Wendy's Crisis Management

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  • Topic: The New York Times, Knight Ridder, Ryan Adams
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  • Published : December 5, 2005
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On March 22, Wendy's has faced a crisis after a 39 years old woman, Anna Ayala, allegedly claimed that she had bitten down on a human fingertip in a spoonful of Wendy's chili at a San Jose location. Within 24 hours, media had the entire story published and broadcasted causing Wendy's to face the issue of recovering its brand image since then.

At the beginning, the police was still unable to identify whose the finger was and was uncertainty about whether the finger came from a dead or live person. However, the police was able to initially identify that the object was assumed to be from a woman because of its long and manicured nail. Furthermore, the gruesome was preserved enough to draw a sample of DNA and fingerprints. The next morning, the news was spread across the nation and become a late-night television joke. Denny Lynch, Wendy's senior vice president for communications, had given an interview for The New York, (April 22, 2005) Times stating that ''It went nonstop the next two or three days even through the weekend. Even when the pope passed away, it still got coverage."

The police had begun the investigation to find an evident of missing digits among the workers in the restaurant and furthermore among the food supply company that involved in the food production by using the product coding that allows them to trace where a product comes from, the day it was produced, when it was shipped and when it arrived at the restaurant. Neither of restaurant employees nor the chili ingredients suppliers had suffered a hand injury. The police also used lie detector with Wendy's employees who worked that day and came up with the result that they were truthful regarding to their statement indicating that they didn't have any involvement and knowledge of the introduction of the finger into the chili. Wendy's immediately announced with assurance that no evident to support allegations that it or its supply chain was the source of the finger and wherever the finger came from, it did not come from any Wendy's employees or food suppliers.

The Santa Clara County Department of Health had inspected the Wendy's at Monterey Road, giving it a clean bill of health. The officials announced that there was no public health risk at the restaurant. However, the Santa Clara health officials released a photo of the finger to the news media. The image became a big issue for Wendy's public relation to solve. Denny Lynch, Wendy's senior vice president for communications, gave an interview for CBS News to react to the incident, stating that "Putting that picture out and broadcasting it across television was incredibly damaging because it created a grotesque visual image"

The investigation for the fingerprint in the F.B.I.'s database of about 50 million prints came up but the result showed no relation. Importantly, at the beginning, the police still couldn't give the official confirmation whether the finger was cooked, and if so, for how long. It can be perceive that a thoroughly cooked finger might indicate that it came through Wendy's food supply chain. On the other hand, if the digit is uncooked, that might indicate that it was added to the chili after the fact. One week after the claim, it was initially concluded that the example was not consistent with an object that had been cooked in chili at 170 degrees for three hours as Wendy's policy of preparation of chili. On April 7, 2005,Wendy's announced in its own website that a 50,000 dollars reward would be given for the first person providing verifiable information leading to the positive identification of the origin of the foreign object found in a bowl of chili on March 22, 2005 at the Wendy's at 1405 Monterey Rd. in San Jose. However, there was a good news for Wendy's at this time because some questions also had been raised about Ayala that she had filed multiple civil claimed before the finger case had happened. The police had discovered approximately 13 civil...
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