Everyone has lost their sense of humor, which causes them to lose their mind, too. That is exactly what Burger King U.K. found out the hard way Monday. In recognition of International Women’s Day, the burger chain wanted to announce a new campaign to invest in scholarships to develop women’s culinary skills in the U.S., U.K., Mexico, and elsewhere. No good deed goes unpunished.
Burger King U.K. turned to social media to promote the campaign. The tweet that was posted first, in a thread of three tweets, was meant to capture attention. It did. Sadly, the original tweet has been deleted, as happens when the blowback begins. The first tweet read: “Women belong in the kitchen.” That was followed up with “If they want to, of course. Yet only 20% of chefs are women. We’re on a mission to change the gender ratio in the restaurant industry by empowering female employees with the opportunity to pursue a culinary career.” “We are proud to be launching a new scholarship programme which will help female Burger King employees pursue their culinary dreams!”
See, once they get the reader’s attention with the first very politically incorrect tweet, there is an explanation. It was a joke. The scholarship program is real and the company’s intention is to increase the number of women working in the culinary arts – a field dominated by men – and that’s all good. Using an old adage like women belong in the kitchen is very 1950s but it’s ok, as far as I’m concerned, to have some fun at old notions. I imagine most women had the reaction I did. I saw it and almost did a double-take with a raised eyebrow. Then I chuckled. The tweet thread was right behind it and it didn’t bother me at all. Why can’t we just enjoy a laugh now and then, especially over something as silly as an expression from another era? I wasn’t offended. I laughed.
There is a lot of irony in the hostile reactions, though. Sleepy Joe is busy canceling girls and women in sports, for example, by insisting on making a policy that states transgender women must be allowed to compete with natural-born females. This destroys the fairness of sports competition for women and girls and discourages them from pursuing their goals of sports scholarships or national titles. It’s fine to declare a day as International Women’s Day and recognize women who have made achievements that are noteworthy. To really honor women, though, would be to not insist that men are also women. What happened to following science?
Closing the gender gap in the culinary arts is an admirable goal. It is reported that 24% of U.S. chefs and 7% of head chefs are women. Burger King realizes it made a bone-headed decision to post that first post for attention because it was quickly drowned out by the perpetually outraged on social media. They never take a day off.
“I think there are many lessons on this one,” says Restaurant Brands International CMO Fernando Machado, who is also global CMO for Burger King, an RBI subsidiary. “In the end we are indeed doing something positive, but the headline we used ended offending people, especially when used without the context around it. Hopefully over time, thanks to the actions we are taking and will continue to take, people will see that our intention was positive.”
The Burger King campaign announcement was handled differently in the U.S. The company took out a full-page ad in the New York Times. It featured the “Women belong in the kitchen” tagline, alongside an explanation. The U.K. promotion was a dud because people saw the first tweet and didn’t bother to see the other two tweets before losing their minds. The Global Chief Marketing Officer at RBI (Burger King, Popeyes, and Tim Hortons) posted a tweet on his account of that full-page ad.
The company issued an apology but the criticism continued so they deleted the tweets.
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
Burger King points to its own success in providing women opportunities in leadership.
Burger King has several women in leadership roles across its marketing teams. The company’s U.S. CMO, Ellie Doty, joined in June, and its marketing chiefs in the U.K. and Spain are also women. Machado points out that other RBI restaurant subsidiaries like Popeyes and Tim Hortons also have female CMOs.
“By no means am I saying we are perfect when it comes to representation,” Machado said. “But we are making good progress towards having teams that are more diverse.”
Lessons learned. It would be nice, though, if everyone would just get a sense of humor.