Pizza Hut Manages Manager’s Mismanagement

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If you live along the coast and have experienced a powerful hurricane, one of the best options is to pack up your family and important belongings and leave. Safety should be your number one concern. If you’re an employer, your main focus should be the safety of your employees. If work can be conducted remotely, have a plan established to ensure employees can work virtually. If day-to-day functions cannot be conducted outside of the building, make sure proper evacuation and temporary closures are established. The last thing you want your employees to worry about is being penalized for missing work, or be given a restriction on the length of their evacuation.

Employees at a Jacksonville, Florida Pizza Hut were placed in that exact predicament in the wake of Hurricane Irma. A manager at the location posted an internal communication indicating parameters for employees who decided to evacuate. An employee snapped a photo of the paper and posted it on social media. The post quickly went viral, grabbing the attention of Pizza Hut Headquarters. One of the main issues with the memo: it didn’t follow company policy. The communication read:

“To all Team members:

As hurricane Irma approaches Florida, I wanted to send this note. Our #1 Priority is the safety and security of our team. But, we also have a responsibility and commitment to our community to be there when they need us. With that said, I/we need some guidelines in place to ensure both of those expectations are met:

  • As a general rule of thumb, we close stores 6-12 hours before storm hits. Or night before if a daytime storm.
  • Let RGM know if you plan to evacuate and when you plan to return after the storm.
    • If evacuating, you will have a 24-hour period before storm ‘grace period’ to not be scheduled. You cannot evacuate Friday for a Tuesday storm event!
      • Failure to show for these shifts, regardless of reason, will be considered a no call/no show and documentation will be issued.
      • In the event of an evacuation, you MUST return within 72 HOURS….”

The memo ended with the manager requesting employee contact information and asking they keep management up-to-date on their safety throughout the storm.

Let’s take a look at the details of the communication:

1. Requiring employees to predict the date they will return: Often during a natural disaster, a return date cannot be determined. The unknown of a natural disaster presents many questions: Will employees return to find their home flooded or destroyed? Will your building be damaged or destroyed? How far will employees have to travel to safety? Will roadways be closed as a result of flooding and/or busy due to heavy traffic?

2. Implementing a 24-hour grace period: The governor of Florida, Rick Scott, pleaded with Florida Keys’ residents to evacuate ahead of Hurricane Irma on September 8th. The storm did not hit the Keys until September 10th. If the governor of your state is issuing an evacuation (more than 24-hours in advance) common sense should indicate not to implement a 24-hour grace period for your own employees. Although Jacksonville is not located on the Keys, Scott issued a state-wide evacuation and Florida was under a State of Emergency. Evacuating 24-hours ahead of a storm can be risky. Supplies, like food and water, will be in high demand and gas shortages are likely. Miami Mayor, Carlos A. Gimenez stated days prior to Irma making landfall, “If you do it [evacuate] later, you may be caught in a flood of traffic trying to leave the area. You may find yourself in a car during a hurricane, which is not the best place to be.”

3. Requiring employees to return within 72 Hours: If your home was destroyed in a natural disaster, would you be able to return to work full-time in three days? Expecting a 72-hour turn around after the unknown of a hurricane or natural disaster is setting yourself up for failure – especially if your own building withstands significant damage. It puts additional stress on employees, management and everyone else if a structure does endure significant damage.

4. The memo does not follow company guidelines. Pizza Hut was under fire after the Jacksonville location posted the evacuation flyer. The fast-food chain responded by saying:

Statement on Hurricane Guidelines

We are uncompromising in our commitment to the safety and well-being of our team members.

All locations in the path of Irma are closed and will remain closed until local authorities deem the area safe. We absolutely do not have a policy that dictates when team members can leave or return from a disaster, and the manager who posted this letter did not follow company guidelines. We can also confirm that the local franchise operator has addressed this situation with the manager involved.

When an internal communication is displayed at a workplace, there’s a good chance someone will take a photo and post it on social media. When said communication has the potential to compromise the safety of employees, it will go viral – and fast. Whose attention will the post grab? Everyone’s. Including corporate in this case.

Monitor what is being said. Pizza Hut Headquarters quickly released a statement indicating true company policy and made a stance against the Jacksonville location’s evacuation guidelines. Planning requires you to educate all locations, affiliates, franchises and others involved with your business on your disaster protocol. One location sharing false, misleading, unclear or incorrect information can damage your brand as a whole and put employees and others at risk. You must have the ability to monitor social and traditional media in real-time, and have an escalation workflow defined prior to a crisis.

Natural disasters can cause you and your employees significant personal and professional loss. Even more damaging can be the loss of employee respect and loyalty if their safety appears to be a second-thought.

The best time to plan for disaster and train employees, franchisees and all associates is now, not when your state is under a State of Emergency – and not after a location causes backlash on social media. For additional insights and tips on how to become prepared to handle a natural disaster, download a Q&A paper with Jim Satterfield, Natural Disaster Preparedness.

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