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Case Study: Taco Bell & E.coli Outbreak
Sadie Thornton Public Relations Writing 12-20-2006
coli are bacteria that can live in the intestines of humans and animals.coli breakout due to farm produce of which the public may not have been aware.coli outbreak.” (49ABCNews.com) Taco Bell may have suffered a damaging hit to the restaurant chain’s reputation. "By the way. diarrhea. Taco Bell executives may be worried about the effect this incident will have on their image.Coli. thus passing on the deadly bacteria to the dinners at the local fast food chain.com) The nation is now finding that E.” (Starnewsonline. The fruits and vegetables can be contaminated by coming in contact with contaminated animal fertilizer. Similar embarrassing incidents occurred to other food chains in the past and it remained in the news for several months afterwards. Taco Bell eateries have reopened but the fast food chain remains the topic of conversation. The breakout caused over 90 Taco Bell eateries to close temporarily.coli related illnesses reported in 67 people. 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. The public has been well informed that E. coli outbreak that killed three and sickened more than 200 in September. thus a little . Issue/reputation Management In the aftermath of this unfortunate event. There has been a E. which calls for issue and reputation management on the part of the Taco Bell Franchise.coli can be passed through the handling and eating of uncooked. The bacteria have been known to cause severe abdominal cramps. Taco Bell has a new menu item its chicken con E. including a spinach-caused E. According to the CDC. the objective of the company’s public relations team is to ease the minds of their customers and to restore a positive public image.2 Problem A recent business problem that has flooded the mainstream public eye is the Taco Bell E. and dehydration and in some cases death has resulted.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. lettuce from Taco Bell restaurants was the cause of E. This unfortunate incident became joke material for late night TV show hosts. and two tomato-caused salmonella outbreaks that made about 400 people ill in October and November." said David Letterman on a Late Show episode. raw meat or milk.
In light of the E.coli breakout to anyone who calls. This is an effort on the part of Taco Bell to inform the public and rectify the issue. The phone line also lists the symptoms caused by E. A suggested course of action for Taco Bell is not to go on the defensive.coli. This issue is not just a problem that must be handled by Taco Bell but rather an issue that needs attention from everyone. The franchise as well as the public isn’t aware of the presence of the harmful bacteria until it has already taken affect. The informative approach is necessary because an E. Werder) Taco Bell’s image is in need of some polishing. Taco Bell even hit David Letterman’s Top Ten List stating.coli outbreak is unforeseen to the eyes of everyone. This means bad news for Taco Bell. One fighter that has already joined the cause was New York State Senator Charles Schumer.coli and lists recommended actions that should be taken if one might have such symptoms. This act can be characterized as an “open exchange of information to establish a common definition of the problem. common goals and sharing of positions and responsibilities.P.” (K. After consulting the experts. but to aim there aggression where it belongs. “Questions you should ask yourself before eating at Taco Bell. 1-800-tacobell is an automated telephone line that explains the E. at 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. even a few weeks after the incident. They continued to make headlines.” When CNN Anchor Jeanie Mose asked people if they would eat at a Taco Bell? Three out of five people said “No”.coli outbreak. 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 became high interest news material.3 damage control is necessary. Taco Bell may find that the strategies necessary to obtain their goal are the Informative strategy as well as the cooperative problem – solving strategy. something needs to be done. Since Taco Bell’s outbreak Senator Schumer has called upon the food and drug administration to bring about . A proactive effort would have been for Taco Bell’s executives to join the fight in making food safer for the public to consume. Solutions Taco Bell needed a plan of action to restore the company’s image to circumvent loss of customers.
