What is in this article?:
- How strong HR policies can prevent PR disasters
- Creating and enforcing policies
Experts offer insights on what restaurants can do to avoid crises stemming from bad employee behavior.
An employee posts a picture of himself licking a stack of taco shells at your restaurant.
That’s the situation Taco Bell had to deal with last month when such a photo went viral on Twitter and Facebook. Even though company officials specified that the shells were never served and that they were on their way to the garbage after being used in training, consumers still seemed to think the photo was, well, disgusting.
Although this particular incident caused quite a stir, the problem isn’t isolated to Taco Bell. In June, a photo of a Wendy’s employee eating ice cream out of the dispenser also went viral. And earlier this year, a KFC employee was fired after a photo of her appearing to lick a plate of mashed potatoes surfaced on the Internet.
On Monday a video posted by a Golden Corral employee near Port Orange, Fla., made the rounds on social media. In the video, an employee says he is ashamed of the food his restaurant serves, and that he would never eat the food himself. Next, he walks outside to show meat, particularly the company’s all-you-can-eat ribs, stored near a dumpster.
Franchisee Eric Holm of Metro Corral Partners in Florida was quick to note to the public that none of that food was ever served to a customer.
“To be honest, this stuff has been going on since I started in the restaurant business in 1975,” said Kevin S. Murphy, an associate professor specializing in foodservice and lodging at the Rosen College of Hospitality Management at the University of Central Florida. “Now, you have YouTube and camera phones. It just makes it easier for disgruntled employees to do stupid stuff.”
Given the severity of these issues, it behooves restaurateurs to have measures in place to help prevent these events — and to handle them properly and quickly if they do happen, said Carrie Luxem, president at consulting firm Restaurant HR Group.
“It’s about taking the time to make sure that the people you’re hiring know what the expectations are and that you’re not going to tolerate things like that,” she said of Taco Bell’s shell-licking incident.
Fostering an open culture
Eric Chester, an employee engagement expert and author of “Reviving Work Ethic,” noted happy employees don’t want to lash out; they want to keep their jobs.
Chester said that as an employer, it’s important to know your employees’ desired career path, whether it’s in the restaurant industry or not. If there’s a greater relationship between manager and subordinate, rebellious behavior against the company’s goals is less likely to occur, he said.
“[Employees] sometimes don’t realize that what they’re doing there makes the next opportunity,” Chester said. “You may not work here forever, but we can prepare you for the next step in life. If it’s a step in my career, I don’t want to trash that.”
Additionally, Restaurant HR Group’s Luxem noted that employees just want to feel like they’re a part of something special. “People work for people, not companies,” she said. “If they like the people they’re working for, they’re not going to act out like this…. You want to show them that you believe in them but that you’re also going to correct bad behavior.
Helping employees understand that the business is a family, a place where they belong, can also help alleviate pressure and anger before it becomes and issue, Chester said. “Keep an open-door policy that [says], ‘If things aren’t working for you, I want to solve it,’” he said.
Chester added that some employees may have posted the videos because they “felt like they had no other choice,” which he noted was likely the root of the problem.