A Crisis Recovery Lesson from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams


A crisis doesn’t always lead to a business meltdown

Lowcountry Local First hosts an annual all-day seminar with great presenters. Termed the Good Business Summit, the event provides insight to business owners about how to make their firms better.

High-profile business owners are invited to share lessons and information based on their own experience.

The 2015 Good Business Summit featured a presentation from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams company founder Jeni Britton Bauer.

As reported by The Post and Courier, Bauer frankly and openly discussed the challenges and the recovery process her business went through as a result of listeria contamination. The contamination caused business interruptions at her production facilities as well as massive recalls of products where were produced at contaminated facilities.

According to reporter David Wren, Bauer said,

“What has to change is how businesses view our responsibilities…“Do we rely on their periodics (inspections)? Do we rely on our health inspectors any more?” Absolutely no. Because we know that they are not experts in food safety, they are experts in the law and those are totally different things. The responsibility is on business … to make healthy things, to keep people healthy.”

Following a crisis, do things differently

Bauer is correct. When your business undergoes a crisis, you must do things differently in order to regain confidence from your customers and the public.

Let’s analyze exactly what Bauer did that is helping Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams recover from this disaster.

Steps to crisis recovery

  1. Own the situation. Admit that this event occurred. Convene your firm’s leadership or crisis communications / management team. (If you don’t have a crisis team, you need to put a pin in this and organize a team and a plan.) Make sure everyone on the team knows what their responsibility will be. Don’t try to hide or deny the situation. Help the public and your customers understand what occurred. In the instance of Jeni’s, Bauer could not hide because there were authorities involved, but rather than fight or deny, the went beyond what was called for and took control of the situation. She demonstrated corporate leadership and responsibility by stepping up.
  2. Communicate transparently. Do not try to duck responsibility. Take action. If product needs to be recalled, do it. Jeni’s did and helped preserve their reputation. As quickly as possible, use the firm’s social media channels and website to communicate. Jeni’s CEO communicated at each step along the way.When one searches the Internet for the terms Jeni’s and recall, the first search results are those from the company’s own website. That’s real transparency. Hold a media conference if there are many media seeking information. Media are doing their jobs. They need to tell the public about the situation, and working with them will help you help them keep the facts straight.If legal questions are involved, you must consult your attorney and crisis communications consultant or public relations firm to be clear on the implications of press conferences, social media posts and website posts. Much of this may be clarified in advance as part of your crisis communications plan. You must be sure you are not compounding the crisis by communicating incompletely or with partial facts or allowing a bad situation to continue. You do want to observe privacy laws and be aware that in situations of healthcare, human resources and personnel, some facts may not be disclosed.
  3. Call on subject matter experts to help review, analyze and present a third-party analysis of contributing causes. In Jeni’s case, they called in people to help them analyze their procedures and test.John Lowe said in a Jeni’s news release,“In addition to fixing every issue identified by the FDA, we have been working with them throughout this entire process, including having provided a thorough response letter detailing how we have fixed each and every concern identified in their inspection report. We dove in and made darn sure we fixed all of their concerns, and we brought in outside experts to help us find other areas of improvement to create a world class, safe environment for making our ice creams.”

    While you may not care for what the third party may find or disclose, as long as you seek to remedy the flaws in process, procedure and performance, you can make things improve.

  4. Demonstrate that procedures have changed and exactly how you are modifying your operations in response to the crisis. After the subject matter experts disclose their findings, give the public a plan indicating how each negative finding is to be addressed and how your firm will do things differently.Lowe noted that Jeni’s,
    “…instituted test and hold procedures to ensure we are only providing safe ice cream…The ice cream we are producing…comes from an overhauled kitchen, a significantly more trained team working from new ground rules that enable a safer environment (such as not processing fresh fruit in the production kitchen, and not allowing work in our company garden prior to changing into production clothes).”

A crisis situation doesn’t have to mean the end of your business. You can prepare in advance. You can demonstrate change and improvement and go on to a new day as did Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams.

Are you prepared with a crisis management team? Is your social media plan up to date and does it include crisis recovery and communications sections? Is your website within your control so you can easily post and share the firm’s progress during your crisis recovery?
If you don’t have these elements in place. we can help. We can audit and help your business prepare for the types of crisis which might more frequently occur in your industry.
Call us. 843.628.6434. We’re here to help.