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Case Study: Taco Bell & E.coli Outbreak
Sadie Thornton Public Relations Writing 12-20-2006
coli breakout due to farm produce of which the public may not have been aware. "By the way.coli can be passed through the handling and eating of uncooked. including a spinach-caused E. Issue/reputation Management In the aftermath of this unfortunate event. According to the CDC. The important question is will they loss of customers as well? Escherichia coli known as E. raw meat or milk. thus passing on the deadly bacteria to the dinners at the local fast food chain. The breakout caused over 90 Taco Bell eateries to close temporarily. There has been a E." said David Letterman on a Late Show episode. Taco Bell eateries have reopened but the fast food chain remains the topic of conversation. thus a little . coli outbreak that killed three and sickened more than 200 in September. The bacteria have been known to cause severe abdominal cramps.coli related illnesses reported in 67 people.coli are bacteria that can live in the intestines of humans and animals.” (49ABCNews. The chain reported green onions to be the culprit and took them off the menu.com) Taco Bell may have suffered a damaging hit to the restaurant chain’s reputation.” (Starnewsonline. Similar embarrassing incidents occurred to other food chains in the past and it remained in the news for several months afterwards. The fruits and vegetables can be contaminated by coming in contact with contaminated animal fertilizer. The public has been well informed that E. and two tomato-caused salmonella outbreaks that made about 400 people ill in October and November.2 Problem A recent business problem that has flooded the mainstream public eye is the Taco Bell E. and dehydration and in some cases death has resulted.coli outbreak. According to the CDC “federal health officials have dealt with five multi-state outbreaks of produce-related illnesses in the last four months. which calls for issue and reputation management on the part of the Taco Bell Franchise. Taco Bell executives may be worried about the effect this incident will have on their image.com) The nation is now finding that E. This unfortunate incident became joke material for late night TV show hosts. the objective of the company’s public relations team is to ease the minds of their customers and to restore a positive public image.Coli. diarrhea. Taco Bell has a new menu item its chicken con E. lettuce from Taco Bell restaurants was the cause of E.coli can also be spread to the produce we eat while it’s being grown.
This act can be characterized as an “open exchange of information to establish a common definition of the problem. A suggested course of action for Taco Bell is not to go on the defensive. even a few weeks after the incident. Solutions Taco Bell needed a plan of action to restore the company’s image to circumvent loss of customers. but an informed nation is better equipped to handle the necessary precautions that should be taken on the behave of the franchise as well as the consumers. They continued to make headlines. at the E.coli breakout to anyone who calls. common goals and sharing of positions and responsibilities.” (K. The informative approach is necessary because an E.coli outbreak is unforeseen to the eyes of everyone. The phone line also lists the symptoms caused by E.3 damage control is necessary. This means bad news for Taco Bell. One fighter that has already joined the cause was New York State Senator Charles Schumer. 1-800-tacobell is an automated telephone line that explains the E. something needs to be done.coli outbreak. The franchise as well as the public isn’t aware of the presence of the harmful bacteria until it has already taken affect. “Questions you should ask yourself before eating at Taco Bell. but to aim there aggression where it belongs.” When CNN Anchor Jeanie Mose asked people if they would eat at a Taco Bell? Three out of five people said “No”. Since Taco Bell’s outbreak Senator Schumer has called upon the food and drug administration to bring about .P. Werder) Taco Bell’s image is in need of some polishing.coli. One step in the right direction that has already been taken is an information hotline setup by Taco Bell in the aftermath of the outbreak. In light of the E. A proactive effort would have been for Taco Bell’s executives to join the fight in making food safer for the public to consume. This issue is not just a problem that must be handled by Taco Bell but rather an issue that needs attention from everyone. Taco Bell may find that the strategies necessary to obtain their goal are the Informative strategy as well as the cooperative problem – solving strategy.coli and lists recommended actions that should be taken if one might have such symptoms. Taco Bell became high interest news material. Taco Bell even hit David Letterman’s Top Ten List stating. After consulting the experts. This is an effort on the part of Taco Bell to inform the public and rectify the issue.
