Run for the Border! A Lesson in Damage Control

Recently, Taco Bell was sued for allegedly using something other than ‘real beef’ in their taco products. Can you imagine being a franchise owner and waking up to this news? If we follow the story close enough we come to realize there are several learning events for our entrepreneurial followers in regards to Damage Control.

A class-action lawsuit was filed by an Alabama based law firm alleging that the meat used by Taco Bell was something other than beef. Taco Bell is owned by Yum! Brands out of Louisville, KY. They currently operate over 35,000 locations in over 110 countries. They franchise brands such as Taco Bell, A & W, KFC, Long John Silver, and Pizza Hut. As it relates to operating franchises – it’d be safe to say they’re the experts. At BossStart, we’re impressed with how Yum! Brands responded to the class-action lawsuit and feel our followers could learn much from their example:

  1. Taco Bell was clearly prepared. They knew the current market environment is one of transparency as people now, more than ever, want to know what they’re eating. This is a health-conscious market place. To our knowledge, Taco Bell has never positioned themselves as the leader in healthy fast-food options. However, they did select ingredients that were respectable and didn’t sacrifice quality for improved profit margins. BossStart readers, pay close attention: Taco Bell didn’t cut corners in an area that’s sensitive in the market place! We’d encourage you to assess your operation. In today’s economy, it’s easy to justify cutting back – isn’t everyone doing it? Be careful to assess your market place and avoid taking short cuts in areas that matter.
  2. Taco Bell was honest. This is our favorite part of their story. Taco Bell didn’t attempt to hide anything nor did they attempt to fool the public. Instead, they told consumers exactly what was in their taco mixture: 88% USDA inspected Beef (versus the 35% that the lawsuit alleged) and 12% taco sauce mixture (which they fully disclose the contents of on their website). This honesty is similar to what Tylenol did in 1982 after learning a batch of pills was problematic. Tylenol owned up to the issue and recalled 31 million bottles of Tylenol, an estimated $100 million of product! To this day, college ethics programs highlight the Tylenol decision as the right thing to do. We think Taco Bell followed a similar path. They offered full disclosure and were honest with the market place. Do you feel comfortable about being completely honest with the public about your company? If all your actions made the front page of tomorrow’s newspaper – would you be okay with it?
  3. Taco Bell appropriated an offensive. They didn’t disregard the severity of the allegations. Instead, they did a full court press and fought back! In a country where it’s easy to sue someone – they pushed back – which is energizing. Taco Bell changed their website to accommodate the information, spent millions on television ads, and addressed the issue in select newspapers across the country. Below is an example of one of those ads:

Can you feel a sense of “bring it” in their response? Do you possess such swagger? Are you prepared to take the offensive approach for your business?

Our goal here is to provide you with insights and resources that keep you energized and educated about Entrepreneurship – we know it’s the backbone of our country. BossStart doesn’t pretend to know all the details of the Taco Bell case. While we love to eat live foods and maintain a healthy lifestyle, we also aren’t nutritionists and can’t really weigh in on any one opinion regarding Taco Bell’s menu options. What we do know is how Yum! Brands responded and that the case was dropped! Embedded in these details are a few tips for all of us. Sometimes things don’t go as planned and external forces may hit you with a surprise. Are you prepared? Taco Bell was.

About the Author: Jacob Ballard

Jacob is an Entrepreneur. He is the Co-Founder of BossStart and also operates the web-based business He has a degree in Marketing from USF in Tampa, FL. Jacob uses his experience from founding numerous businesses to enhance the entrepreneurial adventures of BossStart readers.

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