Crisis Management Advice for Golden Corral

Buffet chain’s reputation on the line after disgusting video goes viral

It’s a lesson we hammer repeatedly with clients and on this blog; the pervasiveness of cell phones means the question is not if your organization’s shady practices will be exposed, but when.

Case in point, the latest viral video to scream its way across the ‘net comes to us from a Golden Corral buffet employee who posted footage of uncovered, unprotected raw meat that had been stored in the restaurant’s dumpster area to avoid being seen during a surprise inspection. Oh, and it was going back inside for dinner service after.

Go ahead and gross yourself out:

Attempts were (allegedly) made to inform the area manager, Golden Corral corporate and the local health department, but when those fell flat the young cook turned to the court of public opinion to set things right.

The video quickly picked up momentum thanks to Reddit, whose users actually created an entire sub-forum purely for analysis, discussion and debate related to this topic.

Attempting to Corral the situation

Now, let’s take a look at Golden Corral’s response. Here is the message being posted in reply to concerned stakeholders on Facebook, as well as in the comments section of just about every major website that’s covered the issue:

Golden Corral FB response

Of course, someone at the company couldn’t resist responding to the YouTube video with the same list of “facts,” only to have their claims immediately disputed by the OP:

Golden Corral and Cook arguing YouTube comments

Bad move, Golden Corral. The last thing you want to do in crisis management is continue to fuel whatever is bringing you bad publicity. In this case, responding in the video’s comments only encourages more stakeholders to have a look, as well as making the OP feel attacked, which stands a high change of prompting more aggressive behavior from him in return.

Golden Corral is breaking another tenet of Crisis Management 101 with what very much appears to be attempts at discrediting the employee, repeatedly referring to an eBay listing he created (allegedly) as part of his efforts to drag attention to the problem. Now, it doesn’t look great that the listing had the (allegedly) random sum of $5,000 set as the purchase price, but considering that the employee had already contacted not only several levels of Golden Corral management, but also the health department, it’s hard to call this situation blackmail.

In fact, forget about all that for a second and consider this…even if he was attempting to blackmail the company, does it change the fact that this Golden Corral was caught participating in a disgusting, unsafe practice? The answer is, of course, no!

How to fix it

Whether this was an isolated incident or a sign of bigger troubles within the Golden Corral organization, stakeholders are going to take notice. Diners are going to be wary, and any potential franchisees with half a brain will be staying as far away from the Golden Corral name as possible for the time being.

Company leadership needs to stop arguing with this employee, quit slinging mud, and make things right. A real apology would be a good start, preferably one that contains a hefty dose of compassion for those affected and doesn’t slam the employee who brought the issue to light. Re-training in food storage and cleanliness standards for all employees, from dishwasher to store owner, is another must. Not a one-shot deal either, but regularly recurring sessions. As far as internal crisis management, Golden Corral may want to take a look at its policies regarding reports from employees and how they are handled. Had those channels been working properly, this problem could have been resolved without incident and the company’s dirty laundry would have been resolved internally, never to see the light of day.

Thinking in the long run, the chain should consider some type of blogger outreach campaign or a news-catching promotion in order to bump some of the many, MANY, negative results that are going to pop up for any “Golden Corral” down lower in search results.

The ever-increasing presence of teeny-tiny recording devices, as well as the amplification provided to a single voice by social media, is going to keep you honest, whether you like it or not. At the same time, it will also create reputation issues for organizations whose only mistake was hiring the wrong person. Know how to react, and prepare to do it properly. Oh, and don’t ever doubt that the next Golden Corral could very well be you.

The BCM Blogging Team
http://www.bernsteincrisismanagement.com/

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