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The Value of Playing it Safe


With such diversity in entertainment choices, some say our culture lost something when it became less homogenized. I disagree, as the herd mentality has never been stronger. Look at what’s (very deservedly) happening to Volkswagen with its diesel deception scandal. As a business reporter and car nut, I see a cautionary tale for the C-suiters of any company: play it safe and anticipate your own moment of blinding scrutiny.

While in VW’s case it took a crack team of West Virginia scientists to uncover its years of deceit, while 500,000 of its sporty little diesels spewed excessive NOx into the air, many brands—especially foodservice—are one little discovery, disgruntled employee or news story away from public scorn.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that every company deserves scorn, but the context is always shifting and the public is ever more demanding of the corporations it supports with countless individual purchase decisions.

Does your restaurant source meat from a farm that mistreats its animals? Does your cleaning franchise use chemicals of questionable health impact? Are your widgets made in a place where workers rights are below contemporary American standards? If you can’t guarantee the fidelity of your supply chain from start to finish, including external suppliers, your company could be at risk of a devastating hit to its public image and sales.

By lying not just to the government, but to its most loyal, eco-friendly customers, Volkswagen may struggle for many years to regain the market share it is currently losing. Perception is reality, and by slapping its own customers in the face, its reputation damage may eclipse government-levied financial penalties. And that’s saying nothing about the coming tsunami of class action lawsuits.

Whether it’s an unhappy pig, a foreign factory, a man-made chemical or a diesel engine, it doesn’t take much to turn the herd against you. The world is watching. Tread lightly, leave no stone unturned and play it safe with the reputation of your company. Your franchisees, customers, investors and regulators are counting on it—and nobody can resist a good scandal even if they like your product or service.


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About This Blog

The latest news, opinions and commentary on what's happening in the franchise arena that could affect your business.

Laura MichaelsLaura Michaels is editor of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3210, or send story ideas to lmichaels@franchisetimes.com.
Beth EwenBeth Ewen is senior editor of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3212, or send story ideas to bewen@franchisetimes.com.
Nicholas UptonNicholas Upton is restaurants editor at Franchise Times. He can be reached at 612.767.3226, or send story ideas to nupton@franchisetimes.com.
Mary Jo LarsonMary Jo Larson is the publisher of Franchise Times Magazine and the Restaurant Finance Monitor.  You can find her on Twitter at




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