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Taco Bell taco licker fired, exposing big challenge for brands

Recently, a Taco Bell employee was fired for an image that went viral, but most missed the main takeaway from this situation: brands need to take action right now.

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Taco Bell taco licker fired, what now?

A young Taco Bell worker posted a prank photo of himself licking a stack of taco shells, ultimately resulting in his being fired as he has confirmed on Reddit. The photo went viral and fans expressed outrage and fear that they would be victimized by being served licked taco shells.

Prior to firing the employee, Taco Bell said in a statement, “Nothing is more important than the safety of our customers and team members, and we have strict food handling procedures and zero tolerance for any violations. When we learned of the situation we immediately contacted the restaurant’s leadership and although we believe it is a prank and the food was not served to customers, we are conducting a full scale investigation and will be taking swift action against those involved.”

The statement alludes to speculation that the shells were probably on their way to the trash anyways, but fans stated outrage nonetheless, with one Facebook user saying it didn’t matter whether they were trash or not, as “he is a representative of Taco Bell while working and in uniform and by doing this and posting it online for the world to see he is ruining the reputation of the company… Who would want to go to a restaurant if there is the possibility that their food is being licked?”

Wes Abdi wrote on Facebook, “I know the person in the photo, not just from work, but from school as well; and I know that he is not dumb enough to lick a stack of taco shells and then serve them to the public,” Wes Abdi wrote. “There is a 99% chance that that stack of Tacos was getting thrown out, as in: getting thrown away, so it’s not as if they were going to be served to anyone… This was obviously done out of humor.”

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The underlying problem most have overlooked

People in the service industry have been spitting in food since the dawn of time. They’ve been young, underpaid, smart alecs in many, many cases, so why is anyone surprised at this prank photo? We agree with Abdi that it was clearly a joke and while it is within Taco Bell’s right to fire the kid, they have clearly failed to properly train their employees, as most brands have failed.

They didn’t fail to teach food safety, no, they failed to illustrate the value of their brand, their copyright, and their logo to their team members. The big deal here is not that the kid shot a silly photo, but that he’s in uniform. Anyone under 25 inherently is comfortable in front of a camera and is willing to share every detail of their life publicly through the web, so this type of prank behavior is simply transitioning from the private to the public and will become increasingly more common. So what do brands need to do?

Brands of all size must will look at this clash between common youth culture and corporate culture and overreact. There will be forms to fill out that make all applicants swear they will never take a photo of themselves in uniform or mention the brand name or put on LinkedIn where they work, lest the suffer the consequences.

What brands must do, however, is train on what the logo and brand name mean, and how using words or images that are trademarked can lead to negative attention to the brand and put the reputation of a company and that every employee’s standing at risk. But what would have happened if this kid had taken a picture of himself saving a kitten from a well? He’d be a hero and the brand would be pumped, but young people fail to understand that it isn’t whether attention is positive or negative, but that the brand get the chance to be involved in that message before it is public.

Kids understand social media, but not the professional reputation management portion of it, and why would they? They’ve never used it professionally. So brands, make your trademarks a part of training without threatening, simply help them to understand how taco licking in uniform is bad.

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Written By

Marti Trewe reports on business and technology news, chasing his passion for helping entrepreneurs and small businesses to stay well informed in the fast paced 140-character world. Marti rarely sleeps and thrives on reader news tips, especially about startups and big moves in leadership.

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  1. Pingback: What if YOU got fired because you didn't pay attention for .025 seconds? - The American Genius

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