How The Restaurant Industry Is Handling Renewed Active Shooter Threats

How The Restaurant Industry Is Handling Renewed Active Shooter Threats

More companies are rethinking their active shooter training programs and evaluating the financial risk of shootings at their locations.

Restaurants, particularly fast food chains, have become increasingly common sites of deadly shootings, provoking fear in employees and concern from industry leaders about worker safety — and how the violence could drive people away from their businesses.

Three fatal shootings have taken place at fast food locations so far this year, including at a Whataburger in Tulsa, a Steak & Shake in Charlotte and a Wendy’s in Kansas City, Business Insider reported. This week, just days after two mass shootings in Texas and Ohio, fast food executives gathered for a conference in Nashville to learn more about the security challenges facing the industry, including active shooters.

At the annual Restaurant Loss Prevention and Security Association Conference, attendees heard from Pete McCartney, the security director for Papa John’s International, about the company’s active shooter training and how to go “beyond the standard ‘Run, Hide, Fight,’ methodology,” according to the conference agenda.

Executives from Waffle House were also set to appear to talk about the company’s response to the 2018 shooting in Nashville that left four people dead, but the officials ultimately did not speak on the panel, according to BI. Other presentations included lessons on implementing cybersecurity solutions and preventing conflicts between customers and employees.

More restaurant companies are looking to create or reassess their active shooter training procedures, BI reported. McDonald’s added active shooter training to its available workplace safety programs earlier this year. But most chains leave it up to their franchisees to decide on the content and timing of worker training, making the implementation of such programs uneven.

And more employees are taking their safety into their own hands, making mental plans of how they would deal with a shooter in their restaurant. Courtney Botti, who works at a restaurant in Charleston, told The Wall Street Journal that she would go into the walk-in cooler and stand behind the stainless steel door: “It might be cold, but at least we’d be safe.” Experts believe the plans are less legitimate strategies than reflections of the anxiety Americans are feeling in the workplace, the Journal reported.

Beyond the safety concerns, companies like Del Taco Restaurants and Dave & Buster’s have added language on active shooter scenarios to their annual reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, CNBC reported. The corporations list the potential of an active shooter under a section of possible hazards to their businesses that is meant to warn investors about potential drops in profits and stock price.

Since 2016, The Cheesecake Factory has included the threat of an active shooter under this section, which also includes the potential financial impact of natural disasters and the downsides of opening a new restaurant too close to an existing Cheesecake Factory.

“Any act of violence at or threatened against our restaurants or the centers in which they are located, including active shooter situations and terrorist activities, may result in restricted access to our restaurants and/or restaurant closures in the short-term and, in the long-term, may cause our customers and staff to avoid our restaurants,” the report states. “Any such situation could adversely impact customer traffic and make it more difficult to fully staff our restaurants, which could materially adversely affect our financial performance.”

The risk appears to be a higher priority for the restaurant and entertainment industries as opposed to other sectors.

“As [shootings] become more prevalent, the priority starts to increase,” Paul Lannon, an attorney at Holland & Knight LLP who counsels companies on workplace issues, told The Wall Street Journal.

About the Author

Haley Samsel is an Associate Content Editor for the Infrastructure Solutions Group at 1105 Media.

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