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Case Study: Taco Bell & E.coli Outbreak
Sadie Thornton Public Relations Writing 12-20-2006
There has been a E. lettuce from Taco Bell restaurants was the cause of E. Taco Bell has a new menu item its chicken con E. Taco Bell eateries have reopened but the fast food chain remains the topic of conversation. This unfortunate incident became joke material for late night TV show hosts.” (Starnewsonline. According to the CDC.com) The nation is now finding that E. the objective of the company’s public relations team is to ease the minds of their customers and to restore a positive public image. The bacteria have been known to cause severe abdominal cramps. Taco Bell executives may be worried about the effect this incident will have on their image.coli are bacteria that can live in the intestines of humans and animals. Similar embarrassing incidents occurred to other food chains in the past and it remained in the news for several months afterwards.” (49ABCNews. and dehydration and in some cases death has resulted. coli outbreak that killed three and sickened more than 200 in September. thus a little . The public has been well informed that E.coli outbreak. and two tomato-caused salmonella outbreaks that made about 400 people ill in October and November.coli can be passed through the handling and eating of uncooked.2 Problem A recent business problem that has flooded the mainstream public eye is the Taco Bell E.coli breakout due to farm produce of which the public may not have been aware.coli can also be spread to the produce we eat while it’s being grown. thus passing on the deadly bacteria to the dinners at the local fast food chain. raw meat or milk." said David Letterman on a Late Show episode. Issue/reputation Management In the aftermath of this unfortunate event. The fruits and vegetables can be contaminated by coming in contact with contaminated animal fertilizer. According to the CDC “federal health officials have dealt with five multi-state outbreaks of produce-related illnesses in the last four months. 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. which calls for issue and reputation management on the part of the Taco Bell Franchise. The important question is will they loss of customers as well? Escherichia coli known as E. diarrhea. "By the way.Coli.coli related illnesses reported in 67 people. including a spinach-caused E. The breakout caused over 90 Taco Bell eateries to close temporarily.
coli breakout to anyone who calls. Taco Bell may find that the strategies necessary to obtain their goal are the Informative strategy as well as the cooperative problem – solving strategy.3 damage control is necessary. One fighter that has already joined the cause was New York State Senator Charles Schumer. 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. at the E. Werder) Taco Bell’s image is in need of some polishing. 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.coli outbreak is unforeseen to the eyes of everyone. but to aim there aggression where it belongs. something needs to be done. The informative approach is necessary because an E. 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. Taco Bell even hit David Letterman’s Top Ten List stating. “Questions you should ask yourself before eating at Taco Bell. Solutions Taco Bell needed a plan of action to restore the company’s image to circumvent loss of customers.coli. 1-800-tacobell is an automated telephone line that explains the E.P. This is an effort on the part of Taco Bell to inform the public and rectify the issue. Taco Bell became high interest news material. common goals and sharing of positions and responsibilities. In light of the E. A suggested course of action for Taco Bell is not to go on the defensive. The phone line also lists the symptoms caused by E. even a few weeks after the incident. After consulting the experts.coli outbreak. Since Taco Bell’s outbreak Senator Schumer has called upon the food and drug administration to bring about . The franchise as well as the public isn’t aware of the presence of the harmful bacteria until it has already taken affect.” (K. This act can be characterized as an “open exchange of information to establish a common definition of the problem.coli and lists recommended actions that should be taken if one might have such symptoms.” When CNN Anchor Jeanie Mose asked people if they would eat at a Taco Bell? Three out of five people said “No”. This means bad news for Taco Bell.
