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Case Study: Taco Bell & E.coli Outbreak
Sadie Thornton Public Relations Writing 12-20-2006
There has been a 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. coli outbreak that killed three and sickened more than 200 in September.” (Starnewsonline. thus a little . 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. and dehydration and in some cases death has resulted.com) Taco Bell may have suffered a damaging hit to the restaurant chain’s reputation. including a spinach-caused 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.coli are bacteria that can live in the intestines of humans and animals.” (49ABCNews. diarrhea. thus passing on the deadly bacteria to the dinners at the local fast food chain. Taco Bell executives may be worried about the effect this incident will have on their image. lettuce from Taco Bell restaurants was the cause of E.2 Problem A recent business problem that has flooded the mainstream public eye is the Taco Bell E. This unfortunate incident became joke material for late night TV show hosts.com) The nation is now finding that E.coli outbreak.coli related illnesses reported in 67 people. and two tomato-caused salmonella outbreaks that made about 400 people ill in October and November. The public has been well informed that E. The bacteria have been known to cause severe abdominal cramps. Issue/reputation Management In the aftermath of this unfortunate event. According to the CDC “federal health officials have dealt with five multi-state outbreaks of produce-related illnesses in the last four months. Similar embarrassing incidents occurred to other food chains in the past and it remained in the news for several months afterwards.Coli.coli breakout due to farm produce of which the public may not have been aware.coli can also be spread to the produce we eat while it’s being grown. The chain reported green onions to be the culprit and took them off the menu. According to the CDC. "By the way. Taco Bell has a new menu item its chicken con E." said David Letterman on a Late Show episode. The important question is will they loss of customers as well? Escherichia coli known as E. raw meat or milk. The fruits and vegetables can be contaminated by coming in contact with contaminated animal fertilizer.
common goals and sharing of positions and responsibilities. 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. The franchise as well as the public isn’t aware of the presence of the harmful bacteria until it has already taken affect. They continued to make headlines. at the E.coli outbreak is unforeseen to the eyes of everyone. One fighter that has already joined the cause was New York State Senator Charles Schumer. 1-800-tacobell is an automated telephone line that explains the E. This issue is not just a problem that must be handled by Taco Bell but rather an issue that needs attention from everyone. 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.coli outbreak. The phone line also lists the symptoms caused by E. The informative approach is necessary because an E. “Questions you should ask yourself before eating at Taco Bell. This is an effort on the part of Taco Bell to inform the public and rectify the issue. This means bad news for Taco Bell. but to aim there aggression where it belongs. Werder) Taco Bell’s image is in need of some polishing.coli breakout to anyone who calls. Solutions Taco Bell needed a plan of action to restore the company’s image to circumvent loss of customers.coli and lists recommended actions that should be taken if one might have such symptoms.P. A suggested course of action for Taco Bell is not to go on the defensive. even a few weeks after the incident. Taco Bell became high interest news material.3 damage control is necessary.coli. After consulting the experts.” (K. Taco Bell even hit David Letterman’s Top Ten List stating. Taco Bell may find that the strategies necessary to obtain their goal are the Informative strategy as well as the cooperative problem – solving strategy.” When CNN Anchor Jeanie Mose asked people if they would eat at a Taco Bell? Three out of five people said “No”. In light of the E. something needs to be done. This act can be characterized as an “open exchange of information to establish a common definition of the problem. A proactive effort would have been for Taco Bell’s executives to join the fight in making food safer for the public to consume. Since Taco Bell’s outbreak Senator Schumer has called upon the food and drug administration to bring about .
