How to Prepare Your Restaurant for a PR Crisis

PR Plan

Running a restaurant is a big responsibility. You have employees, vendors, and customers all counting on you to succeed. This pressure is magnified even more so when there’s an unexpected crisis thrown into the mix.

Whether it’s a health hazard or an earthquake, your restaurant needs to be prepared to deal with the fallout and snap into crisis mode. These crises happen without a moment’s notice and can be catastrophic if not dealt with correctly. So how does your restaurant begin to prepare for the unexpected?

Avoid Being the “Ostrich”:

When a crisis does strike, your restaurant needs to be fast-acting to acknowledge the issue and take the appropriate steps to work towards a solution.

The very last thing you want your organization to be facing at the height of a disaster is a media outrage because you didn’t make any sort of statement. There is no playing the ostrich here; you cannot stick your head in the sand and pretend your problems will go away. You need to be clear, succinct, and precise with your plan internally and to the public. This can be done with a crisis management agenda.

Creating this plan can help you remain calm in times of crises which, in turn, can lead to better decision-making. Every restaurant should have an agenda for managing critical situations, the size of which will depend on the size of your operation and the issue at hand.

How to Compile a Crisis Management Agenda:

  • Brainstorm the risks faced by your restaurant such as food safety, insurance liabilities, and potential disasters (before they occur).
  • Create a checklist or plan of what should happen when an emergency happens.
  • Designate a task force of individuals who will carry out the step-by-step plan.
  • Delegate tasks and information to be disseminated internally and externally of the restaurant.
  • Identify key organizations that need to be notified such as fire, police, and ambulance services.
  • Make a list of audiences that need to be informed: reporters, legal entities, insurance companies. Don’t forget how you plan to address employees and the public.

PlanThis agenda should be shared with upper level management and designated employees that are appointed in the agenda. For an effective strategy, this information can easily be spread with Google Docs. Using Google Docs can lessen paper usage and, in case of a fire, will ensure you plan stays intact.

Having a crisis management procedure in place can lessen panic and give you a roadmap for navigating the seas of this crisis.

Keep Your Emotions in Check:

It’s without a doubt that going through a crisis that puts your livelihood in jeopardy is a stressful time. It’s also a crucial time to remain level-headed throughout the crisis. By acknowledging the issues your restaurant is facing and following your crisis management agenda, you can use your team to direct your efforts appropriately, even if you’re still in shock while the situation unfolds.

Not keeping your emotions in check can cause more issues if you act on them. Instead of acting brashly, use your emotions to convey sincerity and genuine concern. Maintaining a calm and professional demeanor can not only begin to fix customer perception but also inspire a more civil view for employees.

Emotions

For example, Applebee’s had a tumultuous public relations nightmare in 2013. Long story short, Applebee’s fired a staff member for posting a negative comment that a customer had written (due to a privacy violation) and then praised another staff member through a post that also had the customer’s name. Applebee’s posted on Facebook stating the reason they had fired the first staff member, which invited many comments from followers. In the middle of the night, the Applebee’s social media team posted an update on the post, which got lost in the 17,000 comments currently on the post. The social media team began tagging the people who had commented and copy/pasting the update their comments, leading to more heckling and an additional 16,000 comments. The social media team could have waited until a reasonable hour and posted a new update, not a comment, instead of adding fuel to the fire.

Moral of the story? Think before you act impulsively.

Say Sorry and Mean It:

Apologizing is not an easy step for any business, but it is a necessary evil in trying to repair the public’s trust. While making an apology, focus on being sincere. After all, what is an apology without feeling the deepest regret about the actions that occurred? With an honest-to-goodness apology to the affected parties, a business is taking ownership of the situation and can give it credibility.

micIn making this heartfelt apology, you will also want to take timing into account. If a crisis occurs, a restaurant’s timely apology is important in keeping customers on their side. Even if your team is working behind the scenes to better the situation, it is imperative that these actions are communicated and not done in silence. The longer an apology takes, the less customers will take it seriously.

