Friday, April 17, 2009

McD's own private Domino's

By now, even people with analog television service are likely aware of the shenanigans two Domino's employees pulled last week, tarnishing the image of the the chain (and some say all of foodservice). Now it looks as if McDonald's may have to do some damage control because of a YouTube posting.

The video shows a garbage-strewn interior of a McD's unit in Australia. The camera scans a dining area that's ankle-deep in trash, then pans to a counter where customers are nonetheless still being served. The postings on YouTube (they were still there as of this morning) carry headlines along the lines of, "The Worst McDonald's."

Although the clip was filmed in Australia, it's reportedly getting big play in the United States because it was picked up by The Drudge Report, the popular muckraking (some say scandal-mongering) website.

But it's hardly the only posting on YouTube that casts a fast-food brand in an unfavorable light. Search around enough and you can probably find some bashing of virtually all the quick-service giants.

Two days ago, in the course of reporting unrelated stories, I spoke with a quick-service exec who brought up the Domino's situation. He wondered aloud if chains will now have to come up with a social media code of conduct for their employees. He didn't have to explain how thorny that would be.

But he's undoubtedly correct that the industry has to do something to address the situation. As the New York Times reported yesterday, Domino's initially figured the controversy would fade away if headquarters just ignored the original post and the early fallout. Big mistake.

I wrote to an industry association yesterday, suggesting it take the lead in airing the issue and encouraging chains to hammer out a list of best practices for addressing the situation. I have yet to get a response, which makes me think I may have to peddle the notion elsewhere.

Somehow, someway, the industry has to pool its brainpower to deal with the issue. In the meantime, the doorknob-headed perpetrators are going to continue to act, since they already have their own associations. They're called YouTube and Twitter.

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