(1010wins. Taco Bell issued a press release stating: “December 4.coli research. Along with the cause. how it spreads. Taco Bell could donate funds to research organizations that study E.Greg Creed. We are unsure what has occurred.coli. In addition the company could air public service announcements or even host fundraisers to raise money for E. we are in the process of sanitizing these isolated restaurants and replacing all the food ingredients before reopening these nine restaurants. As a precautionary measure. we immediately began working with state and county health officials to assist in their investigation. the first one being” tell the truth”. 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. Taco Bell would have strengthened their image in the eyes of consumers.coli issue. New Jersey. By reacting this way. As an extra precaution. but in lieu of the incident are taking a stand and trying to help. Immediately after news of the breakout was heard. treatments and scientific possibilities of eliminating the threat all-together. New York and four in Nassau County. 2006 -. They would have let the public know that this breakout wasn’t just an accident on the part of the franchise. the causes. we voluntarily closed one restaurant in Middlesex County.coli in hopes of coming up with technology that can defeat this disastrous bacteria that threatens the health of numerous people. Page Principles If Taco Bell follows this course of action they will be in good standing concerning the core values of public relations. 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 president said. Another suggestion would be for Taco Bell to team up with other businesses and/or non-profit organizations to develop an awareness campaign. New York. Together businesses could circulate information discussing E. symptoms.4 “produce-tracing measures” to protect the nation against unforeseeable bacteria. four in Suffolk County.com) Taco Bell is advised to publicly take a position on the issue and join in on the fight. "As soon as we learned of an E.
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. 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. 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. but Taco Bell as been open and upfront from the beginning and took action to prove it. 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”.The second Principle addressed through Taco Bell’s PR team is “prove it with action”. . The next steps taken on the part of the franchise were “listen to the customer” and “manage for tomorrow”. This also involves the next principle: “realize that the true character of a company is expressed by its people”." (Tacobell. Managing for tomorrow is also important.com) Since the incident. people were unsure and had questions that need to be answered. revealing that Taco Bell really does care for its customers. They will want to continue business as usual and gain back their loyal customers. Taco Bell needs to get back on the right track after this outbreak. By being honest with the public.5 employees. This is a serious matter for Taco Bell and if not handled properly. This next principle deals with the entire issue management. Many establishments hide behind denial and lies in an attempt to avoid public confrontation in an issue like this one. the company reassured it’s consumers that Taco Bell is an upstanding establishment whose main priority is safety. Seven releases were posted on the company’s website. even closing some locations where there might have been contamination. It is important that Taco Bell remains professional during this process. ensuring the public’s safety. Taco Bell continued to update with news releases. After an incident such as this. Customer feedback was crucial in meeting their needs. Taco Bell aimed to become a safe and enjoyable eating experience once again. Taco Bell’s actions and the suggested plan of action both sent a message to the public.
This example has made for an interesting case study. the possible courses of action. This issue will continue to be talked about. Retrieved December 20. Taco Bell handled the incident wisely and were as good humored as the situation would allow. how it was handled.php?contentType=4&contentId=259575 . and remain the butt of a few jokes for a little while. Works Cited Schumer Takes Action After Taco Bell E. but hopefully the chatter will die down and the franchise will be able to recover fully.1010wins. This particular case is a good example of a business problem. make headlines.com/pages/148818. from 1010 Wins Web site: http://www.6 The last principle is good advice to any PR team. the way it played out in the public eye. “remain calm. 2006.Coli Scare. and how the core values are applied in a situation such as this. patient and good humored”.
from 49news Web site: http://www. CDC: Taco Bell E. coli outbreak unremarkable. Taco Bell e. Retrieved December 20.7 Tobbe.tacobell.com Web site: http://www. from Tacobell Web site: http://www. Retrieved December 20. december 4). Mike (2006).com/ (2006). 2006.49abcnews.com/news/2006/dec/18/taco_bell_ecoli_outbreak_no_laughing_matter_or_ it/#download-video . Retrieved December 20. Our Company:Press releases.wilmingtonstar. from Starnewsonline.dll/article?AID=/20061215/NEWS/612150337/-1/State (2006.com/apps/pbcs. or is it?.Coli outbreak is no laughing matter. 2006. 2006.
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