CAMPAIGNS: Crisis Management - Swift action saves chain from frying

Client: McDonald's India

PR Team: Corporate Voice Shandwick (CVS)

Campaign: Crisis management

Timescale: May 2000 - ongoing

Budget: Undisclosed

McDonald's had problems after Indian-American lawyer Harish Bharti, on

behalf of one million American Hindus and 15 million other vegetarians

living in the US, filed a class action suit against the burger chain

alleging the company had knowingly used beef products in its French



To affirm that McDonald's India does not use animal products in any of

its fries or other vegetarian products. To disassociate products served

in McDonald's India from those in the US. A special menu has been

developed for Indian franchises that completely segregates vegetarian

and non-vegetarian products

Strategy and Plan

When the story broke on 4 May, news hit the front pages of all major

Indian newspapers, seriously jeopardising the brand's reputation.

A 24-hour crisis management team was immediately established in Delhi

and Mumbai, with supporting teams dotted around the country. CVS issued

an emergency media statement highlighting the key messages surrounding

the case. All outlets and offices were instructed to direct media

queries to a 24-hour crisis hotline.

Within hours, a thorough top-down briefing had gone out to all

McDonald's employees, suppliers and business partners. On 5 May, press

conferences were held in Delhi and Mumbai, attended by the two

joint-venture partners for those areas, Vikram Bakshi and Amit Jatia,

and by their respective French fries suppliers, McCain Foods and Lamb

Weston. The latter firms confirmed they also supply French fries to

other major hotel and restaurant chains in India, including several

Indian-owned chains, such as the Taj Group, ITC Hotels and Nirulas.

The crisis team also spoke to pressure groups that were calling for the

closure of all 27 branches. Security measures at branches across the

nation were stepped up following aggressive protests in Mumbai and


A poster campaign targeted at consumers went up in all outlets,

reassuring them that McDonald's French fries and all other vegetarian

products used in India are 100 per cent vegetarian. This ran alongside a

supplementary advertising campaign in two of India's leading


In subsequent days, food tests were initiated by the crisis management

team to further dispel public fears about the products.

The results showed that both the French fries and the RBD Palmolein oil

used for frying were free from any kind of animal product.

Measurement and Evaluation

The quick response, clear messaging and proactive strategy extinguished

much of the furore. Product testing ramped up media support

considerably, resulting in some reports questioning the political

motives behind the demonstrations. As national and international queries

continue to come in, reports so far remain objective.


According to the crisis management team, the crisis is now firmly under

control and it is business as usual for most outlets. TV crews that have

interviewed consumers have found them 'extremely supportive' and still

positive towards the brand.

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