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