How to Handle Food Safety Red Alerts

If word gets out about a health safety issue, be it a bad review or a weak health inspection report, transparency, action and communication are essential, says Liz Kores, a public relations specialist in Chicago who works with bakery clients.

For example, if a customer sees a health violation occur and then writes a bad review, Kores recommends responding to the review by apologizing for the negative experience and explaining the measures the bakery is taking to ensure the violation doesn’t happen again. The bakery should also thank the reviewer for visiting the bakery and invite them to give the bakery another chance, gratis.

“Acknowledge the [feedback], take actions to fix it and prevent it, and communicate what those actions are,” Kores says. “Customers appreciate it when their feedback is taken seriously by a business.” Responding to the issue within 24 hours is crucial.

Prompt action is also the name of the game in the case of a health inspection gone wrong: The bakery should immediately remedy the issues and communicate those fixes to the correct audience (whoever saw the report).

“The first strategy starts with creating a brand that is authentic and customer-focused.”

—Liz Kores, public relations specialist 


These steps, however, are part of a secondary strategy, Kores says. “The first strategy starts with creating a brand that is authentic and customer-focused,” Kores says, adding that loyal customers are more willing to forgive mistakes.

Every bakery makes mistakes, but those that worked to make their customers feel valued and engaged will be able to bounce back more quickly. That’s why building the brand before an incident happens is key.