While D.C. is no stranger to scandal, usually the newsworthy stuff happens in the politics or government sphere, but the truth is, no industry is off limits, including the food industry.
You might have heard about the recent salmonella outbreak at D.C.’s Fig & Olive..if not, the short story is that out of the 70 people who called D.C.’s Department of Health leading up to Labor Day weekend with reported symptoms, all had patronized Fig & Olive.
Not exactly good for a restaurant’s reputation. Of course, something like this isn’t the nail in the coffin (look at Blue Bell’s triumphant return from their listeria outbreak, which caused their ice-cream to stay off the shelves for months), but there’s certainly a right way and a wrong way to do crisis management.
So, in the spirit of Olivia Pope, here’s the right way to handle a scandal in your restaurant:
Be the One of the First to Break the News
Sometimes you won’t know about something bad that relates your restaurant until a news source breaks the story unexpectedly. However, if you hear about something that could put your restaurant in a negative light, it’s better to be the one to break your own story so you can control the message.
Post social media updates, send out a email to your list, schedule an interview with a neighborhood blog/news station, whatever steps feel appropriate, make sure to cover your bases and be upfront and honest with the situation.
Don’t Go Silent
Yes, it’s awkward and sometimes embarrassing to confess and say your restaurant messed up (if that’s the case), but no matter what the scenario is, and no matter how the story breaks to the public, never remain silent about it.
Staying silent implies dishonesty or that you’re unapologetic regarding the scenario. Unless you’ve been advised by legal counsel to not talk about an issue, the best thing you can do is to broadcast your message far and wide to show that you’re working on solving the problem with the customer’s best interest in mind.
Keep Lines of Communication Open
Being open and honest about a scandal isn’t just in the announcement, it’s also in the days and weeks that follow.
Make sure you continue to post updates and keep your customers informed while you work through the problem, and also be sure to stay on top of responses to social media posts and comments left on your social profiles.
This kind of responsiveness during a crisis is what allows your credibility and reputation to remain intact as well as build trust with future customers.
Take the Focus Off the Money
Obviously you care about how a crisis is going to affect your bottom line, we would think you were weird if you didn’t care about that, but now is the time to let the overwhelming money thoughts take a little bit of a back seat so you can focus on your customers.
Making your customer’s best interest your top priority will shine through in your communication during and after the crisis, and it will definitely result in a more positive outcome post-crisis. With this in mind, don’t worry so much about money lost, and think about how your plan can help retain customers.
Now that you know how to handle a scandal, here’s to hoping you never have to put our advice in to action. However, even if you don’t have a big crisis on your hands, these tips are also ones you can put in to action if you experience a harsh online review or have an unexpected incident happen in your restaurant.
Remember, you can’t always control when bad things happen, but you can have some control in the aftermath.