Go further for your customers and add a side of great customer service to your apology. From late 2015 to early 2016, about 40 Chipotle customers were sickened from E. coli contaminants; a tough blow to a restaurant chain that prided themselves on fresh food free of genetically-modified organisms. Making an apology statement turned advertisement in major newspapers nationwide, Chipotle founder, Steve Ells, addressed the outbreaks, apologized, and made promises of more thorough food safety standards. To bring people back into its restaurants, Chipotle launched their brief rewards program, direct mail offers, and mobile promotions to earn free burritos.

Unfortunately, the world can change at the drop of a hat: people make snap judgments, tectonic plates collide, and food is not handled with proper care. But that doesn’t mean your restaurant can’t be prepared to combat these crises when they happen. Having a plan, keeping your emotions in check, and truly apologizing are crucial elements in preparing your restaurant for a future crisis. Remember the best offense is a good defense.

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Mobile Wallet Basics for Restaurants

Mobile Wallet Basics

Your smartphone is again evolving in usefulness.  At a point when you likely can’t imagine not having this device which serves as your phone, computer, planner, and social connection, it can now be your wallet.  In the restaurant industry, this concept poses a new adventure for owners because as with any new technology, the increased appeal to customers creates a massive adoption of the latest fad and convenience.  Your best bet is to become familiar with this concept and decide if you want to jump on the bandwagon to offer this new convenience to your customers.

What is a “mobile wallet”?

Termed “mobile wallet” or “digital wallet”, your smartphone, tablet, or smartwatch becomes the digital equivalent to that bulky wallet you carry around in your purse or back pocket.  Instead of pulling out a credit card to make a purchase, you just pull out your smartphone and pay with it.  This concept offers consumers two main benefits: convenience and security.  These benefits, as explained in a great article called Contactless Payments are Here. Are You Ready? by Brant Schelhaas from Vantiv Integrated Payments, are detailed as follows:

  • Convenience
    • No longer digging through a purse or bulky wallet to find cash or a credit card. Just grab your smartphone for payment.  Smartphones are more readily accessible these days than a card.
  • Security
    • More secure due to the fact that the technology uses encryption to help securely transmit data. Encryption is the process of encoding messages or information in such a way that only authorized parties can read it.
    • The customer never has to hand over a physical card therefore less likely to leave their card behind
    • Many contactless payment methods offer advanced identification technologies, like fingerprint readers
    • Payment networks that process contactless payments have the ability to detect attempts to use the same transaction information more than once
    • Contactless payments do not require the cardholder’s name to be passed between the card and the terminal
    • Many contactless payments do not use the customer’s actual account number when processing a payment

In addition to these customer benefits, Brant Schelhaas discusses the benefits to business owners.

  • Due to the benefits that are offered to customers, there has been and will continue to be a large increase in customer use. For those businesses that accept this new technology that customers are embracing, they will have a competitive edge over those who do not.
  • Contactless payments process faster than traditional payment methods. This means shorter lines and better customer service especially through peak times.
  • Contactless payments make business owners less vulnerable since they do not transmit the customer’s card information to the POS system.
  • Other benefits not listed in the article include:
    • Less wear and tear on your equipment due to no contact
    • Paper receipts are not required (unless requested) so there is less expense for you
    • More focus on selling versus handling cash or a card which can lead to more unplanned purchases
    • Less cash flow through your business

How do mobile wallets work?

A wallet begins with the download of a smartphone app that holds and stores debit, credit, and even loyalty card information for purchases in-store and through any virtual avenue.  Some smartphones already come with a wallet for your convenience but other apps can be downloaded if you prefer to not use the one on your phone. Below is a chart listing and offering basic information about some, but not all, of the best mobile wallets for 2016 ranked from bestcompany.com, an online company who reports real, unbiased reviews based only on consumer ratings, opinions, and experiences.  We have included the top seven of nineteen wallets listed in the article for your review in addition to some other apps on the list that are quite popular and frequently used:

