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Managing in Troubled Times Case Study

Case Title:

Trouble at Taco Bell: The E. coli Breakout

Publication Year : 2010

Authors: J Thadamalla, N Sharma, P Girija

Industry: Retailing


Case Code: TRT0104IRC

Teaching Note:  Available

Structured Assignment:  Available

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In November 2006, 71 people in the US fell ill after eating at various Taco Bell restaurants, the leading Mexican style quick service restaurant chain in the US. The diagnosis indicated that the food consumed contained Escherichia coli bacterium (E.coli). The incident was widely publicised and led to a decline in sales at Taco Bell's restaurants as well as erosion of its brand image. The top management at Taco Bell took immediate action and tried to convince the customers that food at Taco Bell was safe to eat. Just as the E.coli incident was about to abate and analysts felt that customers had started to restore their faith in the chain, shocking videos of rats moving around a Taco Bell restaurant in New York were seen on the Internet and television stations. The case attempts to discuss food safety issues in the quick service restaurant industry and its impact on brand image and profits.

Pedagogical Objectives:

  • To analyse the critical success factors of the fast food industry.
  • To analyse the disaster recovery management in the fast food industry.

Keywords : Taco Bell; California; Mexican restaurants; Tacos; Fast food restaurants; Quick service restaurants; E.coli; Hemolytic-uremic syndrome; Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); Lettuce; McLane Company; Corporate image; Food safety; Brand image; Crisis management


  • Taco Bell Corp. – Company Profile
  • E. coli Incident
  • Trouble at Taco Bell
  • Future Concerns

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