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Case Study: Taco Bell & E.coli Outbreak
Sadie Thornton Public Relations Writing 12-20-2006
The chain reported green onions to be the culprit and took them off the menu. and two tomato-caused salmonella outbreaks that made about 400 people ill in October and November.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 bacteria have been known to cause severe abdominal cramps. The fruits and vegetables can be contaminated by coming in contact with contaminated animal fertilizer. There has been a E. According to the CDC. lettuce from Taco Bell restaurants was the cause of E.coli related illnesses reported in 67 people.com) Taco Bell may have suffered a damaging hit to the restaurant chain’s reputation. The breakout caused over 90 Taco Bell eateries to close temporarily. thus passing on the deadly bacteria to the dinners at the local fast food chain. The important question is will they loss of customers as well? Escherichia coli known as E. This unfortunate incident became joke material for late night TV show hosts. "By the way. coli outbreak that killed three and sickened more than 200 in September. Taco Bell eateries have reopened but the fast food chain remains the topic of conversation.Coli.” (49ABCNews. the objective of the company’s public relations team is to ease the minds of their customers and to restore a positive public image. thus a little . Taco Bell executives may be worried about the effect this incident will have on their image.coli outbreak." said David Letterman on a Late Show episode.” (Starnewsonline. and dehydration and in some cases death has resulted. Taco Bell has a new menu item its chicken con E. raw meat or milk. 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. including a spinach-caused E. Similar embarrassing incidents occurred to other food chains in the past and it remained in the news for several months afterwards. diarrhea.coli breakout due to farm produce of which the public may not have been aware. which calls for issue and reputation management on the part of the Taco Bell Franchise.coli can also be spread to the produce we eat while it’s being grown.com) The nation is now finding that E. The public has been well informed that E.2 Problem A recent business problem that has flooded the mainstream public eye is the Taco Bell E.
Taco Bell even hit David Letterman’s Top Ten List stating. The informative approach is necessary because an 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.coli outbreak. Since Taco Bell’s outbreak Senator Schumer has called upon the food and drug administration to bring about .P. 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”.3 damage control is necessary. They continued to make headlines.coli.coli and lists recommended actions that should be taken if one might have such symptoms. This is an effort on the part of Taco Bell to inform the public and rectify the issue.” (K. In light of the E. but to aim there aggression where it belongs. This issue is not just a problem that must be handled by Taco Bell but rather an issue that needs attention from everyone. 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. The phone line also lists the symptoms caused by E. at the E. common goals and sharing of positions and responsibilities. 1-800-tacobell is an automated telephone line that explains 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. One fighter that has already joined the cause was New York State Senator Charles Schumer. After consulting the experts.coli outbreak is unforeseen to the eyes of everyone. 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. 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. This means bad news for Taco Bell. even a few weeks after the incident. “Questions you should ask yourself before eating at Taco Bell. Taco Bell may find that the strategies necessary to obtain their goal are the Informative strategy as well as the cooperative problem – solving strategy.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. Taco Bell became high interest news material.
but in lieu of the incident are taking a stand and trying to help. but rather an unfortunate event under which they had no control. we immediately began working with state and county health officials to assist in their investigation. In addition the company could air public service announcements or even host fundraisers to raise money for E. New York and four in Nassau County. Taco Bell issued a press release stating: “December 4.4 “produce-tracing measures” to protect the nation against unforeseeable bacteria. the first one being” tell the truth”. the causes.com) Taco Bell is advised to publicly take a position on the issue and join in on the fight. we voluntarily closed one restaurant in Middlesex County. We are unsure what has occurred. New Jersey. Taco Bell could donate funds to research organizations that study E.coli. "As soon as we learned of an E. Nothing is more important to us than the health and safety of our customers and .coli research. four in Suffolk County. Taco Bell president said.coli in hopes of coming up with technology that can defeat this disastrous bacteria that threatens the health of numerous people. New York. 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.coli issue. how it spreads. 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. we are in the process of sanitizing these isolated restaurants and replacing all the food ingredients before reopening these nine restaurants.Greg Creed. Together businesses could circulate information discussing E. symptoms. 2006 -. (1010wins. Another suggestion would be for Taco Bell to team up with other businesses and/or non-profit organizations to develop an awareness campaign. Along with the cause. Immediately after news of the breakout was heard. By reacting this way. Taco Bell would have strengthened their image in the eyes of consumers. As an extra precaution. As a precautionary measure.
By being honest with the public. the company reassured it’s consumers that Taco Bell is an upstanding establishment whose main priority is safety. Taco Bell’s actions and the suggested plan of action both sent a message to the public. Taco Bell continued to update with news releases.5 employees. even closing some locations where there might have been contamination. Customer feedback was crucial in meeting their needs. people were unsure and had questions that need to be answered. The President’s message was important because it expressed the attitude of the franchise. After an incident such as this. 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 next principle deals with the entire issue management. Taco Bell needs to get back on the right track after this outbreak. They will want to continue business as usual and gain back their loyal customers. the damaging affects could have been fatal to the company.The second Principle addressed through Taco Bell’s PR team is “prove it with action”. 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. Managing for tomorrow is also important. These two principles were important to restore the company’s image in the eyes of the consumers. 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”.com) Since the incident. Taco Bell aimed to become a safe and enjoyable eating experience once again. revealing that Taco Bell really does care for its customers. This also involves the next principle: “realize that the true character of a company is expressed by its people”." (Tacobell. Taco Bell has taken action concerning this incident by enabling a hotline to inform the pubic and answer questions. ensuring the public’s safety. 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”. but Taco Bell as been open and upfront from the beginning and took action to prove it. It is important that Taco Bell remains professional during this process.
This particular case is a good example of a business problem. patient and good humored”. Works Cited Schumer Takes Action After Taco Bell E. and how the core values are applied in a situation such as this.Coli Scare. the possible courses of action. 2006. make headlines. This example has made for an interesting case study.php?contentType=4&contentId=259575 .1010wins.com/pages/148818.6 The last principle is good advice to any PR team. from 1010 Wins Web site: http://www. the way it played out in the public eye. Retrieved December 20. but hopefully the chatter will die down and the franchise will be able to recover fully. “remain calm. and remain the butt of a few jokes for a little while. how it was handled. Taco Bell handled the incident wisely and were as good humored as the situation would allow. This issue will continue to be talked about.
from 49news Web site: http://www. from Tacobell Web site: http://www.dll/article?AID=/20061215/NEWS/612150337/-1/State (2006. Retrieved December 20. CDC: Taco Bell E. Our Company:Press releases. Taco Bell e.com/ (2006). 2006.tacobell.7 Tobbe. Retrieved December 20. december 4). or is it?.com Web site: http://www.Coli outbreak is no laughing matter. Retrieved December 20.49abcnews. from Starnewsonline.com/apps/pbcs.wilmingtonstar. coli outbreak unremarkable. Mike (2006). 2006.com/news/2006/dec/18/taco_bell_ecoli_outbreak_no_laughing_matter_or_ it/#download-video . 2006.
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