Earlier this week, a photo posted to the official Taco Bell Facebook page went viral and caused a massive headache for the company. The photo depicted an employee licking a stack of hard taco shells.
After letting the photo remain up on the page without comment for nearly 24 hours, Taco Bell has announced that the employee has been suspended and that the franchisee is in the process of officially terminating him.
Here's what they had to say in a statement:
We do not believe these employees harmed, or intended to harm, anyone. But we deplore the impressions this has caused to our customers, fans, franchisees, and team members. The behavior is unacceptable for people working in a restaurant. Our franchisee is responsible for the employment and conduct of his restaurant’s employees and he has informed us that he immediately suspended the employee shown in the photo and is in the process of terminating his employment. The employee who took the photo no longer works there. As we complete our investigation we will work with our franchisee to implement any additional action we find appropriate to address this situation and ensure it never happens again.
According to Taco Bell, the shells were most definitely not sold to customers - in fact, they were shells used in the training of other employees and were destined for the garbage bin.
Apparently, the photo was taken as part of an internal contest. Of course, one power of social media is that it has the ability to take anything out of context.
"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," says Taco Bell.
Of course, this isn't the most flattering photo for any restaurant to have to handle. But it sure got people talking about Taco Bell over the past few days. Silver lining - any publicity is good publicity, right?