Cohen
November Business Builder - Gluten-Free Menus Can be a Challenge - Or Not
October Business Builder - Understanding How Far in Advance to Initiate the Lease Renewal Process
September Business Builder - The Key to Running a Profitable Restaurant by David Scott Peters
August Business Builder - Improve Your Menu Engineering by Mark Kelnhofer
July Business BuilderRestaurants that Cater - Set a Minimum to Make You Money by Sandy Korem
June Business Builder - 5 Leadership Traits Required for Growing Restaurant Business by Darren Denington