How restaurants can handle a PR crisis

The restaurant industry is  cutthroat. Some don’t make it beyond the first year of operating, while others are out of business within a couple of years . There are food safety concerns which have intensified during the pandemic. Restaurants are trying to think of new ways to serve customers in a post-pandemic world. Shaping public opinion amidst other challenges is particularly difficult. This is where PR steps in to ensure effective dialogue between restaurants and their target audiences in times of crisis. A timely response to a crisis can help a restaurant come out stronger than ever. Given below are ways to maintain a good reputation while navigating PR crises.

Improved training – Nobody wants to be in the middle of a PR crisis, but it happens. There could be food safety issues, issues involving alcohol, and there could be poor health inspection ratings.  A lot of crisis situations at restaurants can be resolved with training and awareness of standards and protocols, so that they are treated as priority by employees. Different types of training such as customer service training, food safety and cross-contamination training, and training for preventing occupational risks, go a long way to empower employees to manage and resolve unexpected crises.

Create a timeline – Whether a restaurant becomes popular depends on the consumer beliefs around it. Nowadays, timing is everything.  Restaurants should create timelines for their crisis communications plans . A checklist should be ready which includes customized scenarios, and categories whether a PR crisis is high-level or low-level. There should be a ready timeline  that indicates when a given response should be made. For instance, if a crisis continues for long without acknowledgement from a restaurant, customers will post their complaints multiple times on social media. If a business is unsure about how to manage a social media inquiry, a safe response would be to state that the business is looking into the situation. The social media response should do away with any inaccuracies, and be authentic.

Handling protestors – If there are demonstrations and protests, the safety of the employees and guests should be prioritized. Everybody has the right to protest, so if the protestors are respectful, they should be treated with respect. There should also be adequate security measures and a safety plan in place for such situations. Empathy also works well in such situations. If demonstrations happen during summer, demonstrators should be offered water. This gesture would go down as civil in the face of conflict.

Acknowledge and engage – There should be a cut-off point for people who engage in argumentative or ‘trolling’ behavior on social media. Any messages on social media should be precise and concise, and customers should be asked to contact teams directly about any questions around issues that arise. It is better to focus on positives, and to be honest about the steps taken to combat a problem.

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