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Case Study: Taco Bell & E.coli Outbreak
Sadie Thornton Public Relations Writing 12-20-2006
According to the CDC. The important question is will they loss of customers as well? Escherichia coli known as E. The chain reported green onions to be the culprit and took them off the menu. There has been a E.com) Taco Bell may have suffered a damaging hit to the restaurant chain’s reputation.com) The nation is now finding that E.coli breakout due to farm produce of which the public may not have been aware. Taco Bell has a new menu item its chicken con E. raw meat or milk. coli outbreak that killed three and sickened more than 200 in September. diarrhea. lettuce from Taco Bell restaurants was the cause of E. Similar embarrassing incidents occurred to other food chains in the past and it remained in the news for several months afterwards. thus passing on the deadly bacteria to the dinners at the local fast food chain. 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 outbreak. Taco Bell eateries have reopened but the fast food chain remains the topic of conversation.” (49ABCNews.2 Problem A recent business problem that has flooded the mainstream public eye is the Taco Bell E. Issue/reputation Management In the aftermath of this unfortunate event.” (Starnewsonline.coli related illnesses reported in 67 people. and two tomato-caused salmonella outbreaks that made about 400 people ill in October and November. thus a little . which calls for issue and reputation management on the part of the Taco Bell Franchise. "By the way. and dehydration and in some cases death has resulted.coli can be passed through the handling and eating of uncooked.coli can also be spread to the produce we eat while it’s being grown." said David Letterman on a Late Show episode. This unfortunate incident became joke material for late night TV show hosts. The bacteria have been known to cause severe abdominal cramps. The breakout caused over 90 Taco Bell eateries to close temporarily. The fruits and vegetables can be contaminated by coming in contact with contaminated animal fertilizer. including a spinach-caused E.coli are bacteria that can live in the intestines of humans and animals.Coli. The public has been well informed that E. According to the CDC “federal health officials have dealt with five multi-state outbreaks of produce-related illnesses in the last four months. Taco Bell executives may be worried about the effect this incident will have on their image.
” When CNN Anchor Jeanie Mose asked people if they would eat at a Taco Bell? Three out of five people said “No”. even a few weeks after the incident.P. This means bad news for Taco Bell. A suggested course of action for Taco Bell is not to go on the defensive. Since Taco Bell’s outbreak Senator Schumer has called upon the food and drug administration to bring about . 1-800-tacobell is an automated telephone line that explains the E. The phone line also lists the symptoms caused by E. This is an effort on the part of Taco Bell to inform the public and rectify the issue.coli breakout to anyone who calls. 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. The franchise as well as the public isn’t aware of the presence of the harmful bacteria until it has already taken affect. After consulting the experts.coli. common goals and sharing of positions and responsibilities. Taco Bell may find that the strategies necessary to obtain their goal are the Informative strategy as well as the cooperative problem – solving strategy. “Questions you should ask yourself before eating at Taco Bell. The informative approach is necessary because an E.coli outbreak. at the E.coli outbreak is unforeseen to the eyes of everyone. Taco Bell became high interest news material.coli and lists recommended actions that should be taken if one might have such symptoms. 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.” (K. but to aim there aggression where it belongs. A proactive effort would have been for Taco Bell’s executives to join the fight in making food safer for the public to consume. something needs to be done.3 damage control is necessary. This act can be characterized as an “open exchange of information to establish a common definition of the problem. Werder) Taco Bell’s image is in need of some polishing. This issue is not just a problem that must be handled by Taco Bell but rather an issue that needs attention from everyone. Solutions Taco Bell needed a plan of action to restore the company’s image to circumvent loss of customers. They continued to make headlines. One fighter that has already joined the cause was New York State Senator Charles Schumer. In light of the E. Taco Bell even hit David Letterman’s Top Ten List stating.
