KFC Germany grovels after ‘hideous’ app notification

Outrage after Kristallnacht used as marketing hook by 'semi-automated' system.

KFC Germany has issued a full apology after sending an app notification – which it said was “accidental” – that urged customers to treat themselves to KFC on the anniversary of lethal Nazi-era violence against Jews.

Written in German, the message translates to English as: "It's memorial day for Kristallnacht! Treat yourself with more tender cheese on your crispy chicken.”

Kristallnacht, marked in Germany on 9 November, refers to a wave of state-backed attacks on Jewish people and property in 1938, resulting in the deaths of at least 91 Jews and the arrests of 30,000.

KFC issued another app notification an hour afterwards to apologise. "Due to an error in our system, we sent an incorrect and inappropriate message through our app," the message read. "We are very sorry about this, we will check our internal processes immediately so that this does not happen [again]. Please excuse this error."

However, the reputational damage could be severe, with Jewish figures expressing outrage over the original message and media worldwide following up the Jerusalem Post's reporting on the story.

It was described as “absolutely hideous” by Daniel Sugarman, director of public affairs at the Board of Deputies of British Jews.

“How wrong can you get on Kristallnacht KFC Germany. Shame on you!” Dalia Grinfield, the associate director of European affairs at the Jewish NGO the Anti-Defamation League, tweeted.

KFC also issued a public apology and explanation that the “unplanned, insensitive and unacceptable message for which we sincerely apologise” had gone out after its internal review process “was not properly followed”.

It said: "We use a semi-automated content creation process linked to calendars that include national observances. In this instance, our internal review process was not properly followed, resulting in a non-approved notification being shared.

“We have suspended app communications while we examine our current process to ensure such an issue does not occur again. We understand and respect the gravity and history of this day, and remain committed to equity, inclusion and belonging for all."

This article first appeared in Campaign.

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