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What McDonald’s glass recall taught us about PR

SmartPulse — our weekly reader poll in SmartBrief on Restaurants — tracks feedback from restaurant owners and managers about current trends and issues.

Last week’s poll question: Have you ever participated in a recall?

  • Yes, and I thought the recall was handled well — 46.43%
  • I haven’t participated in a recall yet — 33.33%
  • I have participated in a recall, but it was not handled well at all — 10.71%
  • I have taken part in a number of recalls and the experiences have varied from bad to good — 9.52%

What makes a successful recall? First and foremost, a recall is successful if the level of human harm is nonexistent or very low. Further down the list is minimal brand damage. Nothing stays in a customer’s mind quite like media reports of recalled food or products. In the past few years, the restaurant industry has experienced recalls ranging from beef to spinach to drinking glasses. It’s the latter example that made me start thinking about the effect that recalls can have on brand image.

Admittedly, recalling glasses because they may contain cadmium is an easier task than recalling spinach, which has far greater public health implications. But McDonald’s made one particularly savvy PR move: It paid customers to bring the contaminated products back to the store. QSR Magazine explored McDonald’s recall strategy in its June edition.

What did you think of McDonald’s decision?