How a Restaurant Should Respond to Foodborne Illness Claims

Posted on: July 18, 2018 by RMS Hospitality

There are a number of things that can get a restaurant poor reviews or even cause to shut down including bad food, poor service and an unpopular location. But when a restaurant is to blame for foodborne illness it can instantly shut things down. One bad experience is all it takes for word to get around and doors to close.

It’s important for restaurants and cafes to be proactive when it comes to claims made against them, especially for food quality. One way to do this is invest in a hospitality insurance policy that fits the location’s needs and protects against claims that could see legal issues arise. Another way is to understand the right way to respond when a claim is made. How a restaurant handles an accusation matters.

Make sure that your restaurant clients are aware of these best practices.

Being Prepared

Restaurants could pay a hefty price for having a foodborne illness claim made against them. According to CNBC, fines can reach up to $2.5 million in some cases. Even if the restaurant has a perfect record for being careful and providing great service, this pricey claim can level it. There should be a plan in place if a claim is made or a matter is brought forward, for instance, through social media. The plan should outline the steps that need to take place in this matter and how to respond to the customer(s) and authorities.

Make sure to write this plan down and back it up on a cloud system. Every employee should be familiar with it and it can even be posted in the kitchen or back room.

Responding to the Customer(s)

All accusations need to be taken seriously and apologizing is usually the first reaction. While this seems natural, it can actually backfire. By apologizing, a restaurant is essentially admitting guilt. This can leave the establishment open to legal action that could then lead to a world of financial pain. While an apology is what many customers are looking for, an apology should not be publicly made without vetting and discussion with the operation’s legal team.

Restaurants should pinpoint the source of food poisoning, even though it is difficult. There may be the chance that the customer fell ill from something else around the same time they ate at the establishment. Either way, clients should gather relevant information by asking what they ate and when, the symptoms they have, if anyone else with them ate the same food or are feeling the same way, and if they have seen a doctor for diagnosis.

It goes without saying that it’s imperative to let the customer know you have taken their complaint seriously and will be investigating.

Searching Through the Venue

After a claim has been made and a customer has been contacted, your clients should be sure to go through their restaurant with a fine-tooth comb. Oftentimes the contamination is invisible, creating a difficult situation when trying to nail down exactly what possibly caused the illness.

Make sure to ensure food hasn’t been left unrefrigerated for extended periods of time, and check all by-use dates to look out for expiration. Ensure all surfaces and utensils and equipment inside the kitchen are safe to use again after a claim has been made, just in case the illness originated there.

Contacting Health Authorities

Whether you believe the restaurant is responsible for the illness or not, it’s still important to keep things on the level and contact your health authorities. Make sure to be familiar with the rules of your region as in some areas contacting authorities is mandatory.

Many foodborne illnesses can be traced back to a single contaminated batch of food that rolled into an outbreak. Think of the E. Coli breakout earlier this year that killed people because a truckload of lettuce from Yuma was poorly watered. It’s important to be thorough and responsible for any and all illness claims, as they could end up costing you more than just a refund to the customer.


About RMS Hospitality Group

At RMS Hospitality Group, our expertly crafted policies are written specifically for the hospitality industry. We offer custom tailored solutions to meet any venue’s specific needs. For more information, contact our knowledgeable experts today at (516) 742-8585.

Posted in: blog Hospitality Insurance

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