What the cluck are they doing?

What the cluck are they doing?

13 May 2015 | Lloyd Hughes

Fast food outlets have long come with a grubby reputation. Urban legends abound about the things that go on behind the scenes in Mcdonalds, Burger King, KFC and their ilk.

The brands have faced a constant PR war trying to win over the sceptical who believe that at any given moment employees are pissing in the chips, spitting in the burgers and wiping unsavoury items over anything edible that they can lay their…well…hands on.

Seemingly everyone has some horror story that happened to a friend of a friend of a friend at a fast food restaurant. Herpes from a McChicken Burger anyone? The majority are ridiculous and are given short shrift by the various head offices as not even worth commenting on.

But KFC has taken an unusual PR step following a nasty story circulating on South African social media. The tale surrounded footage that showed employees of a South African branch hosing down chicken on a concrete floor next to some bins outside the restaurant.

The fact that they’re washing the chicken suggests that they are going to pick it back up and serve it in the restaurant to their unwitting customers, which was what the accompanying comments alleged.

Having had a McJob back in the day, people often asked if there really was a ‘3-second rule’ where it was ok to pick up food and use it if it was retrieved within 3 seconds. I used to glibly reply that it was more like a 3-minute rule – something that wasn’t true though, of course.

Footage such as this plays into the hands of hygiene doubters, particularly when it’s so clear-cut.

KFC has recognised the potential damage to the brand that this could cause and opted to try and head it off. Rather than ignoring it, the brand decided to pay for a full-page newspaper advert headed with the line ‘We’re sorry’ followed by an explanation of what was actually happening.

The advert admitted that head office was shocked by what appeared to be going on but explained that there was no danger of the chicken being returned to the store for sale, and that it was waste that was having its breading washed off. Employees are apparently told to throw unsuitable chicken away before it’s breaded to save on the breading ingredients, which makes sense, but these employees had breaded it first and were worried they would be in trouble for wasting the ingredients so tried to hide it by hosing it down. Having done that it was then apparently thrown in the bin.

There’s more than a whiff of mouldy chicken about that story, however it’s fairly simplistic and might actually make sense, which means the PR team have seized on it. Whatever the truth, KFC probably made the right move to confront a rumour that was widely circulating on social media with a fairly plausible explanation.

Regardless, the brand’s reputation hasn’t been enhanced by the episode and people will continue to believe the associated fast food myths. And I bet the employees in question are in real trouble now.