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Monika Zuluaga

Vice President, Membership & Marketing

401-223-1120, ext. 116

Dale's Corner

This blog is written by Dale J. Venturini, President/CEO of RI Hospitality Association (RIHA) and RI Hospitality Education Foundation (RIHEF). Its purpose is to engage RIHA members with current issues and trends.

Dale J. Venturini

President/CEO, RI Hospitality Association


With the spate of negative media headlines surrounding restaurants that have experienced foodborne or human-contact illness, it is critically important that every eating establishment put a proactive crisis management plan in place now – before a crisis strikes. The necessity of reputation management after incidents like this cannot be understated. It’s a headline that nobody wants, and the resulting media attention can have far-ranging ramifications long after the outbreak is contained and eliminated.


Recently, a national multi-unit restaurant chain experienced multiple foodborne illness and norovirus outbreaks across the United States causing eatery closures, loss of consumer confidence, and millions spent on reputation management. This unfortunate situation has catapulted foodborne/human contact illness to the very top of the media’s attention and reports of this type of situation garner a great deal of coverage.


In an effort to assist members on preventing this type of situation, the RI Hospitality Association, in conjunction with the RI Department of Health, recently hosted the first in a series of norovirus seminars. The seminars cover food-safety protocols, safely handling a potential foodborne illness, and how to best contain and neutralize a threat. But, beyond our operational presentation, each business should have a tailored, individual crisis plan on how to best protect their business and brand in the event of a negative situation.


In Rhode Island, we recently experienced a very public norovirus outbreak at one of the most beloved restaurants in our state. While it was ultimately determined not to be the fault of the restaurant and caused by a sick patron spreading the virus while on property, initial media coverage caused a firestorm of misinformation in the public domain. Some consumers took to social media falsely accusing the restaurant of a foodborne illness outbreak as it is so closely associated with sickness at eating establishments.


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 50% of all outbreaks of food-related illness are caused by norovirus. Food can get contaminated with norovirus at any point when it is being grown, shipped, handled, or prepared. Each year in the U.S., norovirus causes illness in approximately 20 million people on average.  However, most outbreaks of norovirus illness happen when infected people spread the virus to others, as was the case in the Rhode Island incident.


Although this restaurant has never had a foodborne or norovirus illness outbreak in its 40+ years in business, it did have a crisis communications plan in place and a public relations firm of record to assist in ensuring that accurate information was reported by the media and that reputation management began from initial reports of illness. Within a matter of days, the media storyline had shifted, consumer sentiment was strongly behind the restaurant and when the establishment opened its doors again for business, there was a groundswell of support and 100% positive media coverage. The eatery was able to take a leadership role in combating norovirus and through close interaction with the RI Department of Health, is back to operating business as usual.


Having a crisis plan in place from the onset is critical for any type of business to effectively manage a crisis. A thorough plan will include a blueprint to follow for most types of crisis situations. This includes media statements, media protocols, and identified spokespeople. In a serious crisis, professional public relations help is critical. While the price tag for this type of PR can be high, it is money well spent to effectively mitigate the resulting damage to a business or brand.


Our industry is a cornerstone of the economy and a true success story. We all need to take necessary proactive steps to ensure that our storyline remains positive and our industry continues to flourish.