Taco Bell could donate funds to research organizations that study E. the causes. We are unsure what has occurred. treatments and scientific possibilities of eliminating the threat all-together. "As soon as we learned of an E. Along with the cause. but in lieu of the incident are taking a stand and trying to help.coli research. They would have let the public know that this breakout wasn’t just an accident on the part of the franchise. (1010wins. Taco Bell issued a press release stating: “December 4. New York. Immediately after news of the breakout was heard. Together businesses could circulate information discussing E.coli. we voluntarily closed one restaurant in Middlesex County. 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. New York and four in Nassau County. Nothing is more important to us than the health and safety of our customers and .4 “produce-tracing measures” to protect the nation against unforeseeable bacteria. but rather an unfortunate event under which they had no control. symptoms. As an extra precaution. we immediately began working with state and county health officials to assist in their investigation. Taco Bell president said. we are in the process of sanitizing these isolated restaurants and replacing all the food ingredients before reopening these nine restaurants.coli in hopes of coming up with technology that can defeat this disastrous bacteria that threatens the health of numerous people.coli issue. the first one being” tell the truth”. Taco Bell would have strengthened their image in the eyes of consumers. New Jersey.com) Taco Bell is advised to publicly take a position on the issue and join in on the fight. four in Suffolk County. 2006 -. In addition the company could air public service announcements or even host fundraisers to raise money for E. how it spreads. As a precautionary measure. Another suggestion would be for Taco Bell to team up with other businesses and/or non-profit organizations to develop an awareness campaign. By reacting this way.Greg Creed.
people were unsure and had questions that need to be answered. They will want to continue business as usual and gain back their loyal customers. By being honest with the public. The President’s message was important because it expressed the attitude of the franchise. The key was to not loose Taco Bell’s faithful customers. This next principle deals with the entire issue management. 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.The second Principle addressed through Taco Bell’s PR team is “prove it with action”. Taco Bell continued to update with news releases. Taco Bell aimed to become a safe and enjoyable eating experience once again. the company reassured it’s consumers that Taco Bell is an upstanding establishment whose main priority is safety. but Taco Bell as been open and upfront from the beginning and took action to prove it. 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. revealing that Taco Bell really does care for its customers. Many establishments hide behind denial and lies in an attempt to avoid public confrontation in an issue like this one. .5 employees. This particular case has been “conducted as if the entire company depends on it”. 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. Managing for tomorrow is also important. ensuring the public’s safety. This also involves the next principle: “realize that the true character of a company is expressed by its people”." (Tacobell. After an incident such as this. Taco Bell needs to get back on the right track after this outbreak. This is a serious matter for Taco Bell and if not handled properly. Customer feedback was crucial in meeting their needs. Seven releases were posted on the company’s website.com) Since the incident. the damaging affects could have been fatal to the company. Taco Bell has taken action concerning this incident by enabling a hotline to inform the pubic and answer questions. even closing some locations where there might have been contamination.
how it was handled.6 The last principle is good advice to any PR team. This particular case is a good example of a business problem. This example has made for an interesting case study. Works Cited Schumer Takes Action After Taco Bell E. 2006.1010wins. and how the core values are applied in a situation such as this. the way it played out in the public eye. Retrieved December 20. but hopefully the chatter will die down and the franchise will be able to recover fully. the possible courses of action.com/pages/148818. and remain the butt of a few jokes for a little while. “remain calm. This issue will continue to be talked about.php?contentType=4&contentId=259575 . Taco Bell handled the incident wisely and were as good humored as the situation would allow. make headlines. from 1010 Wins Web site: http://www.Coli Scare. patient and good humored”.
7 Tobbe. or is it?.Coli outbreak is no laughing matter. from Starnewsonline.com/news/2006/dec/18/taco_bell_ecoli_outbreak_no_laughing_matter_or_ it/#download-video .49abcnews.com/apps/pbcs. december 4). 2006. Mike (2006). Taco Bell e.wilmingtonstar. from 49news Web site: http://www. coli outbreak unremarkable. 2006. Retrieved December 20. CDC: Taco Bell E. 2006.com Web site: http://www.tacobell. Retrieved December 20. from Tacobell Web site: http://www. Retrieved December 20.dll/article?AID=/20061215/NEWS/612150337/-1/State (2006.com/ (2006). Our Company:Press releases.
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