Restaurant chains brace for Hurricane Sandy

Oct. 29, 2012 | by Alicia Kelso

Hurricane Sandy began making landfall along the East Coast today with an estimated 60 million people in its path. Most weather professionals are expecting catastrophic conditions unlike any prior storm, as it's likely Sandy will collide with a cold front that could create winds up to 90 mph, flash flooding, blizzard-like conditions and power outages.

In preparation, airline and ground transportation systems in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia have been shut down. Some coastal towns have also issued mandatory evacuations.

Restaurant chains are also setting their contingency plans in motion as Sandy hunkers down.

Josephine Capozzi, vice president of Franchise Relations for Jersey Mike's Subs – headquartered in New Jersey – said the chain issued "Hurricane Best Practices" last week, when Sandy began forming on the radar. The checklist includes a safety manual as well as store-specific information from the IT department and practices from franchise owners and area directors.

"These best practices cover everything from how to secure the inside/outside of facility to food safety to what to expect upon re-opening. Also, all of our area directors follow up with every location before, during and after storms like this to ensure our franchise owners and team members are prepared and safe," Capozzi said.

According to a spokesperson for Popeyes, based in Atlanta, the company has implemented its business continuity contingency plans including daily storm monitoring communications, supply chain contingencies and planning, and hurricane preparedness tips. Also, Popeyes' business continuity team is meeting daily to assess the situation and report out.

East Coast-heavy Dunkin' Brands, headquartered in Canton, Mass., released the following statement about its storm preparation:

"We have very thorough plans in place to ensure adequate resources are deployed to support our stores affected by Hurricane Sandy. Our operations team has been in close contact with our franchisees throughout the storm, and it appears that our franchisees and their employees are safe. Very few restaurants have closed. Any closures have been due largely to power outages or as a result of evacuations in affected areas. The majority of our restaurants are open and taking care of their customers."

Dunkin' Donuts also wrote on its Facebook page that it's up to the Dunkin' franchise owner as to whether they're open during the storm.

Another East Coast-based chain, Muscle Maker Grill, out of Colonia, N.J., has closed many stores, particularly those in Southern New Jersey, and has taken proper measures to secure those locations, according to founder Rod Silva.

He expects locations that are still open to have slow business today and Tuesday. A prepared disaster plan for all locations has been sent out electronically.

"We also believe strongly in maintaining a positive attitude and keep all of our partners and customers in our prayers," Silva said.

Domino's Pizza spokesperson Chris Brandon said the corporate office encourages affected franchisees to pay attention to local authorities and, if they are told to close and evacuate, they're expected to do so.

"In many parts of the region, evacuations have not been issued to this point. It is in these areas that we encourage people to use their best judgment and to take care of their families first. If, in the judgment of the franchisee, that means closing until the storm passes – that is, of course, fine. No one is forced to work during these times. All team members know that when they come to work before, during and immediately after these storms, they are doing so on their own, voluntarily," Brandon said.

According to Brandon, Domino's culture is to be on site and prepared whenever something like this happens. That means being open and ready to feed "hungry people when they need it most."

In the wake of hurricane Katrina in 2005, Domino's franchisees, team members and volunteers reopened stores, set up mobile units and donated more than 40,000 pizzas to people in the most affected areas.

Jersey Mike's also anticipates getting up and running as soon as the storm blows through.

"Often Jersey Mike's is one of the first businesses to reopen in affected areas and we are ready to feed our hungry customers as well as help the emergency crews by providing sub sandwiches to keep them going on long shifts," Capozzi said.

Cherryh Butler contributed to this story.

Hurricane image courtesy of NASA/GSFC/Jeff Schmaltz/MODIS Land Rapid Response Team.

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Topics: Franchising & Growth , Insurance / Risk Management , Operations Management , Staffing & Training

Alicia Kelso / Alicia has been a professional journalist for 15 years. Her work with, and has been featured in publications around the world, including NPR, Good Morning America, Voice of Russia radio, and Franchise Asia magazine.
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