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List of Articles
No. Subject Author Datesort
40 The Best and Brightest Shine Brightly at RIHA’s Stars of the Industry Event file Monika Jan 15, 2019
Well, we did it again…Rhode Island’s amazing hospitality industry converged on Twin River Casino Hotel to celebrate our best and brightest of 2018. This annual event is truly the highlight of my year, and even though it takes an enormous amo...  
39 ‘Tis the Season of Giving Monika Sep 20, 2018
Hope everyone had a wonderful summer filled with rest, relaxation and rejuvenation and is now raring to go! We are fully in the season of giving – no, not the holidays – but, an even more stressful time of the year, the political season. Now...  
38 That’s a Legislative Wrap! file Monika Aug 16, 2018
After a marathon session of debates and a flurry of votes, Rhode Island’s General Assembly has adjourned for the summer. With hundreds of bills in the mix, the RI Hospitality Association (RIHA) spent countless hours carefully monitoring each...  
37 Summer in New England: Be a Tourist in Your Own Backyard file Monika Jul 05, 2018
When many of us think about summer vacations, we think about jumping on a plane and traveling to a far-off destination. However, for those of us who are fortunate enough to live in New England, there’s no need to venture too far to enjoy som...  
36 Our Next Generation of Culinary Stars: Cooking and Planning Their Hearts Out file Monika Jun 11, 2018
Recently, Providence, RI hosted the National ProStart® Invitational (NPSI), the country’s premier secondary-school competition focused on restaurant management and culinary arts. We had some wonderful judges visit from all over the nation as...  
35 Swimming Down “STREAM” Monika May 15, 2018
Education is truly the foundation of success no matter what career path you choose. Some learning is done in traditional classrooms, and more practical experience is gained in the thick of it in a restaurant or hotel kitchen, lodging establi...  
34 The #MeToo Movement is More than a Hashtag file Monika Mar 02, 2018
While the #MeToo movement has become synonymous with the entertainment industry, its reach is far deeper than the bright lights and golden statues of Hollywood. From politics, to business, to manufacturing, to hospitality, the potential for ...  
33 “We are made of star-stuff. Our bodies are made of star-stuff. There are pieces of star within us all.” file Monika Jan 02, 2018
“We are made of star-stuff. Our bodies are made of star-stuff. There are pieces of star within us all.” – Carl Sagan There is no greater honor for me each year then to be part of our industry’s largest celebration! Each November, I look forw...  
32 Paid Sick Leave Passes RI Legislature file Monika Oct 10, 2017
In September, both the Rhode Island House and Senate passed legislation that will require companies to give employees paid sick leave. Although the RI Hospitality Association (RIHA) is generally opposed to mandates that impact the employer-e...  
31 When did ‘Entry Level’ become Negative? file Monika Sep 19, 2017
If there is one theme that has dominated the political landscape in Rhode Island for the last decade, it is without a doubt jobs and the economy. Though we have seen a rise in the local economy since the recession, talk of job creation still...  
30 Taking the High Road – the Road Less Traveled file Monika Jul 24, 2017
Normal 0 false false false EN-US KO AR-SA Dale J. Venturini President/CEO, RI Hospitality Association It is increasingly difficult to take the high road in today’s political climate. And, so few are doing it, but it is critically important....  
29 Paid Sick Leave – it’s Nothing to Sneeze at RIHA May 08, 2017
In Rhode Island and across the nation, we’ve seen a host of legislation introduced by out-of-state special interest groups that have squarely targeted the hospitality industry. From eliminating the federal tipped wage, to raising minimum wag...  
28 Buying Local for the Holidays Monika Nov 15, 2016
The holiday season is fast approaching…from a retail perspective, it seems to come earlier and earlier each year. While I was shopping for Halloween candy this year, I was sidestepping Christmas trees, holiday decorations and specialty choco...  
27 The Cost of ‘Chip’ Cards and Protecting Against Fraud Monika Oct 04, 2016
By Dale Venturini, President and CEO, R.I Hospitality Association  Many of us currently have an EMV credit or debit card – also known as a ‘chip’ card. These safer versions of the traditional magnetic-strip cards were designed to protect co...  
26 Gluten is Not Free in Restaurants file Monika Sep 01, 2016
Dale J. Venturini President/CEO, RI Hospitality Association We all know people who struggle with food allergies. From peanut butter, to shellfish, to strawberries, to dairy, the idea of dining out when one has a food allergy can be an alarmi...  
25 Managing a Better Future file Monika Jun 30, 2016
The hospitality industry is a continuously growing segment of the U.S. economic picture. This year alone, the restaurant industry is expected to realize $783 billion in sales and employ 14.4 million in good-paying jobs, according to the Nati...  
24 Partnerships – They’re Not Always the Obvious Choice file Monika Jun 06, 2016
Dale J. Venturini President/CEO, RI Hospitality Association I’ve written extensively about the need to collaborate with organizations that share the same business interests. Whether a business partner’s mission is within your organization’s ...  
» How Important is a Proactive Crisis Plan? Your Business Could Depend on it. Monika May 05, 2016
Dale J. Venturini President/CEO, RI Hospitality Association   With the spate of negative media headlines surrounding restaurants that have experienced foodborne or human-contact illness, it is critically important that every eating establis...  
22 Where Have the Teens Gone? file Monika Apr 04, 2016
Dale J. Venturini President/CEO, RI Hospitality Association It used to be that almost every teenager had a job in the hospitality industry. With flexible hours and class-friendly scheduling, our industry was the perfect landing spot for high...  
21 The Real Cost of Foodborne Illness file Monika Feb 02, 2016
Dale J. Venturini President/CEO, RI Hospitality Association Our food supply system, while infinitely safer and better regulated than most other parts of the world, still has its challenges. We’ve all seen the headlines and recalls from E. co...