the first one being” tell the truth”. we are in the process of sanitizing these isolated restaurants and replacing all the food ingredients before reopening these nine restaurants.Greg Creed. New Jersey.coli research. symptoms. Immediately after news of the breakout was heard. 2006 -. By reacting this way. four in Suffolk County. Together businesses could circulate information discussing E.com) Taco Bell is advised to publicly take a position on the issue and join in on the fight. we immediately began working with state and county health officials to assist in their investigation.coli. 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. Page Principles If Taco Bell follows this course of action they will be in good standing concerning the core values of public relations. "As soon as we learned of an E. New York. Taco Bell could donate funds to research organizations that study E. As a precautionary measure.4 “produce-tracing measures” to protect the nation against unforeseeable bacteria. (1010wins.coli issue. the causes.coli in hopes of coming up with technology that can defeat this disastrous bacteria that threatens the health of numerous people. In addition the company could air public service announcements or even host fundraisers to raise money for E. Nothing is more important to us than the health and safety of our customers and . Taco Bell issued a press release stating: “December 4. treatments and scientific possibilities of eliminating the threat all-together. They would have let the public know that this breakout wasn’t just an accident on the part of the franchise. Along with the cause. Taco Bell would have strengthened their image in the eyes of consumers. As an extra precaution. Taco Bell president said. but rather an unfortunate event under which they had no control. Another suggestion would be for Taco Bell to team up with other businesses and/or non-profit organizations to develop an awareness campaign. We are unsure what has occurred. but in lieu of the incident are taking a stand and trying to help. New York and four in Nassau County. we voluntarily closed one restaurant in Middlesex County. how it spreads.
The President’s message was important because it expressed the attitude of the franchise. Taco Bell continued to update with news releases. Many establishments hide behind denial and lies in an attempt to avoid public confrontation in an issue like this one. The next steps taken on the part of the franchise were “listen to the customer” and “manage for tomorrow”." (Tacobell. revealing that Taco Bell really does care for its customers. This is a serious matter for Taco Bell and if not handled properly. Seven releases were posted on the company’s website. This particular case has been “conducted as if the entire company depends on it”. Customer feedback was crucial in meeting their needs. the damaging affects could have been fatal to the company.The second Principle addressed through Taco Bell’s PR team is “prove it with action”. even closing some locations where there might have been contamination. Taco Bell has taken action concerning this incident by enabling a hotline to inform the pubic and answer questions. After an incident such as this.com) Since the incident. . These two principles were important to restore the company’s image in the eyes of the consumers. It is important that Taco Bell remains professional during this process. ensuring the public’s safety. but Taco Bell as been open and upfront from the beginning and took action to prove it. The key was to not loose Taco Bell’s faithful customers.5 employees. By being honest with the public. Managing for tomorrow is also important. Taco Bell’s actions and the suggested plan of action both sent a message to the public. This also involves the next principle: “realize that the true character of a company is expressed by its people”. This next principle deals with the entire issue management. the company reassured it’s consumers that Taco Bell is an upstanding establishment whose main priority is safety. They will want to continue business as usual and gain back their loyal customers. 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. Taco Bell aimed to become a safe and enjoyable eating experience once again. people were unsure and had questions that need to be answered. Taco Bell needs to get back on the right track after this outbreak.
2006. how it was handled. This particular case is a good example of a business problem. patient and good humored”. and remain the butt of a few jokes for a little while. the way it played out in the public eye. and how the core values are applied in a situation such as this. make headlines. but hopefully the chatter will die down and the franchise will be able to recover fully. Taco Bell handled the incident wisely and were as good humored as the situation would allow.php?contentType=4&contentId=259575 .Coli Scare.com/pages/148818. “remain calm. from 1010 Wins Web site: http://www. This example has made for an interesting case study. This issue will continue to be talked about.6 The last principle is good advice to any PR team. the possible courses of action.1010wins. Works Cited Schumer Takes Action After Taco Bell E. Retrieved December 20.
com/news/2006/dec/18/taco_bell_ecoli_outbreak_no_laughing_matter_or_ it/#download-video . from 49news Web site: http://www. from Starnewsonline. Retrieved December 20.com/ (2006). coli outbreak unremarkable. or is it?. 2006. CDC: Taco Bell E. Retrieved December 20. Retrieved December 20.com Web site: http://www. december 4).dll/article?AID=/20061215/NEWS/612150337/-1/State (2006. Our Company:Press releases. 2006.49abcnews.tacobell.7 Tobbe. Taco Bell e.Coli outbreak is no laughing matter. from Tacobell Web site: http://www.wilmingtonstar.com/apps/pbcs. 2006. Mike (2006).
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