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Are You Ready for the next CRISIS?

Nancy Estep-Critchett

All franchised systems face significant organization-wide challenges at one time or another. How those issues are handled and, in the end, likely leveraged to fortify the franchise system itself –distinguishes the exceptional franchisors from middle of the pack.
The sorts of problems franchisors encounter are countless and diverse, but I’d like to focus on one distinct challenge and how working in a concerted effort with the franchisees can greatly help franchisors manage the problem and realize a constructive outcome.

One of the most problematic challenges to manage in a franchise system is an unanticipated predicament or calamity that results in widespread negative press. These issues arise from a wide range of things including videos going viral showing an employee taking part in doing inappropriate things on the job….to the outbreak of an illnesses or other food poisoning, or even criminal behavior by an employee of a franchisee. Today, in the day of Twitter and twenty-four hours news outlets…. information of these types of incidents are broadcast with swift and unfettered speed, thus this kind of thing can pose an acute risk to the integrity of the brand and the entire franchise community under that system-wide umbrella.

Partnership and a solid communications platform that is reliably utilized between the franchisor and franchisees can help manage such a predicament. This collaboration should comprise a number of elements. Ideally, the franchisor and a franchisee advisory board, with the assistance of the franchisor’s PR firm (if they have one) and/or the Marketing and Legal leadership for the brand should initially meet to decide what need to be deiminated at all levels, both inside and outside the organization. Each Franchisor should have an established crisis management protocol in advance. This is imperative so that there can be a swift and clear response. Each franchisee in the system needs to be instructed about how to respond to media inquiries. By and large, the best route is to generally refer all inquiries to a designated member of the leadership team at franchise headquarters.
A crisis management team should be formed to arrange and deliver instruction and guidance to the management team. This team should be composed of relevant personnel ranging from executive management (depending on the exact nature of the crisis, food safety, operations, legal counsel, public affairs) and representative franchisees. It is vital to interface with and involve the franchisees right from the start of any crisis that could potentially threaten the entire system. After the initial disaster has waned, the franchisor and franchisees will need to continue to work together to deal with the aftermath.
If your organization does not have a plan in place…this should be next on your leadership agenda. Plan for the worst so if it happens…. you are ready!

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