Sometimes a public relations crisis can also be an opportunity if managed correctly. The fast food chain, Arby’s has been presented with such a situation. But so far, Arby’s has failed to turn a public relations crisis into a gain.
Arby’s has been under attack ever since the story of how one of their employees at a Pembroke Pines, Florida location refused to serve a police officer, because the officer was just that a police officer. Compounding to the crisis, was the Arby’s manager seemed to think the entire episode was funny. The Pembroke Pines Police Department and social media didn’t think the story was funny (don’t forget this comes at a time that law enforcement officers are being gunned down execution style). As soon as the story was reported and hit social media, Arby’s CEO called the Pembroke Pines Police Department to apologize. The company also issued a statement stating that they support local police departments. The company also fired the restaurant manager and suspended the employee indefinitely. Beyond that they did nothing.
Yet Arby’s competitors moved to take advantage of the situation. McDonald’s partnered with a local radio station to deliver bags of pancakes and Egg McMuffins to the department Thursday morning. A Whole Foods store in Pembroke Pines put out a spread of its own, while residents supplied donuts and coffee from a local Dunkin’ Donuts. Yet Arby’s has remained silent.
So what could Arby’s do?
- Contact the officer who was denied service and give her a free year’s worth of Arby’s or even a lifetime supply.
- Provide Arby’s for everyone at the Pembroke Pines police department.
- Team up with law enforcement charities.
- Have a national law officer appreciation day at all Arby’s locations nationwide.
- Donate to funds set up for family members of fallen law enforcement officers.
Arby’s handled its apology perfectly. Firing the manager and suspending the employee indefinitely (it is hard to see him ever returning) was the proper course. Now to change the narrative and garner some positive public relations it needs to do more. If not, as we have seen Arby’s competitors will continue to capitalize on this incident and the public will be left wondering where does Arby’s really stand in regards to law enforcement.
The business news dominating the final week of summer is Burger King acquiring the Canadian fast casual restaurant Tim Hortons known for its doughnuts and coffee. The acquisition will make Burger King the third largest fast food restaurant in the world. The new company will move their corporate headquarters to Canada (where the taxes are cheaper than the United States) while the Burger King division will continue to operate from Miami, Florida. Burger King definitely went their way in making this move. The announcement that the corporate headquarters would be moved to Canada drew a social media outcry and legislators looking to see if they could halt the deal. It also offers branding opportunities for the company.
So what now for Burger King in terms of branding the new company and crisis communications over the social media and regulatory outrage?
- Burger King needs to remember that much of the outrage over its move to Canada is posturing by legislators during an election year and inflamed by social media. As a corporation, Burger King has a fiduciary responsibility to make money for investors and save on costs. The move is doing this. Further, the company can argue that just as its customers go to Burger King because of the value cost, so too is the corporation moving to Canada for the same reason.
- To further assure investors that this is a wise move, the company needs to promote the backing and blessing this acquisition received from Warren Buffet with the backing of Berkshire Hathaway which is considered the gold standard to Wall Street.
- The company needs to publicize that by going to Canada where the taxes are lower, it is able to keep expenses down which means unlike some of its rivals, it can keep the costs passed on to the consumer lower.
- Burger King needs to introduce the Tim Hortons brand (that makes up 62% of the Canadian coffee market far outstripping Starbucks in that degree which makes up only 6% of the Canadian market) to the United States market that is largely unfamiliar with the brand. This means telling the brand story of quality and always hot coffee. Further the story of Tim Hortons’ baked goods as a contrast to the dominant Dunkin Doughnuts and Krispy Kreme in the U.S. market needs to be explained. The selection and quality is argued to be better. This means utilizing social media, television advertising, and community relations accentuating the new brand.
- Co-branding needs to be done with Burger King and Tim Hortons, as a one stop-shop for the breakfast need to the coffee fix to a burger on the go, very much as Tim Hortons co-branded successfully in the past with Cold Stone Creamery; KFC does with Taco Bell; and Dunkin Doughnuts does with Baskin Robbins. People must begin to see Burger King and Tim Hortons as one and the same.
- The restaurant industry is constantly changing. Burger King with this acquisition must now determine who it is competing with – the McDonalds and Wendys of the world or the Five Guys and Starbucks’ clientele.
The acquisition of Tim Hortons was a whopper of a deal for Burger King with Wall Street reacting positively. Now if the company can explain its move in a way people can understand and relate too and brand the company in the public’s mind successfully, Burger King will be poised to be a branding and industry winner in one fast swoop.