Top tips for responding to a crisis

Photo: Bloomberg Business

Photo: Bloomberg Business

As you probably saw last year during Chipotle’s ongoing coverage in the news, food contamination is a serious problem for restaurants and food establishments. From public apologies to recalls to closures, the way companies respond to a crisis shapes their brand for years to come. However, we know that the idea of handling a crisis is daunting at best and neglected at worst. While this article won’t help you prepare 100% for a crisis, it will get you thinking about it and hopefully, a plan to become prepared.

Let’s start with some basics

How should I define a crisis?

When asked, we say a crisis is any situation that threatens the integrity or reputation of your company — often brought on by adverse or negative media attention that could be attributed to your company.  It can also be a situation where your company does not react appropriately to a specific situation.

Here are a few examples:

  • A guest claims that they got food poisoning after dining in your establishment
  • Your delivery driver was involved in an accident that occurred because he was (texting, drinking, talking on the phone) instead of driving
  • Someone in the kitchen snaps a photo of a frustrated chef spitting in the food of a difficult customer

And the list could go on….

“Hmm…. That sounds awful.” It could be. Or it could be an instance where your business evolves and shows your customers and community how committed, thoughtful and proactive you are when dealing with a mistake.

You need a plan

“Ok, that sounds better.” It does! Since you’re halfway sold on the idea of being prepared, we’re going to give you three more reasons you should develop a crisis communications plan:  

  1.  If you’re prepared, you’ll be able to handle the situation with calm and clarity, having already thought through the scenarios.
  2. You’ll be able to respond quickly, effectively and accurately — the best way to mitigate the crisis with as little damage as possible.
  3. You’ll be more likely to do the right thing.  Your response will be driven by compassion versus fear and you’ll be compelled to make the right decisions (as hard as they may be) to rectify the situation. Think about Chipotle closing its doors for a period of time. It will demonstrate your commitment and concern, and most importantly, your viability and ability to bounce back.

When do I start?

How about now?! Since you’re on board with the idea, we think it’s the perfect time to share the three most important things you can do now!

  1. Decide you are going to create a crisis plan.
  2. Find a consultant or a service that can help you create it.
  3. Set a date for when your crisis plan will be completed and let your team know that it’s coming!

In so many instances, we don’t act because we don’t know how to act appropriately or because it feels too hard. We assure you — the hard stuff is behind you already, too — you started a business or are running a business and dealing with mini crises all day long.  Dealing with a larger crisis is in your wheelhouse –don’t be afraid to open the door.


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