It’s not every day that consumers can see how a brand decides to respond to backlash in real time.
But that’s exactly what happened on Monday after Burger King got slammed for its “women belong in the kitchen” tweet. The Burger King U.K. tweet was part of a thread about the launch of a scholarship program to “help female Burger King employees pursue their culinary dreams.” But many people only saw the first tweet in the chain that appeared condescending, so the message got lost in translation.
Fernando Machado, global CMO of Burger King parent Restaurant Brands International, spent the day on his personal Twitter account fielding tweets from people criticizing Burger King and him specifically for letting such a campaign run. By reading through Machado’s replies, a timeline develops showing how his view of the campaign changed over the course of the day.
Early on Monday, Twitter users and even KFC Gaming urged Burger King to delete the “kitchen” tweet. Machado initially explained why that was a bad idea.
“Taking it down would give even more attention to it,” Machado tweeted to Twitter user Kelly Ellis. However, he added that the company would issue an apology, which it tweeted soon after.
We hear you. We got our initial tweet wrong and we’re sorry. Our aim was to draw attention to the fact that only 20% of professional chefs in UK kitchens are women and to help change that by awarding culinary scholarships. We will do better next time.— Burger King (@BurgerKingUK) March 8, 2021
When other Twitter users pointed out that “fash” accounts were taking the Burger King post and “running with it,” Machado tweeted, “If we stopped doing things because some stupid people do stupid things on the internet we wouldn't do anything. Our intention is good, and I hope people can see thru that over time.”
He also tweeted that he took “full responsibility” for the campaign.
Machado stuck to his guns on not removing the Burger King U.K. tweet until Ellis noted that sexual harassment was happening within the post’s comments. Machado acknowledged that he hadn’t seen that and said his team was discussing next steps.
Due to the abuse, Machado and his team ultimately decided to take the post down, he later told Ellis.
Just so you know, we are fighting the good fight here. I know this one didn't go well. But the intentions are good. And I hope time shows that. 2/2— Fer Machado (@fer_machado123) March 8, 2021
Burger King U.K. then tweeted about deleting the “kitchen” post.
We decided to delete the original tweet after our apology. It was brought to our attention that there were abusive comments in the thread and we don't want to leave the space open for that.— Burger King (@BurgerKingUK) March 8, 2021
Even after Burger King took the tweet down, Machado continued to be personally attacked over the campaign.
One user, Eric Beal, tweeted, “Fer's been defending the sexism as ‘good actually’ because it ‘started a dialogue.’ They get away with sexism, but don't take the criticism seriously.”
Machado defended himself, tweeting, “Show me one tweet or reply coming from myself saying it was good because it ‘started a dialogue.’ We took the tweet down after apologizing for it and because there was a lot of bad behavior going on in the thread. We are trying to do the right thing here.”
Machado was not immediately available for comment.