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Shell-licker doesn’t represent us: Taco Bell

A year after a Twitter photo of a Taco Bell employee peed on a plate of nachos went viral, a social media war broke out on Monday after another worker posted a photo of himself licking a stack of taco shells on Facebook.

But despite the online mayhem that followed, we should still give Taco Bell’s PR team a round of applause for the sheer speed of its response. (After all, the company can’t be responsible for every stupid action its employees make).

Though the photo has been removed from Facebook since it was first posted two days ago, disappointed fans of the fast food chain have either tagged or sent the image back to the Taco Bell page.

Before the official statement was released on its website yesterday, the company responded to the first Facebook photo with a comment that read:

“We have strict food handling procedures and zero tolerance for any violations. We believe this is a prank and the food was not served to customers. We are conducting an investigation and will be taking swift action against those involved.”

Subsequent photos were answered with a formal address to the sender (i.e.: Hi, Doris –), a personalised message and a link to its official statement, which said the behaviour was “unacceptable for people working at the restaurant”, and that the chain “deplores the impressions this has caused to our customers, fans, franchisees and team members.”

The shells, the statement added, were never meant for customers, but for training and were in the process of being thrown out.

As well, the photo was originally intended for an internal contest in which company and franchise employees could participate with photos of themselves enjoying their first bite of the latest product.

“The contest had clear guidelines about what was acceptable and unacceptable,” the statement wrote.

“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.”

Geraldine Kan, managing partner of managing partner of Storey3 in Singapore, lauded Taco Bell’s response rate.

“It was swift, has the appropriate tone, is factual, and provides context.”

Kan added that the issue not only signifies the blurred lines between public and private spheres and the notion of individual and group, but also the importance for companies to include its social media conduct in its policies.

“There’s a very fine line between what’s personal and what’s public. And it’s good practice to work on the premise that anything you put on Facebook is public.”

Outside of Taco Bell, a KFC worker also proved its company’s food to be “finger lickin’ good” by posting a photo of her licking a plate of mashed potatoes in February.

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