Protect your reputation by preparing for a public relations (PR) crisis in advance. Examples of restaurant “crises” that can result in bad press include foodborne illness outbreaks, health code or safety violations, employee misbehavior, layoffs, negative reviews, bad customer experiences and lawsuits. If you manage a crisis well, you can turn it to your advantage and actually improve customer loyalty and positive brand awareness.
Fix The Problem
You cannot begin to respond to bad press until you have taken the initial steps to fix the problem. This will provide you with some leverage to restore your restaurant’s positive image.
Choose A Spokesperson
Putting a consistent face behind your crisis response will make consumers more receptive of your message.
Speak With Employees
All of your employees, including waitstaff, chefs and managers, should know exactly how to handle questions about the crisis. Be sure that employees are not making things worse by propagating the rumors. You may need to teach your employees a canned respond, or tell them not to speak to the press at all, but to refer all questions to the management and spokesperson.
Do not let yourself get bogged down in the decision-making process, or it will be too late to recover your reputation. Your response to bad press should be disseminated in the same mediums through which the crisis news is being spread. For example, if someone writes a negative editorial in the local paper, respond in turn with your own editorial.
The worst thing you can do is argue or plead “not guilty.” If your restaurant has done something wrong, own up to it and apologize. You will win points for being honest.
Encourage An Open Forum
Make yourself available to questions or comments from the public. Do not stop answering phone calls or refuse to speak to the press. This will only make you look more guilty and dishonest.
Reinforce Your Original Brand Concept
When a crisis occurs, your brand will temporarily be connected with the negative press you are getting. It is imperative that you step up your marketing and emphasize your good qualities and selling points to re-associate them with your brand.
Contribute To The Community
Be a good corporate neighbor. The more positive contributions you make to the community, the more likely they will eventually overshadow whatever negative press you have received.
Reassess Your Marketing Plan
You may need to change your advertisements or marketing materials to downplay whatever you have been accused of. For example, if you run a burger joint that has recently come under public scrutiny for the high fat and calorie content of its meals, feature your healthier items in your advertising and menu materials.
Learn from Your Mistakes
There is a good chance that the PR crisis resulted from a flaw in the way you run your business. In addition to merely fixing the problem, good restaurants learn from their mistakes. Be ready to change any major aspect of your business that makes you vulnerable to the crisis.