by Brian Rosen
President of Gleason Technology
It’s not news to anyone in the Foodservice industry that there are many regulatory compliances to be met and procedures to be followed to ensure food safety. And for good reason. Foodborne illnesses can be deadly and are an ongoing threat to public health. A fact that is taken quite seriously by the industry. But in rare instances something can go wrong, despite the many fail safes in place, and a customer may become ill as a result. Of course, eliminating the threat, remedying the situation and taking care of the customer are the top priorities. But every restaurant and grocery store, every business with a kitchen, and every brand in the Foodservice industry must also be ready to protect itself from the viral aftermath on social media.
It can be unnerving to realize that your hard-earned reputation can be ruined by a single ill customer with a social media account, but there are a couple steps you can take to protect yourself. The first focuses on preparation. It is critical that you have a crisis communications plan in place now. Don’t wait until you are in crisis mode. Even if you already have a plan in place, ask yourself when it was last updated. Social media preferences and practices change on a monthly basis and it’s important that you stay current. The viral aspect of social media means it may move faster than you can internally and spiral out of control fast. For that reason, you should consider seeking help from a crisis communication professional. After all, as we see every week from one celebrity or another, a misstep on social media can be more damning than the original offense. Again, establish such a relationship now rather than waiting until a problem arises.
The second path to pursue is one of prevention. It is to simply update the food safety protocols that you currently have in place and the tools you use to get the job done. Just as social media is constantly changing, so are the technologies that help ensure food safety. The way you’ve been doing things for years may not be the best way to do things today. Admitting that is an important first step. Encourage your team to look at new digital and mobile solutions that can make monitoring food safety easier, more accurate, more reliable and more defendable should it ever come to that. If you don’t find solutions better than what you currently have, stick with what works. But you owe it your business to be constantly striving for the best ways to address food safety.
While we have been focusing on one negative aspect of social media, it is important to point out that the platform can also be used in a positive, proactive manner by promoting the priority your business places on food safety. It is a position that reflects positively on any brand and lets customers, and regulators, know that you are doing your best.
Brian Rosen is President of Gleason Technology, developer and owner of the RiskLimiter brand of inspection software known for lowering the cost of risk management. This includes their newest product, RiskLimiter Kitchen, a fully-automated, app-based cooling log platform that provides real-time temperature reports, out-of-compliance alerts and suggested corrective actions. RiskLimiter Kitchen launches in January of 2019 and can be purchased a la carte or as part of the full suite of RiskLimiter software.
Companies utilizing RiskLimiter software products include Whole Foods Market, 365 by Whole Foods Market, Piggly Wiggly, Harmon’s, Cardenas, Mi Pueblo Food Center and Northgate Market.