Crisis Management

Crisis Management is the process of surviving, containing and bringing order to any natural or man-made traumatic incident. It includes planning, recognition, assessment, emergency response, intervention and follow-up procedures.

Members of Restaurant Success Monthly can download a comprehensive Crisis Management Planning guide by clicking here

Here are 12 steps that can get you started in developing a plan of action for your establishment.

  • Assemble a team. In a small restaurant this might be the owner and chef, but two heads are better than one.
  • Put together a list of emergency names and contact numbers and post it by the phone. This should include team members, the health department, inspectors, fire department or any other agencies you feel might be involved in investigating an outbreak. Clearly identify who the official spokesperson will be.
  • Develop step-by-step plans of action.
    Here is an example of what you should have in your crisis management plan for food borne illness:

    • Fill out a foodborne illness report form when a customer calls with a complaint.
    • Isolate the suspect food.
    • Save samples of the food for laboratory testing.
    • Prevent anymore of the suspect food from being sold.
    • Prevent suspect employees from handling the food.
    • Contact team members.
    • Contact your local health department or inspector.

    You should take the time to map out steps like this for any and all potential crisis your business might face. examples: robbery, public employee misconduct, fire, weather related events, etc.

  • Decide beforehand:
    • Who will take charge of managing the crisis?
    • Who should be told about the crisis?
    • Who will your official spokesperson be?
  • Develop a list of questions and answers for the media.
  • Write a sample press release. Have a hard copy and a computer disk in your crisis kit.
  • Assemble a list of local media contacts to call for a press conference or briefing only if it becomes necessary, i.e., you’re getting calls from the media and they need answers!
  • Develop a list of do’s and don’ts on dealing with the media.
  • Be sure your spokesperson is truthful and professional when communicating with the media.
  • Include instructions on communicating with your employees. Provide them with information on their role in the situation and dealing with the media.
  • Assemble all information in a notebook and keep it in a location for ease of use.
  • Test out the plans by running a simulation.

While this is clearly more work on your part, in the long run if you would have a crisis such as a foodborne illness outbreak in your operation this plan could be the difference between staying in business or going under!

Source: Food Safety Illustrated, vol.1, issue 1/Winter 2001

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