One of the worst things that could happen to your F&B establishment is a complaint about the safety of your food.
Even years later, Singaporeans still remember stories of a dead rat in a pot of broth, mice scampering in the ceiling of a food court and other “horror” food stories. While your establishment may never make the news for the same reasons as these unfortunate places, a single case of food poisoning may be bad enough.
If it happens to you, remember that there’s no time to wallow in self-pity. Speed and responsiveness are key here, especially in today’s digitally-connected world where bad publicity spreads especially quickly.
We suggest taking these steps to ensure you get back on the right track, keep your safety standards up to par and restore any damage caused to your establishment.
Upon receiving a food poisoning complaint, immediately gather information about the customer. Get their name, contact details and info about their meal (and a receipt, if possible).
Ask the customer to recall what he/she had to eat in the past 24 hours. Do be sincere and genuinely concerned about their well-being when asking these questions.
At the same time, immediately instruct your kitchen supervisor to do a food recall – whether or not the food is cooked or raw, served or not. Freeze all operations in order to prevent any further escalation of potential food poisoning cases.
Using the information gathered, work backwards and trace it to the root of the problem. Was it the serving, plating, cooking, preparation or storage?
Form a Crisis Management Team and assign a spokesperson to handle any questions from the public or media. Preferably, this person should be someone senior, who knows the business and has good communication skills.
Be transparent at all times, providing your team and the media with constant updates to prevent them from speculating and generating more unnecessary bad publicity. Work closely with any relevant health authority or food safety auditor to find the cause of the problem.
Once the problem has been identified, immediately apologise to the general public and promise them that corrective steps and preventive measures are in place to ensure such hiccups will never happen again. Continue communicating with health authorities and seek their advice to improve your food safety processes.
Moving forward, consider engaging third-party food auditors to audit your establishment and ensure that there are no possible red flags. This also informs the general public that your establishment is serious in upholding the highest standards of food safety.
Of course, the best case scenario is for no such case to happen at all. In order for that to happen, everybody has a part to play in ensuring that the food is not contaminated during any point of the handling process.
Be safe, not sorry! But if it’s already happened, then move to rectify the situation as soon as possible.