Food Poisoning

How fast can food poisoning present itself? I had a good customer claim he got food poisoning from us. He has never been a customer to complain for no reason, but we have also never had someone clam food poisoning. He said he was sick and on the toilet 11 time in 5 hours and he first got sick an hour after eating. No one else was sick, I hate the same type of pizza he did and I am fine. I am about 99% sure that he got sick from something else.

He could have gotten sick from himself. Perhaps he defecated and did not wash his own hands. If he is not a regular complainer, I would do whatever you can to placate him, including comping him what he paid and giving him the next meal on you. Let him know you have checked with employees and other customers and that it is not a systemic issue. Let him know that it is very hard to trace these issues but you take his notice very seriously and have double-checked everything. The gist of your remarks needs to balance the tricky issue of not disbelieving him while also making sure he understands that there is nothing wrong on your end.

What type of pie was it?

We used to get food poisoning claims all the time at one pizzeria I worked for (not Papa John’s) and it turned out the “common denominator” was a thin crust pepperoni (or thin crust double pep), which of course, is the greasiest thing known to the pizza kingdom.

FYI: In my area right now, a stomach virus IS going around presenting nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Don’t discount his claim, but offer help as you can, especially being he is a good customer.

Wishing you the best of luck!


He had a Hand Tossed Butcher Shop. It has Itailian Sausage, Ground Beef, Canadian Bacon, Pepperoni, Bacon and Extra Cheese. It was a 14" and he ate 1/2 of it. I am going to talk to some people that also ordered that pizza and then I am going to send him a note letting me know that I couldn’t find anyone else that was sick but I understand his concerns along with a $25.00 gift card.

A note may be too impersonal. I think you should speak to him face-to-face if possible. If not possible, at least call him and then follow-up with a letter.

Wow…is this something he normally orders (for me, that combo would definitely cause the problems he says he’s having), and are your ingredients exactly the same as usual (ie: same meat from same vendor (or way produced), etc.)?

I agree, call him, check on how he’s doing…express your sympathy without making it sound fake, and offer up either a free meal or a free gift card and assure him while he is the only one with a complaint, that you take it seriously, and can assure him that this is the first complaint you’ve ever had (and hopefully the last) and that you still wish to keep his business.

Sometimes, it just takes asking a customer what you can do to make it right that will get you and him “buddies” again…without jumping to the conclusion that he may be “out to get you” like many are right now, and without you having to break your bank, too.

I don’t know if this would be good business, but myself, I’d be curious to see if he went to the doctor, what type of food borne pathogen was found in the food, so you can isolate any problem, if there is one.

I know that on our end, it would be a good business move, but I just don’t know how you could ask a customer that without them feeling you don’t believe them.

ETA: Unless the others you ask are good friends of yours…I’m not so sure that I’d ask anyone else. If you really do have a problem, then they’ll come back to you. Otherwise, you may cause a panic with the rest of your customers…anyone agree?

Please keep us updated.


I agree. But you can simply say you are making a routine call to check the level of service and quality (something you should be doing anyway). It is a simple matter to check the POS for the same pizza or ingredients sold around the same time.

I recently had a “food poisoning” complaint from a good customer. Went to her house first thing the next day and got samples of the so called problem pizzas. Went to the health inspector who sent it for testing. They also came and thoroughly checked out shop at my request to see if we had any problems that could be at fault.

The store came out A+ and the samples were clear of evrything including staph that could have been transferred by staff.

Still giving the customer full value of the order ($41) as a credit even though we were proved by the health dept as not being the cause.


Dave, you did exactly right. That is the right way to handle it. Top notch restaurateur.

Back in my previous life I was a nurse, thought I would give you a little insight on food poisoning. 1. If it is one type of poisoning you will almost “immediatley” start throwing up. 2. If it is the other types you will get violent diahrehha after 15-24 hours. If it is diahrehha it will come usually from the meal BEFORE the last one you ate, forcing that food into your lower bowel and send it out. A little gross, but thought I would share my info.

I had someone complain that we sent him to the hospital. Him, his wife and their two small children all ate from the same pizza. He gets so sick a few hours later that he had to be hospitalized, but everyone else is fine. Of course, they called 3 days later to complain and had thrown out the 2 remaining slices. I immediately called the health department to report it and they came straight out to inspect/investigate. I also called my attorney and my insurance agent (these people were talking big time lawsuit from the first phone call). Well, after a clean bill from the health department, and some sleepless nights on my part, it turns out the guy had some other non-food related virus. Take a guess if I ever got an apology from them? Keep your chin up, you might not be to blame.