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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.” (49ABCNews. thus a little . coli outbreak that killed three and sickened more than 200 in September. and two tomato-caused salmonella outbreaks that made about 400 people ill in October and November. lettuce from Taco Bell restaurants was the cause of E. which calls for issue and reputation management on the part of the Taco Bell Franchise. According to the CDC “federal health officials have dealt with five multi-state outbreaks of produce-related illnesses in the last four months. The bacteria have been known to cause severe abdominal cramps. "By the way. Taco Bell executives may be worried about the effect this incident will have on their image.com) Taco Bell may have suffered a damaging hit to the restaurant chain’s reputation.” (Starnewsonline. There has been a E. The fruits and vegetables can be contaminated by coming in contact with contaminated animal fertilizer. The important question is will they loss of customers as well? Escherichia coli known as E." said David Letterman on a Late Show episode.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. and dehydration and in some cases death has resulted. diarrhea. Issue/reputation Management In the aftermath of this unfortunate event. including a spinach-caused E.2 Problem A recent business problem that has flooded the mainstream public eye is the Taco Bell E.Coli.coli related illnesses reported in 67 people. Similar embarrassing incidents occurred to other food chains in the past and it remained in the news for several months afterwards. raw meat or milk.coli outbreak.coli are bacteria that can live in the intestines of humans and animals.coli can be passed through the handling and eating of uncooked. The breakout caused over 90 Taco Bell eateries to close temporarily.com) The nation is now finding that E. According to the CDC.coli can also be spread to the produce we eat while it’s being grown. This unfortunate incident became joke material for late night TV show hosts. The public has been well informed 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 chain reported green onions to be the culprit and took them off the menu. Taco Bell eateries have reopened but the fast food chain remains the topic of conversation.
A suggested course of action for Taco Bell is not to go on the defensive. even a few weeks after the incident.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. 1-800-tacobell is an automated telephone line that explains the E.coli outbreak is unforeseen to the eyes of everyone.3 damage control is necessary.” When CNN Anchor Jeanie Mose asked people if they would eat at a Taco Bell? Three out of five people said “No”. This is an effort on the part of Taco Bell to inform the public and rectify the issue. 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 means bad news for Taco Bell. Since Taco Bell’s outbreak Senator Schumer has called upon the food and drug administration to bring about . 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. at the E. something needs to be done.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.” (K. The informative approach is necessary because an E. This act can be characterized as an “open exchange of information to establish a common definition of the problem. This issue is not just a problem that must be handled by Taco Bell but rather an issue that needs attention from everyone. A proactive effort would have been for Taco Bell’s executives to join the fight in making food safer for the public to consume. In light of the E. One fighter that has already joined the cause was New York State Senator Charles Schumer. common goals and sharing of positions and responsibilities. “Questions you should ask yourself before eating at Taco Bell. but to aim there aggression where it belongs. Solutions Taco Bell needed a plan of action to restore the company’s image to circumvent loss of customers.coli.coli breakout to anyone who calls. They continued to make headlines. The phone line also lists the symptoms caused by 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.P. Werder) Taco Bell’s image is in need of some polishing.
Page Principles If Taco Bell follows this course of action they will be in good standing concerning the core values of public relations.Greg Creed. New York and four in Nassau County. how it spreads.coli issue. 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. Taco Bell issued a press release stating: “December 4. symptoms. Nothing is more important to us than the health and safety of our customers and . We are unsure what has occurred. but rather an unfortunate event under which they had no control.coli research. Taco Bell could donate funds to research organizations that study E.coli. the causes. As an extra precaution. Another suggestion would be for Taco Bell to team up with other businesses and/or non-profit organizations to develop an awareness campaign. Immediately after news of the breakout was heard.4 “produce-tracing measures” to protect the nation against unforeseeable bacteria. we are in the process of sanitizing these isolated restaurants and replacing all the food ingredients before reopening these nine restaurants. "As soon as we learned of an E. 2006 -. New Jersey. the first one being” tell the truth”. Along with the cause.coli in hopes of coming up with technology that can defeat this disastrous bacteria that threatens the health of numerous people. As a precautionary measure. we immediately began working with state and county health officials to assist in their investigation. we voluntarily closed one restaurant in Middlesex County. In addition the company could air public service announcements or even host fundraisers to raise money for E. Taco Bell would have strengthened their image in the eyes of consumers. (1010wins. They would have let the public know that this breakout wasn’t just an accident on the part of the franchise. treatments and scientific possibilities of eliminating the threat all-together. four in Suffolk County. but in lieu of the incident are taking a stand and trying to help. Taco Bell president said. New York.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. By reacting this way.
even closing some locations where there might have been contamination. Many establishments hide behind denial and lies in an attempt to avoid public confrontation in an issue like this one. Taco Bell’s actions and the suggested plan of action both sent a message to the public. ensuring the public’s safety. This next principle deals with the entire issue management.com) Since the incident. This also involves the next principle: “realize that the true character of a company is expressed by its people”.The second Principle addressed through Taco Bell’s PR team is “prove it with action”. This is a serious matter for Taco Bell and if not handled properly. 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. After an incident such as this. Taco Bell needs to get back on the right track after this outbreak. Seven releases were posted on the company’s website. Customer feedback was crucial in meeting their needs. Taco Bell continued to update with news releases.5 employees. By being honest with the public. It is important that Taco Bell remains professional during this process. Taco Bell aimed to become a safe and enjoyable eating experience once again. people were unsure and had questions that need to be answered. the company reassured it’s consumers that Taco Bell is an upstanding establishment whose main priority is safety. 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." (Tacobell. They will want to continue business as usual and gain back their loyal customers. Managing for tomorrow is also important. . The key was to not loose Taco Bell’s faithful customers. The next steps taken on the part of the franchise were “listen to the customer” and “manage for tomorrow”. The President’s message was important because it expressed the attitude of the franchise. These two principles were important to restore the company’s image in the eyes of the consumers. the damaging affects could have been fatal to the company. but Taco Bell as been open and upfront from the beginning and took action to prove it.
patient and good humored”. the way it played out in the public eye. This particular case is a good example of a business problem. This example has made for an interesting case study. and how the core values are applied in a situation such as this. Works Cited Schumer Takes Action After Taco Bell E. Taco Bell handled the incident wisely and were as good humored as the situation would allow.php?contentType=4&contentId=259575 . Retrieved December 20. but hopefully the chatter will die down and the franchise will be able to recover fully. This issue will continue to be talked about. how it was handled. “remain calm.6 The last principle is good advice to any PR team.1010wins. the possible courses of action. make headlines. from 1010 Wins Web site: http://www. 2006. and remain the butt of a few jokes for a little while.Coli Scare.com/pages/148818.
from Tacobell Web site: http://www. coli outbreak unremarkable.com/news/2006/dec/18/taco_bell_ecoli_outbreak_no_laughing_matter_or_ it/#download-video .49abcnews.wilmingtonstar. 2006.com Web site: http://www.Coli outbreak is no laughing matter.dll/article?AID=/20061215/NEWS/612150337/-1/State (2006. 2006. or is it?. Retrieved December 20.com/ (2006). Our Company:Press releases. from 49news Web site: http://www. december 4). Retrieved December 20.7 Tobbe. from Starnewsonline. Mike (2006). CDC: Taco Bell E. Retrieved December 20.com/apps/pbcs.tacobell. Taco Bell e. 2006.
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