Samsung Pay
  • Payment using a compatible Samsung Galaxy device
  • Swipe up to launch the app, secure with your fingerprint, and hover over the card reader to pay
  • Ability to add membership and loyalty cards
  • High-quality security
Apple Pay
  • Payment using an iPhone, Apple Watch, or iPad
  • Setup is easy with Wallet, preloaded on several apple devices
  • High-quality security with Touch ID
  • If your device is lost or stolen, use Find My iPhone or iCloud to stop the ability to use your phone for purchases
Android Pay
  • Payment using Android devices
  • Ability to add membership and loyalty cards
  • Setup is easy as it comes preloaded on some Android devices
  • High-quality security
  • If your device is lost or stolen, use Android Device Manager to instantly lock your device and secure it with a new password
Moven
  • Available on iOS and Android devices
  • Moven provides a digital bank account paired with an app to help you track your finances in real time and manage your spending
  • Can pair with your current Moven bank account and cards or you can link to your current bank account and cards
Level Up
  • Payment using iPhone, Android or Windows Phone
  • Get an instant digital receipt
  • Offers rewards for use so you can save money when you try new places and upon return
  • Engineered for security
PayPal
  • Pioneer of mobile payments
  • Send and receive payments using your desktop or iOS, Android, or Blackberry device
  • Compatible with lots of apps to make fast payments
  • Send a request for money with an e-mail or phone number
  • High-quality security
  • Free sign up, link bank info, debit and credit cards

 

Other popular apps that are frequently used:

Google Wallet
  • Send and receive money using select Android and iOS devices as well as on your desktop
  • Linked to your debit card or bank account
  • Google Wallet Fraud Protection and a PIN number for protection; high-quality security
  • If your device is lost or stolen, you can instantly remove access to your account at myaccount.google.com
Capital One
  • Payment using select Android or iPhone devices
  • Full access by Capital One credit card customers in good standing.  Capital One Bank and Capital One 360 debit card customers can use the app to receive real-time notifications, digitize gift cards, and view account balances and transactions; Wallet was designed to complement their app.
  • Instant purchase notifications and receipt capture

Once the chosen app is downloaded, the next step is to input personal payment information into the app for future use.  This can easily be done by following the instructions within the app paired with having access to your debit, credit, and/or loyalty card information as well as with your bank account number and routing number.

When loaded up with your personal information, your mobile wallet is ready to use.  Yet, not all stores/restaurants accept contactless payment.  Search on-line or in the app as to find out which establishments accept these types of payments.  Or, ask ahead.  You can also look for the contactless payment symbol within the store or restaurant as shown below.

To complete a mobile wallet transaction, the transaction requires two things:  a smartphone and an industry standard point-of-sale terminal that uses Near-Field Communication (NFC), a wireless connectivity technology that enables devices to communicate.  The smartphone just needs to be placed within 2-4 inches of the terminal and payment is completed.  Most smartphones are now equipped with NFC technology yet not all stores and restaurants have the equipment for this communication.  As time passes, this will most likely change.  With the concept of mobile wallets on the rise, customers are looking for convenience and speed with payments therefore requiring stores and restaurants to conform to these new payment trends.

How can my restaurant start accepting payments with mobile wallets?

With mobile payments on the rise, restaurants are looking to take the steps needed to adopt this new technology.  Here are some steps you can take to get the ball rolling:

Review your average sales traffic, customer base, and demographic area that you serve to determine if contactless payments are right for you.

Contact your payment provider to determine if your current point of sale terminal is already NFC/contactless payment-capable. If it is, ask your provider to enable it so that you can begin accepting contactless payments.  If it is not capable, find out what you need to do and the cost involved in changing out your equipment so that you have the ability to offer contactless payments.

Once the decision is made to offer contactless payments, develop a schedule of implementation and train your employees on how to use the contactless payment equipment and systems. Demonstration is always a great way to train so a mock set up to this process is ideal.  This would also be a great time to test the process to make sure that if any changes need made, they are done before offering it live.

When you are ready to offer contactless payments, it’s time to let your customers know! Send out an e-mail blast, communicate on all of your social media platforms, and order decals for the different payment methods that you are offering to put them up in your establishment’s windows.

These steps may sound simple but the process does take time and effort on your part to adopt.  Your current payment provider will be your biggest asset in this transition so working with them to assist you during your transition is key.

Will you jump on the bandwagon?

Mobile technology has really changed our lives.  Our phones have become more of a need than a desire because of the increased usefulness that it offers to our daily lives.  Because of this, you rarely find anyone without it.  When you add the option of using your phone as a wallet, an even closer attachment to a phone will be found and the benefits that it offers will guarantee it.  As a restaurant owner, will you jump on the bandwagon and accept contactless payments in your restaurant?  It’s a serious option to consider and one that offers benefits all around.

