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Case Study: Taco Bell & E.coli Outbreak
Sadie Thornton Public Relations Writing 12-20-2006
thus passing on the deadly bacteria to the dinners at the local fast food chain. which calls for issue and reputation management on the part of the Taco Bell Franchise. There has been a E. The important question is will they loss of customers as well? Escherichia coli known as E. The bacteria have been known to cause severe abdominal cramps.” (49ABCNews.Coli.com) Taco Bell may have suffered a damaging hit to the restaurant chain’s reputation. According to the CDC. and dehydration and in some cases death has resulted. diarrhea.coli can be passed through the handling and eating of uncooked. raw meat or milk. Taco Bell has a new menu item its chicken con E. The chain reported green onions to be the culprit and took them off the menu. the objective of the company’s public relations team is to ease the minds of their customers and to restore a positive public image." said David Letterman on a Late Show episode. "By the way. and two tomato-caused salmonella outbreaks that made about 400 people ill in October and November. Taco Bell executives may be worried about the effect this incident will have on their image. including a spinach-caused E. This unfortunate incident became joke material for late night TV show hosts.coli can also be spread to the produce we eat while it’s being grown. According to the CDC “federal health officials have dealt with five multi-state outbreaks of produce-related illnesses in the last four months.2 Problem A recent business problem that has flooded the mainstream public eye is the Taco Bell E.com) The nation is now finding that E. Similar embarrassing incidents occurred to other food chains in the past and it remained in the news for several months afterwards. coli outbreak that killed three and sickened more than 200 in September. thus a little .coli are bacteria that can live in the intestines of humans and animals.coli related illnesses reported in 67 people. Taco Bell eateries have reopened but the fast food chain remains the topic of conversation.coli outbreak. The fruits and vegetables can be contaminated by coming in contact with contaminated animal fertilizer. The breakout caused over 90 Taco Bell eateries to close temporarily. lettuce from Taco Bell restaurants was the cause of E. Issue/reputation Management In the aftermath of this unfortunate event.” (Starnewsonline. The public has been well informed that E.coli breakout due to farm produce of which the public may not have been aware.
After consulting the experts.P.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. A suggested course of action for Taco Bell is not to go on the defensive. Werder) Taco Bell’s image is in need of some polishing. 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.” (K. Solutions Taco Bell needed a plan of action to restore the company’s image to circumvent loss of customers.coli outbreak is unforeseen to the eyes of everyone. This act can be characterized as an “open exchange of information to establish a common definition of the problem. at the E. In light of the E. The franchise as well as the public isn’t aware of the presence of the harmful bacteria until it has already taken affect. This means bad news for Taco Bell.” When CNN Anchor Jeanie Mose asked people if they would eat at a Taco Bell? Three out of five people said “No”. The informative approach is necessary because an E. even a few weeks after the incident. Taco Bell became high interest news material.coli breakout to anyone who calls. Taco Bell even hit David Letterman’s Top Ten List stating. “Questions you should ask yourself before eating at Taco Bell.coli and lists recommended actions that should be taken if one might have such symptoms.coli outbreak. Since Taco Bell’s outbreak Senator Schumer has called upon the food and drug administration to bring about . 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. This is an effort on the part of Taco Bell to inform the public and rectify the issue.3 damage control is necessary. They continued to make headlines. This issue is not just a problem that must be handled by Taco Bell but rather an issue that needs attention from everyone. something needs to be done. A proactive effort would have been for Taco Bell’s executives to join the fight in making food safer for the public to consume. 1-800-tacobell is an automated telephone line that explains the E. 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. but to aim there aggression where it belongs.
