How to Manage a PR (Public Relations) Disaster

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shutterstock_150516839Image these two scenarios:

  1. Your restaurant was reviewed by a local food critic. Although the critic wrote about many highlights of your restaurant, they’ve also written a few negatives as well.
  2. The local news station calls and says a customer (erroneously of course) contacted the station and reported that your food isn’t made fresh to order, as promised.

For credibility and to get the reporter’s (blogger’s) attention, it’s recommended that the restaurant owner or general manager handle the communications directly with the writer or reporter.  This is not a situation where a member of your staff should handle the conversation, even if they know the situation the best.

With a few simple and quick steps, the issue can easily be put to rest and the crisis can be avoided.  Here are a few tips to handling a PR crisis and what a restaurant owner should know:

  1. Research Fully: Learn all of the facts of the alleged issue.  Do the research on what happened, why the customer is upset, and assess the situation with an appropriate response.  It’s important to know all the facts before you talk to the reporter.  It’s their job to get the news, and you will never know what they will ask you.  Be prepared with the facts.
  2. Tell Your Side of the Story: Don’t ignore the issue even if you know it’s not true.  It’s important to talk to the reporter to explain your side of the story.  Prepare your statement and explain the details when asked.
  3. Follow-up with the Reporter: To ensure the reporter has all the facts, follow up with her/him to ensure the facts were communicated correctly.  They may have additional questions, or in the best scenario, the information provided has proved there isn’t a story.  It will put your mind to rest.

Any PR crisis can turn into a positive for a restaurant.  Customers, local reporters and bloggers provide an opportunity to get the word out about your business and reach more potential customers.  Embrace it; don’t resist this exposure regardless of the situation.  Look at this as media that you did not have to pay for to help you run a successful business.  You can read more on using Public Relations in your restaurant in Restaurant.com’s e-Book, A Restaurant’s Guide to Digital Marketing, in the Digital Public Relations (Including Blogs) for Restaurants chapter on page 28.