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Review of the 2013 National Restaurant Association Show

Now that we’ve had a chance to digest all the excitement (and endless food samples) of the 2013 National Restaurant Association (NRA) Show, we put our thoughts together to share this brief recap of the 4-day, fun-filled international restaurant and hospitality industry tradeshow.

Walking into the magnificent McCormick Place for the first time was breathtaking. Its design so elegant yet massive, as the floor-to-ceiling windows welcomed in natural light and beautiful views of both a quiet sailboat-painted Lake Michigan and also the urban skyline of nearby downtown Chicago. Long rows of escalators inside the Grand Concourse helped move people up and down the five levels and bring people from the North and South buildings together. (The center actually has four cutting edge buildings, connected by beautiful sky bridges.) With 2.6 million total square feet of exhibit space, 170 meeting rooms, and assembly seating for up to 18,000 people, McCormick Place is enormous and versatile, and it’s a great choice for events, such as the NRA Show.  Decorated with an eclectic art collection, with pieces by artists Dale Chihuly and Tim Prentice to name two, that speak to the city’s architecture and culture, the center intrigues the senses from inside and out.  And I haven’t even mentioned that I saw one McDonald’s, two Starbucks, a few souvenir shops, a market cafe, and a food court that offered convenience to those of us who were planted there for 9-hour days.

South Hall’s Level 3 was clearly the most coveted (and largest) exhibition space with big brands such as Coca-Cola, Rubbermaid, and Anheuser-Busch piquing attendee interest with large, flashy displays and enticing giveaways. Across the hall in the North Building, Levels 1 and 3 were also filled with industry-related exhibitor booths, all vying for the attention of the 58,000+ passer-byes. With over 2,000 booths in over 900 product categories, the tradeshow offerings ran the gamut from cheese, salsa, and wine to rapid cook ovens, silverware, and of course, restaurant furniture.  Whether it was marketing and HR resources or the latest in green technology, a restaurant owner could seek out many new tidbits to help them run an efficient, trendy, and profitable business.  It’s a four day event for a reason; it’s massive!  If you’re breaking ground on a new restaurant or have always dreamed about becoming a restauranteur, we would recommend attending the NRA Show in order to amass the excess of product information, resources, trends, and advice which is contained under one roof.  Beware, the surplus of food samples, types of equipment, flatware companies, industry statistics, and recommendations may become overwhelming (heck the 25 yogurt vendors alone could send you into a tizzy), but the opportunity to sort through all the information can be very beneficial in making educated business decisions.  Plus, you’ll bring home a bag filled with tchotchkes and schwag.

Among the exhibitors, you may find a surprise or two awaiting you. We rounded the corner once and found Captain Sig Hansen of the Deadliest Catch signing autographs and taking photos with big-grinned fans, like our very own Dave DiSanti.

In between walking the endless aisles of exhibitors, the NRA also hosted 70+ educational sessions.  These sessions covered topics such as menu engineering, social and overall marketing, economic outlooks, managing staff within your workplace culture, and just so much more.  Plus, attendees had the opportunity to hear from celebrity speakers, such as Anthony Bourdain and the CEO of Starbucks, Howard Schultz.

From inside our booth, we were able to survey the show attendees on their need for restaurant furniture either now or in the future. What’s more, we had the chance to really talk with them, form some personal relationships, and get to know our target audience a little bit better.  Understanding their perspective (and long list of balls they juggle on a daily basis) helps us become more than just another vendor to them, but their ally as they start or manage their restaurant, their dream, and the way they make their living. We met many passionate people who are in the business of making great food, satisfying other people, and creating wonderful places to work or dine.  Smart and savvy, with custom options on their mind, today’s customer is helping drive our business where it needs to go into the future.  For those lessons, we’re grateful.

We had such a great time, we’ve already reserved our 2014 NRA Show booth!  We invite you to join us in the windy city next May 17-20. See ya there!

Did you attend this year’s show? Let us know what you thought!

See our photos from our trip here!