Just to prove the old one-step-forward maxim, hard on the heels of the news that Taco Bell has sold half a billion of their Doritos Locos Tacos comes the two-steps-back publicity gravedigger photo of an alleged Taco Bell employee licking a massive stack of taco shells. And although the company has swiftly moved into damage control mode, nobody wants to see one of the horror stories of fast food — namely, employees licking, poking, spitting, etc. on their orders — reinforced with photographic evidence.
Yet, here we are…
Yahoo News Canada reported June 3 that Taco Bell execs have launched an investigation into the situation and have zeroed in on the alleged store in question. Although they’re not exactly admitting that the photo of the licking employee is even a Taco Bell associate, they have promised to get to the bottom of what has now become an Internet-fueled national scandal.
The photo of the employee licking the foot-high-plus stack of taco shells first appeared on Taco Bell’s Facebook page on June 2.
By June 3, the company had discovered the details behind “The Licker” photo:
Per the Taco Bell website: “The taco shells were used for training in March before we launched a new product, and were in process of being thrown out. Two employees, however, used them to take a photo for an internal contest in which company and franchise employees could submit for approval photos of themselves enjoying their first bite of the product. The contest had clear guidelines about what was acceptable and unacceptable. This image was clearly unacceptable – it violated the rules and spirit of the contest, and the employees never submitted it. But an employee posted it on a personal social media page in violation of the franchisee’s policies, and it emerged online in social media.”
The company also says that the shells were “absolutely not” served to customers.
So what are they doing about it? The franchisee, reportedly in California, has suspended the offensive licking guy and, according to the company, is in the process of terminating his employment. His partner-in-crime, the guy who snapped the photo, no longer works at the franchise.
So how will it affect the company? Watch the stock and see if it falls. Check out the quarterly profits reports. Public relations nightmares like these generally produce momentary dips to both areas. But in the long run, there is usually no lasting effect. And Taco Bell’s quick move to deal with the guy with the over-enthusiastic tongue should help quell a nervous public that is constantly being handed reports about something horrible affecting their food.
At least Taco Bell didn’t have an employee urinating on the food. Oh, wait, yes, they did. And that was in the midst of their half-billion Doritos Locos Tacos run. Sometimes a company just can’t get good help…
One step forward, two steps back.