By reacting this way. New York.Greg Creed. They would have let the public know that this breakout wasn’t just an accident on the part of the franchise.com) Taco Bell is advised to publicly take a position on the issue and join in on the fight. symptoms. In addition the company could air public service announcements or even host fundraisers to raise money for E. the causes. Nothing is more important to us than the health and safety of our customers and .coli in hopes of coming up with technology that can defeat this disastrous bacteria that threatens the health of numerous people. we immediately began working with state and county health officials to assist in their investigation. we are in the process of sanitizing these isolated restaurants and replacing all the food ingredients before reopening these nine restaurants. Taco Bell would have strengthened their image in the eyes of consumers. Another suggestion would be for Taco Bell to team up with other businesses and/or non-profit organizations to develop an awareness campaign. (1010wins. four in Suffolk County. but in lieu of the incident are taking a stand and trying to help. 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. Along with the cause. 2006 -. Taco Bell president said.4 “produce-tracing measures” to protect the nation against unforeseeable bacteria. Taco Bell issued a press release stating: “December 4. Taco Bell could donate funds to research organizations that study E. Page Principles If Taco Bell follows this course of action they will be in good standing concerning the core values of public relations. the first one being” tell the truth”. "As soon as we learned of an E. We are unsure what has occurred. treatments and scientific possibilities of eliminating the threat all-together. As an extra precaution.coli issue. we voluntarily closed one restaurant in Middlesex County. New Jersey. As a precautionary measure.coli. how it spreads. Immediately after news of the breakout was heard.coli research. but rather an unfortunate event under which they had no control. New York and four in Nassau County. Together businesses could circulate information discussing E.
These two principles were important to restore the company’s image in the eyes of the consumers. 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”. Taco Bell continued to update with news releases. This also involves the next principle: “realize that the true character of a company is expressed by its people”. Seven releases were posted on the company’s website. After an incident such as this. Taco Bell needs to get back on the right track after this outbreak. The key was to not loose Taco Bell’s faithful customers. Taco Bell aimed to become a safe and enjoyable eating experience once again. It is important that Taco Bell remains professional during this process. the damaging affects could have been fatal to the company. 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." (Tacobell. This particular case has been “conducted as if the entire company depends on it”. Taco Bell’s actions and the suggested plan of action both sent a message to the public.com) Since the incident. This next principle deals with the entire issue management. 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. This is a serious matter for Taco Bell and if not handled properly. revealing that Taco Bell really does care for its customers. but Taco Bell as been open and upfront from the beginning and took action to prove it. Taco Bell has taken action concerning this incident by enabling a hotline to inform the pubic and answer questions. By being honest with the public. people were unsure and had questions that need to be answered. Customer feedback was crucial in meeting their needs.5 employees. The President’s message was important because it expressed the attitude of the franchise. Managing for tomorrow is also important. ensuring the public’s safety.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. .
but hopefully the chatter will die down and the franchise will be able to recover fully. make headlines. Retrieved December 20.1010wins. and how the core values are applied in a situation such as this. the possible courses of action. This example has made for an interesting case study. Taco Bell handled the incident wisely and were as good humored as the situation would allow. 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. patient and good humored”.com/pages/148818. and remain the butt of a few jokes for a little while. from 1010 Wins Web site: http://www. “remain calm.php?contentType=4&contentId=259575 . This issue will continue to be talked about.Coli Scare. the way it played out in the public eye. 2006. Works Cited Schumer Takes Action After Taco Bell E.
2006.wilmingtonstar.com/news/2006/dec/18/taco_bell_ecoli_outbreak_no_laughing_matter_or_ it/#download-video . Taco Bell e. Retrieved December 20. Mike (2006). Retrieved December 20. december 4).7 Tobbe. 2006.dll/article?AID=/20061215/NEWS/612150337/-1/State (2006.com/ (2006).Coli outbreak is no laughing matter. or is it?. from 49news Web site: http://www. CDC: Taco Bell E.com Web site: http://www. coli outbreak unremarkable.tacobell. from Tacobell Web site: http://www.com/apps/pbcs. 2006. Our Company:Press releases. from Starnewsonline. Retrieved December 20.49abcnews.
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