Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Holy Cow! Are You Going to Eat That? -or- Beefing Up Your Crisis Management

     Where to begin? By now, you've heard about Taco Bell's "Battle of the Beef".  The fast food chain is the target of a class action lawsuit.  The suit claims Taco Bell's seasoned beef doesn't include very much actual meat.  Specifically, the suit alleges that Taco Bell's taco filling contains just 35% ground beef- the rest is fillers, extenders, spices, etc. I walked by my local Taco Bell today and they have a big sign up promoting their new "Beefy" product.  I imagine most people think something "Beefy" probably contains a large amount of beef- so this lawsuit is not great timing for the folks at TB.

     Poor nutritional value in fast food?  Who knew?  So, the fact that you're not getting a fantastically healthy meal at Taco Bell is not exactly a news flash.  What is news is Taco Bell's response to this potentially-damaging story.  CNN, Yahoo, NBC, Associated Press, LA Times and the State College, PA Grocery Flash are all providing coverage.  This has all the ingredients for a stomach-churning culinary calamity.

     The company's President and Chief Concept Officer, Greg Creed, posted a statement on the Taco Bell web site.  You can see it here: Taco Bell Statement It says in part, "At Taco Bell, we buy our beef from the same trusted brands you find in the supermarket... We are proud of the quality of our beef... Unfortunately, the lawyers in this case elected to sue first and ask questions later - and got their "facts" absolutely wrong. We plan to take legal action for the false statements being made about our food."

    Most importantly, we have to ask, exactly what is a Chief Concept Officer?  Just kidding.  But does this person have any concept of what is at "steak"?  I think it's safe to say that Taco Bell is being portrayed in a very negative light.  It doesn't matter whether the allegations are true, misleading or outright lies.  In a case like this Taco Bell needs to do more than issue a statement on its web site, threaten legal action, and hunker down to see if it will all blow over.  If the facts in the lawsuit are "absolutely wrong" Taco Bell needs to produce some proof- and it needs to get the word out.  If the allegations are true, Taco Bell needs to take action- perhaps it could improve its product and save its brand.  Whatever it does, Taco Bell needs to get cooking- right now.

     On the other hand, I saw some TV interviews where Taco Bell customers essentially said- "I know it's not very healthy but I like it."  Maybe that's the ad campaign Taco Bell should be running.  
 "We're not health food- but hey, you like us!"  If they need a spokesperson Taco Bell could bring in a real meat expert like Lady Gaga.  Or they could bring back that Chihuahua- people love talking dogs.  Bon appetit. 

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