Jimmy John’s has officially taken sprouts off its menu due to multiple contamination problems in recent years. FoodSafetyNews.com has reportedthat the restaurant chain is currently associated with a five-state outbreak of the O26 strain of E. coli.   It is the fifth outbreak involving sprouts traced back to Jimmy John’s franchises since 2008. Since the connection of the tainted sprouts was made and released publicly on February 15, Jimmy John’s has had some negative press, but no company spokesperson has made any statements at all.  No recent news or updates have yet been added to their website (as of today) and franchise owners are speaking for the restaurant – which is not ideal – blaming bad press.

Media relations

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When it comes to placing blame for this contamination problem, Jimmy John’s is not necessarily at fault, but the factory in which the sprouts were packaged could be at fault.  The restaurant chain could have released information to the media as a simple statement to set the record straight. They could have released the facts of how the sprouts were contaminated and explain that they are no longer serving sprouts because they care about the health of their customers. For some reason, there was no public statement made on behalf of the company within the first week. Was it a poor choice by Jimmy John’s?

Some people tend to avoid confrontation or uncomfortable situations, which can sometimes make a problem linger and grow worse.  When it comes to confronting problems that directly affect a business and its customers, it’s always best to address the issue as soon as possible to try to remedy or resolve the problem. Handling problems in a timely manner often prevents future potential problems as well. As a successful business owner, you must think proactively.

Here are some suggested options for how to handle the press and the public when a business crisis arises:

  • Issue a public statement addressing the issue(s) through a designated spokesperson. This helps to prevent the media from searching for alternatives or speculating their own answers.
  • Create an official press release with all of the most important facts to be given to media sources.
  • Provide a point of contact or resource where customers/clients can go to ask questions or find additional information.
  • Update, update, update. Continue to disseminate available information to a consistent location, like a company website or blog, so that the public and media can continue to follow up with the progress.

If your company/organization does not provide answers or resources, it often frustrates customers and the media. For those who decide to take no action, in very few cases the problem can resolve itself. If you decide that the press will not affect your bottom line and you should just let it blow over, try asking yourself, “If I were a customer affected by this problem, how would I like it to be handled?”