The restaurant industry has weathered significant challenges in recent years, with the initial blow being the global pandemic. This crisis brought about labor shortages, supply chain disruptions and inflation, placing many restaurant owners under considerable financial strain. However, amid these adversities, many operators demonstrated resilience by swiftly adapting and innovating to save not just their businesses, but also their reputations. Unfortunately, not all establishments fared as well.
As we move beyond the pandemic, the outlook appears more optimistic—U.S. restaurant employment reached pre-pandemic levels in September for the first time in three-and-a-half years—but another crisis could arise at any moment. While the next crisis may not reach the epic proportions of a global health emergency, it’s crucial for restaurateurs to be prepared for any crisis, no matter its scale.
So, what exactly is a crisis preparedness plan, and how can you craft one for your restaurant? Follow these steps to create a framework to address the concerns of both internal and external stakeholders with accurate, timely information.
1. Evaluate the Risks
The first step in constructing a crisis preparedness plan is conducting a comprehensive risk assessment. Study your competitors to understand how they responded to a crisis. These insights will help you identify potential threats and unique stressors specific to your concept and business model, forming the foundation of your plan.
2. Establish a Framework and Protocol
Develop a comprehensive document that will serve as your universal guide and action plan for preparing, navigating, and evaluating your organization's response during a crisis. This framework will equip your team members to follow steps based on the situation's severity. It should also define key roles and responsibilities within your team, establish clear communication protocols between departments, provide a reporting structure like a decision tree, and include templates and tools for communication. Additionally, outline how to mobilize a digital or physical "war room" when needed.
3. Test Your Plan
With a solid foundation in place, it's crucial to put your plan to the test. Schedule dedicated simulations of a crisis and run through the protocol as if it were a real scenario. This exercise will help identify weaknesses and enable necessary improvements, ensuring that your protocol runs smoothly when a crisis hits.
Now, when the next crisis strikes, you can focus more time on what truly matters—ensuring your kitchen consistently delivers exceptional dishes and your guests enjoy a memorable dining experience.
Kellyn Curtis is a senior vice president for Peppercomm, an integrated communications and marketing agency headquartered in New York City. Kellyn is a former journalist turned public relations professional with a strong background in the lifestyle, food and beverage and travel spaces.