Burger King Is Grilled Over a Tweet
Burger King just had a whopper of a crisis. The fascinating, though brief, situation showed that, even when prepped for confrontation, a company can still play it wrong. The fast-food chain quickly righted itself, even if it does have Breakfast Burrito on its face.
To commemorate International Women’s Day on Monday, Burger King UK ran a Twitter thread meant to gain attention — and so it did. “Women belong in the kitchen,” the first tweet said, and you can see the problem right there. But the company, a unit of Toronto-based Restaurant Brands International, explained itself.
“If they want to, of course,” it wrote in the follow-up tweet. “Yet only 20% of chefs are women. We’re on a mission to change the gender ratio in the restaurant industry by empowering female employees with the opportunity to pursue a culinary career.” The company was announcing a scholarship program.
We’re on a mission to change the gender ratio in the restaurant industry.
— Burger King
Cute. Maybe too. Certainly Twitter commenters thought so. “Please don’t use sexism as clickbait,” said one. The grilling the company took spanned continents. Yet Burger King UK pushed back against the pushback. For example, as USA Today noted, when one commenter said the tweet was “weird,” the company responded, “We think it’s weird that women make up only 20% of chefs in the UK restaurant industry.”
Clearly, Burger King knew there’d be criticism and was prepared to stand its ground. That shows good crisis planning. We’d like to quote more of its assertive responses to the blowback, but we can’t because later that day the company apologized and took the tweet thread down. That’s right — it threw in the paper napkin. The heat in the kitchen got to be just too much.
“We hear you,” it wrote. “We got our initial tweet wrong and we’re sorry.” It added: “We decided to delete the original tweet after our apology. It was brought to our attention that there were abusive comments in the thread and we don’t want to leave the space open for that.”
We hear you. We got our initial tweet wrong and we’re sorry. Our aim was to draw attention to the fact that only 20% of professional chefs in UK kitchens are women and to help change that by awarding culinary scholarships. We will do better next time.
— Burger King (@BurgerKingUK) March 8, 2021
So, not quite the reaction the burger hawker was expecting when it cooked up this campaign. Another interesting aspect: Burger King also ran newspaper advertisements with the same messaging. The headline was identical to the text of the first tweet: “Women belong in the kitchen.” But that wasn’t nearly as controversial because it was immediately put in context with the text beneath it.
The real issue was the standalone first tweet. A lesson learned: Not only is irony a challenge on Twitter, tweets can fly off on their own (i.e., be retweeted) and, apparently, cause a ruckus.
That’s something for communicators to keep in mind.
Photo Credit: Radu Bercan/Shutterstock
Sign up for our free weekly newsletter on crisis communications. Each week we highlight a crisis story in the news or a survey or study with an eye toward the type of best practices and strategies you can put to work each day. Click here to subscribe.