How to manage internal communications during a crisis

No organisation is immune to crisis. Every catering and hospitality organisation can be vulnerable to a crisis at some point, so it’s best to be prepared before it happens.

Incidents can range from flooding on-site caused by natural disasters or extreme weather, to security breaches, unpredictable guest behaviour, food poisoning, or a failed environmental health inspection.

More recently Zizzi found itself involved in a major national security risk with the Novichok poisoning. All of these types of issues (and countless others) can have a detrimental impact on the organisations’ staff and customers, so it’s crucial to manage each crisis effectively and proactively.

Listing potential risks

To be as well-prepared as possible, you should think about some of the following areas:

Trying to pre-empt all the possible circumstances that can compromise the customer experience can be daunting. You’re essentially trying to predict the unpredictable and many catering and hospitality companies simply don’t know where to start. The key is building an agile crisis communications strategy. This will not only help the team on the ground know how to respond, but it will also ensure the guest experience is managed as best as possible. 

First, assess any possible threats and have a plan in place for each. Some potential hazards will be relevant to all sites such as potential attacks and fire, but it’s important to assess each area and determine its unique risks. For example, some spaces may be vulnerable to floods during stormy weather. Which would lead you to determine which of your sites are located on or near floodplains, rivers or have flooded in the past.

Once you have identified what threats your sites have, you can create a baseline emergency kit for each one depending on its individual requirements. Tools to include are bottled water, first aid kits, torches (with extra batteries), a whistle, food and a wrench to turn off facilities. Then make sure you place the emergency pack in an accessible area and communicate to all staff its whereabouts and when it should be used.

An internal communications platform

It’s critical to establish clear communications amongst employees in the event of a catastrophe. When a serious incident happens, such as the London Bridge attack, it’s crucial that employees have access to the plans and the ability to communicate with each other easily.

Investing in internal communication tools within one digital hub that employees can access from anywhere via a mobile device is a good solution to facilitate instant communication. This is also an effective tool for catering teams who are rarely at a desk.

In addition, an internal communications app holds information such as emergency exit routes, meeting safe zones, and evacuation plans readily accessible for your workforce by storing relevant documents that are critical in serious situations.

Real-time communication across the entire team

If serious incidents arise, speed of communication is critical. An internal communications platform can let you send and receive real-time messages across the team that will help management stay up-to-date and have real-time understanding of the situation. It also helps everyone communicate if they’re safe or need assistance during this time which is critical in life threatening situations.

Confirmation campaigns make sure key memos and announcements are read and understood by your entire workforce. You can also monitor who has read with these communications and follow up with those who haven’t. Employees can also mark themselves as safe.

And because your whole team will be able to communicate with each other, management can quickly send a standard update or message for staff to give to customers in any given crisis.

Business continuity

Business continuity is when an organisation seeks to have as little disruption as possible during difficult times. In this digital age, it’s more important than ever to protect the company against virtual vulnerabilities. These vulnerabilities are completely manageable through cyber security planning and effective best practice training enabling employees access to the impact of potential threats and how to solve them in they arise.

For non-desk based workforces, business continuity through digital channels is ideal.

As a crisis unfolds, it’s essential to have every employee know what additional tasks they need to take on. Having a clear list of what each department will be responsible for and the relevant plan and strategy accessible through an app means the plan is set into action quickly and less room for error.

Feedback and evaluation

In the aftermath of a disaster, companies will need time to repair while establishing clear trusted conduits of information.  

You can also use an internal communications app like Beekeeper to evaluate the crisis management, exchange feedback, and learn from your entire team. For example, you can use pulse surveys to collect employee feedback to evaluate management performance during critical periods and learn how you could improve handling of similar challenging and unpredictable events in the future.

Overall, there are many tactics that catering and hospitality companies can use to deal with a crisis and learn from it. And real-time communication coupled with well-prepared crisis plans can help avoid the dramatic negative impact and high costs involved.

But remember that catering and hospitality employees are often highly-dispersed across different sites, and also separated by time and job roles. So the right mobile internal communications and operations tool for your employees should be an essential resource to use as part of your crisis management strategy.

By Cristian Grossmann, CEO and co-founder of workplace communication platform, Beekeeper

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