How to Handle the Press after a Bad Health Inspection

On the OpsAnalitica blog, we have written about this trend of local news stations reporting on restaurant’s health inspection scores.  It makes sense for the news stations to do these reports because the data is readily available, it advertises well, it’s easy content to produce, and my guess is that it drives viewership.  In Denver, Fox 31, has their restaurant report card segment and website.  As we have been following this in the media, we have seen a ton of these restaurant health inspection segments all around the country. If you operate a restaurant in Florida, watch out, they seem to have these reports in every major city.

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For the restaurant industry this good and bad.  I believe that more transparency around health inspections and health inspection scores puts pressure on the industry to do better, and it increases the restaurant cleanliness standards in that area.  When LA moved to letter grades system, one of the results was that there were less foodborne illness cases over time.  What they found is that bad letter grades affect revenue, a C resulted in a -1% sales dip and an A resulted in an 5 to 6% increase in sales.  The market rewards clean restaurants and punishes dirty ones.  We got this data from a grand jury report when Orange County was looking at moving to the letter grade system, click here to see the report.

I also understand the concern of restaurant owners when it comes to making this data public, it affects their business and sometimes it is hard to get a reinspection promptly.  I don’t feel bad for restaurant owners that lose revenue for being dirty, they should. I do feel bad for restaurant owners that fixed their issues, but have to wait a considerable amount of time to get reinspected.  Counties have to provide the ability to get reinspected very quickly even if they have to charge a convenience fee.

I’ve embedded the Fox 31 report from June 12th in this blog.  There are three restaurants mentioned in the report.  2 of the restaurants got F’s, and one got an A.  According to the Fox website you have to have 5 critical violations on your last two health inspections to get an F.  To get an A you have to have 0 critical violations on your last two health inspections.  This video is amazing and shows you how to and how not to handle an inquiry from the media at your restaurant.  It is 100% worth watching to see how the Blue Bonnet handled their bad score compared to Chubby’s.  

Here are my feelings after watching their segments:

  • Chubby’s
    • Didn’t answer repeated phone calls – could have been trying to evade reporters
    • Manager had face blurred – guilty and wrong
    • Written statement that was summarized – too little too late
    • Verdict:  I probably will never eat at that restaurant after seeing that report. In fairness, I don’t live close to that restaurant so my chances of popping in were low to begin with.
  • Blue Bonnet
    • Owner got interviewed – She was taking responsibility
    • She showed the media her kitchen – open nothing to hide
    • She mentioned the all the staff meetings – she took action
    • Verdict:  I may eat there again in six months or so after they have had a chance to be inspected one more time.  In fairness, we used to frequent Blue Bonnet when we lived close by and really like the food.

I hope you find this video helpful in crafting your crisis plan and how you would handle this type of interview. Also, kudos to Johnny Rockets in the Cherry Creek Mall for getting an A, I’ve eaten there several times and will be back.

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Tommy Yionoulis

I've been in the restaurant industry for most of my adult life. I have a BSBA from University of Denver Hotel Restaurant school and an MBA from the same. When I wasn't working in restaurants I was either doing stand-up comedy, for 10 years, or large enterprise software consulting. I'm currently the Managing Director of OpsAnalitica and our Inspector platform was originally conceived when I worked for one of the largest sandwich franchisors in the country. You can reach out to me through LinkedIn.

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1 Comment

  1. Just curious, the Johnny Rockets chef who is cooking hamburgers did not have a hat or hair restraint, critical violation in most cities, interesting right, they got an A?

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