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Restaurant Operations:
Hurricanes Hitting Close to Home? Disaster Planning and Your Restaurant

If they're not hitting you literally, they should be raising some flags for you.

Some things to think about?

Do you have a disaster recovery plan in the face of a natural or other disaster? This can include everything from your operating system and electronic files to your staff contact list. Do you have a backup of everything pertinent to your business stored off site? If not, visit the Wikipedia site in the above link and learn more about why this is an important and essential part of doing business.

I would be remiss if I didn't remind you to make sure you consider the communication needs of your business when thinking of recovery after a disaster or other crisis.

First and foremost, how are you going to reach your employees? Do you have a phone list? Is everyone programmed into your cell phone? Do you have a paper list? Also, who is going to call all of these people? Is it you, or can you appoint a manager to be in charge of this task?

Start with a contact list and then think about what you might tell your employees. Will the business be open? What should employees do? Come to work? Not come to work? When will they hear from you again? Who can they contact if they have questions?

This addresses your internal audience, but what about the external audience? What will you tell the people who dine with you? What about the media? Do you post signs on your doors? Do you have an outgoing message on your phone lines? Do you have a "status update" form you can send to media to let them know how you are doing in the face of the disaster or a crisis? This would be a simple fax or email template you can fill out and send in with important information for the public.

What about if you lose power for weeks, like some of the businesses hit by Gustav and Ike? What will you do then?

These are all things that you should be thinking about if you aren't dealing with a hurricane right now. There are plenty of sites online that can be a resource to you and plenty of people that can be of assistance as well. Ask. You never know who will come back with a great answer.

Jenny Brooks is a public relations professional providing expert and strategic tactics for businesses trying to increase awareness about themselves and their products. She is also the editor of SMART Systems Insider, a monthly newsletter from Restaurant Expert David Scott Peters. Questions about PR and how she can help your restaurant? Email her.

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