Page Principles If Taco Bell follows this course of action they will be in good standing concerning the core values of public relations. we are in the process of sanitizing these isolated restaurants and replacing all the food ingredients before reopening these nine restaurants. Taco Bell could donate funds to research organizations that study E.coli. (1010wins. New York and four in Nassau County.com) Taco Bell is advised to publicly take a position on the issue and join in on the fight. As a precautionary measure. By reacting this way. the causes.Greg Creed. They would have let the public know that this breakout wasn’t just an accident on the part of the franchise. We are unsure what has occurred. how it spreads. but in lieu of the incident are taking a stand and trying to help. the first one being” tell the truth”.coli issue. New York. Along with the cause. symptoms. treatments and scientific possibilities of eliminating the threat all-together. Together businesses could circulate information discussing E. 2006 -. Immediately after news of the breakout was heard.4 “produce-tracing measures” to protect the nation against unforeseeable bacteria. Nothing is more important to us than the health and safety of our customers and . but rather an unfortunate event under which they had no control.coli in hopes of coming up with technology that can defeat this disastrous bacteria that threatens the health of numerous people. four in Suffolk County. New Jersey. As an extra precaution. Taco Bell issued a press release stating: “December 4. 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. we voluntarily closed one restaurant in Middlesex County. Another suggestion would be for Taco Bell to team up with other businesses and/or non-profit organizations to develop an awareness campaign. we immediately began working with state and county health officials to assist in their investigation. Taco Bell would have strengthened their image in the eyes of consumers. "As soon as we learned of an E. In addition the company could air public service announcements or even host fundraisers to raise money for E. Taco Bell president said.coli research.
Taco Bell aimed to become a safe and enjoyable eating experience once again. By being honest with the public. The next steps taken on the part of the franchise were “listen to the customer” and “manage for tomorrow”." (Tacobell. . They will want to continue business as usual and gain back their loyal customers. Managing for tomorrow is also important.The second Principle addressed through Taco Bell’s PR team is “prove it with action”. 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. people were unsure and had questions that need to be answered. Taco Bell’s actions and the suggested plan of action both sent a message to the public. the company reassured it’s consumers that Taco Bell is an upstanding establishment whose main priority is safety. Many establishments hide behind denial and lies in an attempt to avoid public confrontation in an issue like this one. After an incident such as this. These two principles were important to restore the company’s image in the eyes of the consumers. The key was to not loose Taco Bell’s faithful customers. This next principle deals with the entire issue management. revealing that Taco Bell really does care for its customers. The President’s message was important because it expressed the attitude of the franchise. the damaging affects could have been fatal to the company. ensuring the public’s safety.5 employees. Seven releases were posted on the company’s website.com) Since the incident. Taco Bell needs to get back on the right track after this outbreak. It is important that Taco Bell remains professional during this process. This particular case has been “conducted as if the entire company depends on it”. even closing some locations where there might have been contamination. Customer feedback was crucial in meeting their needs. This is a serious matter for Taco Bell and if not handled properly. 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. This also involves the next principle: “realize that the true character of a company is expressed by its people”. Taco Bell continued to update with news releases.
“remain calm. and how the core values are applied in a situation such as this.com/pages/148818. make headlines. the possible courses of action.6 The last principle is good advice to any PR team. Retrieved December 20. This issue will continue to be talked about. patient and good humored”. Taco Bell handled the incident wisely and were as good humored as the situation would allow. how it was handled. This example has made for an interesting case study.1010wins. 2006. Works Cited Schumer Takes Action After Taco Bell E. from 1010 Wins Web site: http://www. the way it played out in the public eye.php?contentType=4&contentId=259575 . and remain the butt of a few jokes for a little while. but hopefully the chatter will die down and the franchise will be able to recover fully.Coli Scare. This particular case is a good example of a business problem.
december 4).com Web site: http://www. CDC: Taco Bell E. or is it?.Coli outbreak is no laughing matter. Our Company:Press releases.com/ (2006).com/news/2006/dec/18/taco_bell_ecoli_outbreak_no_laughing_matter_or_ it/#download-video .wilmingtonstar. 2006.dll/article?AID=/20061215/NEWS/612150337/-1/State (2006. from 49news Web site: http://www. Mike (2006).49abcnews.tacobell. coli outbreak unremarkable. 2006.7 Tobbe. Taco Bell e. from Tacobell Web site: http://www. Retrieved December 20. Retrieved December 20. 2006.com/apps/pbcs. Retrieved December 20. from Starnewsonline.