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How to Write a Crisis Management Plan for Your Restaurant

Crises are a major concern for business owners, and they have the power to derail your business and affect your customers. While no business wants a crisis to happen to them, if one does, you need to be prepared and have a plan in place to deal with it efficiently and ensure that you get things back up-and-running as quickly as possible. One way to prepare for a possible crisis is to create a crisis management plan. We're going to break down what types of crises happen in foodservice, why you should have a crisis plan, and the six steps you need to follow to ensure your restaurant is prepared.

Types of Crises in Foodservice

Types of Crises in Foodservice

There are many types of negative situations that can arise in different foodservice settings, most of which arise from employees that aren't doing their jobs or not cleaning the kitchen properly, but there are a few types that are more common that others. Here are some of the most common types of crises that happen in foodservice establishments:

  • Something in the Food. This type of crisis involves something getting into your food that shouldn't be there, such as a stray hair, a bit of dirt that wasn't cleaned off, or a pest that crawled in. While this type of crisis is important, it's less likely to have a major impact on your business than other types.
  • Foodborne Illnesses. Foodborne illnesses and food poisoning are a major concern for every foodservice establishment, and if customers start getting sick after eating at your establishment, it can have major repercussions.
  • Poor Health Inspection Ratings. Most health inspection scores are posted publicly, so if your business gets a poor rating, word can spread quickly.

Why Your Business Should Have a Crisis Management Plan

Why Your Business Should Have a Crisis Management Plan

While no one wants a crisis to happen in their business, there is always a chance something will go wrong. And, if it does, you want ensure that your business is prepared. Creating a crisis management plan makes sure that you are always in control of the situation. Being in control of the situation makes it easy for you to affect the outcome and reduce the damage the crisis does to your business and your brand.

6 Steps to Create a Crisis Management Plan

There are six main steps that you need to follow to prepare your business in the event of a crisis. You will also want to run your staff through your crisis management plan before any potential crisis happens, so everyone is informed and knows how to react.

1. Create Your Crisis Management Team

If a crisis arises, you want to have a team of trusted employees that will handle the situation, so you should create a crisis management team. This will usually include people like the owner and managers, but it can also include your executive chef, sous chef, or any long-term employees that you trust. You will also want to elect one person to be the spokesperson, and they will be the person that handles all communication so your business has a consistent voice and message.

2. Set Up an Internal Messaging System

As the crisis unfolds, you want to make sure that everyone is on the same page at all times. One way to ensure that everyone stays up-to-date on any updates is to create a messaging system. Create a document with the phone numbers and email addresses of everyone on your crisis management team, so if there are any changes, someone can send a message to everyone easily.

3. Stay Ahead of the Issue

6 Steps to Create a Crisis Management Plan

When it comes to crisis management, you want to be proactive, not reactive, meaning that you want to stay ahead of the issue and ensure that any news or updates are coming from you and your crisis management team, not from outside sources. You can get ahead of the crisis by offering regular updates on your social media pages. Keeping your crisis management team consistently updated is crucial for this step.

4. Be Upfront and Honest

Possibly the most important step and aspect of crisis management, your business needs to be upfront and honest with your customers. If you made a mistake or something happened, you need to admit fault. While it may make your business look bad, your customers will appreciate the honesty. Plus, if you try and deceive your customers and the truth comes out later, it will have major negative consequences for your business.

For example, if your business gets a low score after a health inspection, rather than denying it, you want to accept it and be open and honest with your customers and stakeholders. Then, you can get to the next step.

5. Apologize and Outline How You're Going to Fix the Situation

After you've explained the situation thoroughly and truthfully to your customers and stakeholders, you should apologize and outline how you're going to fix the situation. For example, if your business has an outbreak of food poisoning, you want to show your customers not only that you're sorry for any potential harm, but that you're also disposing of the infected ingredients and that you're taking steps to prevent it from ever happening again. While saying your sorry is important, it's showing your customers that you're taking steps to improve the situation that will win back their trust.

6. Stay Calm

While this is the final step, it's one that you need to think about throughout the entire crisis. Many restaurant owners and managers can see crises as personal attacks, but you must remember to stay calm and think things through rationally. Staying calm is especially important because acting irrationally can make a bad situation worse. In addition to staying calm, you want to think every action through carefully and make sure that you're staying consistent with your responses and actions.


While no one wants a crisis at their restaurant, it's important to have a crisis management plan in place so your business can react swiftly and correctly if one does occur. We outlined 6 steps you need to follow to react to a crisis effectively, but the main takeaway is that your crisis management team needs to stay calm, make sure that everyone is informed, and be honest with your customers. If you follow these 6 simple steps, you can ensure that your business will recover from a potential crisis and get back to business as usual as quickly as possible.

Posted in: Management & Operation | By Richard Traylor
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