By reacting this way. how it spreads. They would have let the public know that this breakout wasn’t just an accident on the part of the franchise. but health officials have indicated that there is no immediate threat and whatever may have occurred has most likely passed through the system since there have been no new cases since November 29. but rather an unfortunate event under which they had no control. As a precautionary measure. Taco Bell president said. symptoms. Nothing is more important to us than the health and safety of our customers and . treatments and scientific possibilities of eliminating the threat all-together. the first one being” tell the truth”. (1010wins. four in Suffolk County.coli issue.coli in hopes of coming up with technology that can defeat this disastrous bacteria that threatens the health of numerous people. Immediately after news of the breakout was heard.coli research. Taco Bell issued a press release stating: “December 4. we are in the process of sanitizing these isolated restaurants and replacing all the food ingredients before reopening these nine restaurants. we voluntarily closed one restaurant in Middlesex County. New York. New Jersey. As an extra precaution. We are unsure what has occurred.coli. 2006 -. Another suggestion would be for Taco Bell to team up with other businesses and/or non-profit organizations to develop an awareness campaign.Greg Creed. Taco Bell could donate funds to research organizations that study E. New York and four in Nassau County. Page Principles If Taco Bell follows this course of action they will be in good standing concerning the core values of public relations. the causes.com) Taco Bell is advised to publicly take a position on the issue and join in on the fight. Together businesses could circulate information discussing E. Taco Bell would have strengthened their image in the eyes of consumers. we immediately began working with state and county health officials to assist in their investigation. but in lieu of the incident are taking a stand and trying to help. In addition the company could air public service announcements or even host fundraisers to raise money for E. Along with the cause.4 “produce-tracing measures” to protect the nation against unforeseeable bacteria. "As soon as we learned of an E.
Taco Bell aimed to become a safe and enjoyable eating experience once again. This particular case has been “conducted as if the entire company depends on it”.The second Principle addressed through Taco Bell’s PR team is “prove it with action”. but Taco Bell as been open and upfront from the beginning and took action to prove it. This next principle deals with the entire issue management." (Tacobell. even closing some locations where there might have been contamination.5 employees. The key was to not loose Taco Bell’s faithful customers. Taco Bell needs to get back on the right track after this outbreak. revealing that Taco Bell really does care for its customers. Taco Bell has taken action concerning this incident by enabling a hotline to inform the pubic and answer questions. Taco Bell continued to update with news releases. the damaging affects could have been fatal to the company. This is a serious matter for Taco Bell and if not handled properly. These two principles were important to restore the company’s image in the eyes of the consumers. Customer feedback was crucial in meeting their needs. This also involves the next principle: “realize that the true character of a company is expressed by its people”. They will want to continue business as usual and gain back their loyal customers.com) Since the incident. the company reassured it’s consumers that Taco Bell is an upstanding establishment whose main priority is safety. Seven releases were posted on the company’s website. It is important that Taco Bell remains professional during this process. people were unsure and had questions that need to be answered. . Managing for tomorrow is also important. The President’s message was important because it expressed the attitude of the franchise. Many establishments hide behind denial and lies in an attempt to avoid public confrontation in an issue like this one. By being honest with the public. ensuring the public’s safety. The next steps taken on the part of the franchise were “listen to the customer” and “manage for tomorrow”. Taco Bell’s actions and the suggested plan of action both sent a message to the public. After an incident such as this. We are obviously very concerned about the well-being of all those who have been affected by this incident and will continue to work closely with health authorities to get to the root cause of the issue.
“remain calm. This example has made for an interesting case study. This particular case is a good example of a business problem. and remain the butt of a few jokes for a little while. but hopefully the chatter will die down and the franchise will be able to recover fully. the way it played out in the public eye. Works Cited Schumer Takes Action After Taco Bell E.6 The last principle is good advice to any PR team.php?contentType=4&contentId=259575 . the possible courses of action. Retrieved December 20.Coli Scare. This issue will continue to be talked about. and how the core values are applied in a situation such as this. Taco Bell handled the incident wisely and were as good humored as the situation would allow. make headlines.com/pages/148818. how it was handled.1010wins. 2006. patient and good humored”. from 1010 Wins Web site: http://www.
7 Tobbe. Retrieved December 20. Taco Bell e. Retrieved December 20. or is it?. december 4).com/apps/pbcs. from Tacobell Web site: http://www.com Web site: http://www.wilmingtonstar. Our Company:Press releases.Coli outbreak is no laughing matter.com/news/2006/dec/18/taco_bell_ecoli_outbreak_no_laughing_matter_or_ it/#download-video . 2006. from 49news Web site: http://www. 2006. 2006. coli outbreak unremarkable.49abcnews. Mike (2006).com/ (2006).tacobell.dll/article?AID=/20061215/NEWS/612150337/-1/State (2006. Retrieved December 20. from Starnewsonline. CDC: Taco Bell E.
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