Your best-selling product was recalled by the FDA and it is all over social media and TV. What should you do? How do you handle guest questions? Is it time to throw in the towel and sell out? Will your guests even care?
In fact, on average, there is a food related FDA recall every 3 days. Didn’t know that did you? Most food related recalls are so small reporters don’t care because it is not “big enough” news. Since 2010 there have been 675 individual recalls involving anywhere from a few hundred pounds of food to millions of pounds. The problem really is not IF a recall happens but WHEN a recall happens and if it involves your specific brand products or your product line.
The summer 2017 Sabretts recall impacted all hot dog vendors even ones not specifically advertising Sabretts. What should a street vendor do?
1. Start today BEFORE a recall and cultivate relationships with local news on radio and TV, local social media influencers and your suppliers. When a recall does happen, these folks are already in your pocket.
2. Check your inventory and if necessary secure a supply of safe product. Contact your supplier seeking pickup and credit instructions if you do have tainted product.
3. Expect questions and complaints if you sold the brand that was recalled. Contact your insurance company and ask for a procedure on handling a recalled product related complaint. Follow the instructions to the letter.
4. Expect slower than normal sales. If you advertised the brand in the past expect very slow sales. Counter the decreased sales with social media posts explaining the recall and your actions to ensure safe food for your guests.
5. Post more frequently to social media showing guests enjoying your food, offer discounts for shares and likes. Be prepared to answer any questions about the recall in a profession manner in the comment sections.
6. Take lunch consisting of your delicious food to local radio or TV stations. If the recall is “big” news you could ask to be interviewed showing the human-interest side of corporate recalls and the impact on a small local business.
7. Create highly visible signage to attract attention to your safe product. Have fun with the recall and show you are on top of the problem.
8. Be up and active around your cart, trailer or truck. Get attention and offer samples of “safe” products.
9. Allow the recalled (but safe) product to be in the shadows for a while if you can. Feature different products if your menu is large enough. Consider a different brand short term. If your cart or truck advertises the brand logo really focus on number 4.
10. Use your guest loyalty program to encourage more visits, offering extra punches on cards, bonus points on electronic loyalty programs or other incentives. Deeply discount or offer a free drink, chips or deserts with a purchase. Sacrifice short term profits (read as “reduce profit margins” NOT “take a loss”) to keep your cash flowing. Just manage the numbers and you will ride out the storm.
The absolute worst thing to do is nothing. Sitting around whining about taking a beating and how slow today or yesterday was will not improve tomorrow. Be up talking to everyone in ear shot about food safety and how committed your cart or trailer operation is to it. Brag about knowing about the recall BEFORE it hit the news, if you did. Show off the case or packaging with the good manufacturing dates. Print off the email from FSIS showing the tainted manufacture dates with your products safe date listed. Just be prepared you will survive!