This week, we have a fast food chain in crisis because the corporation was surprised by reports of an employee with a criminal record. Owners of any business, whether a corporation, law firm, or in this instance, a fast food franchise, have hiring standards to uphold based upon local, state, and federal law and are ultimately responsible no matter how a “bad” employee falls through the cracks. This includes the hiring of a person with a criminal record.
NBC Philadelphia reported that police arrested a convicted sex offender who served as a shift manager at a Philadelphia franchise of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen for fondling three teenage female employees. A media representative with the fast-food chain immediately issued a crisis communications response to the arrest:
“Popeyes in no way condones or tolerates any form of inappropriate conduct. We have contacted the franchisee to ensure that the franchisee is investigating these serious allegations and will continue to monitor the situation closely.”
Popeyes made its mission clear to regain trust and protect its reputation. They were transparent with the public about their course of action with the franchise and franchisee. They expect their franchisee to get their house in order. But they didn’t mention what they were going to do to prevent future breaches.
As crisis communications practitioners, we recommend the immediate response Popeyes engaged for getting their position on this case out to the local media in Philadelphia to avoid any doubt from the public or further media scrutiny that could taint their brand. A memo to and training of all franchisees on employee hiring standards, behavior, and communication may be in order. Such actions can unify the internal messaging between employees and crisis response to prevent future incidents at other franchises. Popeyes also needs to prepare for follow-up stories or investigative reports on the part of the news that would be looking to advance the story.